Are you interested in something you can do for your self to slow the aging process, and enhance the quality and length of your life? At the heart of this story are our chromosomes – the bundles of DNA in each of our cells – especially the tips, or end caps, of chromosomes called “telomeres”. However, new research concludes that telomere shortening is neither inevitable, nor one-way street.
Many common diseases of aging are associated with shorter telomeres: cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, weakened immune system, and cardiovascular disease. Mindfulness, as taught in the 8-week program “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” or “MBSR,” is one of the most extensively studied methods for reducing stress and improving quality of life and overall health. The evidence reveals that mindfulness meditation practices are associated with increased levels of telomerase, the enzyme that protects, replenishes, and even lengthens telomeres. Researchers believe that cultivating positive mental states, and decreasing negative moods and thinking, through a regular mindfulness practice, results in a “stress-buffering” benefit for our cells.
While interest in mindfulness meditation as a stress reliever has grown through the years, there’s been little evidence to support that it helps those suffering from chronic inflammation conditions in which psychological stress plays a major role. If you follow workplace mindfulness in the news, you’ve had quite a bit of reading material in the last few months. An absorbing interview with the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and a pioneer in bringing the gift of mindfulness to the Western world.
Professor of Medicine emeritus, and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, he is the founder of MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction), a method that combines mindfulness meditation and hatha yoga.
In this talk, Jon Kabat-Zinn will describe mindfulness-based practices for restoring perspective and for waking up to our lives, beginning with our senses. One area I haven’t heard many people talk about is mindfulness and athletic performance. Then you’ll be interested in the emerging body of scientific research on stress, aging, and mindfulness, a practice correlated with a protective effect on our cells. Researchers believe this is so because mindfulness promotes the adaptive regulation of emotion and reactivity, and is linked to greater psychological well-being. This positive change boosts our levels of telomerase which replenishes and lengthens telomeres and the life-span of our cells.

Businesses of all types have embraced the fact that the wellbeing of their employees improves the health of the company. This work has been widely studied and applied with groups ranging from chronic medical patients suffering from stress, pain, and illness, to lawyers, business people, prison inmates and staff, school children, and Olympic and NBA athletes. Waking up to our senses at any age, and in any condition, we have the potential to heal and to wake up to the actuality of the world in which we live. Enter the HPNP through the door under the covered walkway and go up the curving (unfinished) stairs; an elevator is just around the corner left of that door.
Your class helped me become more aware of my body and to tune into the messages it gives me. By taking up a regular mindfulness practice you can improve your well-being, slow the aging process, and help protect yourself against the most common diseases of aging. It’s considered an inherent aspect of human consciousness, and it can be strengthened thr ough a variety of mental training techniques collectively known as mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness practice decreases rumination (the pattern of revisiting negative thoughts), while it increases the intensity and frequency of positive and pro-social emotions like empathy, kindness and compassi on for yourself and others. In this way a mindfulness practice buffers cells against the long-term wear and tear effects of stress, and is thus believed to slow the rate of cellular aging. A new study by University of Wisconsin-Madison neuroscientists suggests mindfulness meditation techniques may help people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and asthma. This is a truly informative article by Christy Cassisa, Co-Director of Workplace Initiatives and Giving at UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. And while most of us struggle to manage the stress of a demanding boss or a mounting workload on our own, savvy employers are stepping in to help both their employees and their own bottom line. This way of being allows us to inhabit both body and world with greater ease and freedom, even in the face of pain and fear, of numbness and feeling overwhelmed. When I used to run, I mainly distracted myself from what I was doing with music, thoughts, or TV.
Blackburn of theUniversity of California, San Francisco, and her colleagues, discovered why. Chronic stress wears down our telomeres and causes our cells, and our bodies, to age and die more rapidly.

The research is incontrovertible: meditation reduces stress, improves employee health and productivity, decreases health care costs and absenteeism. As a result, we can contribute to the healing of mind and body with tenderness, compassion, and integrity in ways that matter profoundly. In 2009 they received the Nobel Prize for the discovery of Telomerase – a protective enzyme in our cells that actually replenishes and lengthens telomeres. But what happens to telomere length when we learn to positively change the way we manage stress?
Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychologicalmediators. I am now running, biking, swimming, doing strength training, and yoga as I train for a triathlon sprint. More telomerase means longer telomeres, and thus longer and healthier cell life, and presumably longer life for the organism. Studies now show that reducing stress and increasing positive states of mind, particularly through the practice of mindfulness, promotes telomere maintenance and lengthening. I do body scans while exercising, checking in with each part looking for issues, discomfort, pain, or fatigue. Historically this shortening of telomeres was thought to be a one-way street: shorter telomeres meant the aging and death of cells, and eventually the living thing made up of these cells. As you can imagine, the implication of Blackburn’s discovery for the treatment of age related disease, and the investigation of the aging process, is now growing rapidly.
In the past, I never listened to my body and just pushed myself to finish whatever I set out to do even if it meant injuring myself. Now, I celebrate what my body can do and enjoy pushing the limits set by my mind and by society. I’m not sure if that is from being in better shape, meditation, actually paying attention to my body, or a combination of everything.

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