Our wellbeing and longevity of life has long been said to hang in the balance of eating healthily and exercising regularly. And when things are not going swimmingly, people who do practice mindfulness – through activities such as yoga and meditation – are in a better position to deal with turbulent times. So has meditation been overlooked as an important – and positive – factor in our quality of life?
How many times have you had the thought that the day has gone by ‘so quickly’? Think about it. The chances are, you’ve thought it a lot. And apparently, it’s down to the fact that as we grow older, the novelty that surrounded daily routine when we were children disappears. Suddenly, ‘choo choo trains’ turn into symbols of signal failures and painful commutes and puddles are no longer mini ponds to be jumped in, but proof that the summer has been ‘the wettest on record’.
So what does this have to do with meditation and can it really help us to live longer? Strictly speaking, it cannot prolong anyone’s life span. But what it can do is make you feel like you have. This is because it forces you to slow down and to invest all of your attention and energy solely in that moment. Momentarily, you stop wishing life away by thinking of yesterday, tomorrow and your to-do-list and the result is that your day feels longer.
The benefits of meditation have been said to be endless; they increase positivity, lower stress levels and even slow the ageing process. In 2009, Elizabeth Blackburn won the Nobel Prize for her discovery of Telomeres, the protective caps on chromosomes. Every time a cell divides, these protective caps wear down, and over time, the Telomeres shorten. As they shorten, the cells start to malfunction and lose their ability to divide.
Today, based on Blackburn’s research, scientists use the measure of a telomere length as a metric for our wellbeing – the longer they are, the less prone we are to ageing and disease. In follow-up studies by Blackburn and UCLA, groups that practiced meditation were seen to have up to 30% and 43% increases in telomerase activity.
On an average day, many a social media feed will be flooded with feel-good – and at times annoying – clichés to remind you to live a bit more mindfully. But if there is a cliché that’s fitting for this topic, it’s that more often than not, quality really is better than quantity. Sorry.