Turns out the biggest anti-ageing secret of the century is not in pills and potions but in the space between your ears.
I am not talking mind control. Rather, it’s simply the way you think with your brain that reflects in your physical appearance.
New research says negative thought patterns have a damaging effect on telomeres (DNA segments at the end of the chromosome which prevent them from fraying). They are shortened with every cell division. You can gauge how important telomeres are by the fact that when telomeres become too short for any more division, the cell dies or becomes inactive.
Interestingly, telomeres can be lengthened, and when that happens the ageing process slows down. In some cases, it can stop (enter Dorian Gray). So what kind of thoughts shorten telomeres? A few examples:
Bottling up your emotions and desires takes a toll on the body and mind. Some of us like to pretend like our problems don’t exist rather than dealing with them which is the mature thing to do.
If you don’t trust people easily but get angry easily, you’re probably a cynical person. This kind of mental frame is strongly associated with heart disease and short telomeres according to a study of over 400 people.
Do you see the glass as half empty or half full? This simple difference could decide your youthfulness. Looking at the silver lining will keep the grey out of your hair longer. A study of over 1,000 people found that the pessimistic ones had shorter telomeres than the optimistic subjects.
When you aren’t mindfully engaged, you won’t feel completely “in the moment” and incidentally, it’s also an activity that shortens telomeres significantly. An American study of 250 women found that stress levels aren’t as much a factor as a wandering mind in this regard. One reason for this is that an empty mind normally veers towards negative thoughts.
What’s the solution?
So how does one go around this natural phenomenon of shortening telomeres? You can’t avoid bad days, weeks and months, but you can avoid them from taking over your mind.
- Practise deep breathing and mindfulness on a daily basis.
- Exercising makes the body stronger and lengthens telomeres. It’s also a feel-good activity.
- Be aware of the food you are putting into your system. Are you feeding your body whole fruits and vegetables or sweets and fast food? Your cells will behave the way you feed them.
No one is richer with negative thoughts or poorer with happy memories.