The Surprising Benefits of Mindful Meditation
I developed a fast love affair with yoga after my first class–the stretching, the balancing, the breathing. But I dreaded the end of class when we rested silently in mindful meditation. I couldn’t relax and let go of the mind chatter. Albeit I did begin to notice less stress, enhanced sleep, and more peacefulness. So imagine my surprise to learn that mindful meditation can slow the aging process. In other words, this one habit can add years to your life. That’s right–years! (I’m tossing the concealer and B.B. cream)!
What is Mindful Meditation?
Mindful meditation is a way of quieting the busy mind by bringing awareness to the present moment. It forces us to stop the self-criticism by redirecting our attention to the here and now. Mindful meditation teaches us to tune out distractions and tasks and tune into thoughts and sensations. In turn, creativity and concentration are enhanced. People who practice mindful meditation note decreased stress and more self-compassion. When mindful meditation becomes a habit, it generates a feeling of spiritual well-being.
How Does Mindful Meditation Add Years to Your Life?
The benefits of a consistent mindful meditation practice go way beyond the spiritual. Studies show mindful meditation can have physical effects on our bodies. A study published in Mindfulness journal demonstrated longer telomere length in those who practiced mindful meditation on a regular basis. Telomeres, a DNA complex in our bodies, shorten each time a cell replicates. As we age, telomeres get shorter and shorter until the cell can no longer replicate. Short telomeres are associated with chronic illness and old age. Likewise, they serve as a sort of age clock and mindful meditation has been shown to slow down this age clock.
Another study revealed increased gray matter in the brains of those who had established a long habit of meditation. Gray matter is a major component of the nervous system and is found in the brain and spinal cord. It is associated with human intelligence. Once we reach the age of 40, gray matter begins to decline. Mindful meditation may help preserve memory and learning as a result of it’s effects on gray matter.
How Can You Start a Mindful Meditation Habit?
- Find a comfortable position either seated or reclining. Use a pillow, chair, or blanket, if needed.
- Focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale. Feel the cooling inhale and the warming exhale. If your mind wanders, that’s okay, just bring it back to your breath.
- Pay attention to the sensations in your body. It may be helpful to silently repeat a positive phrase or mantra to stay focused on the present.
Since I tend to have a bit of a chatty brain, I find it helpful to use ambient music or a guided meditation to quiet my mind. Apps like Insight Timer (my favorite) and Headspace are helpful for beginners.
Tap into the Powers of a Mindful Meditation Habit
Just 15-20 minutes per day–that is all it takes for you to reap the mental, spiritual, and physical benefits of mindful meditation. As for me, I think I am truly ready to toss my make-up but I do intend to keep up with my practice. Mindful meditation keeps me happy and healthy. And it just may be the one habit that adds years to your life.