What’s the biggest problem facing our nation today? Worries about health care lead the polls. But from a big-picture perspective, we’re arguably suffering from a deficit of love and kindness.
New research finds a link between these practical and spiritual concerns. A new study reports that cultivating kindness through the practice of meditation may slow the aging process.
In a small-scale study, a commonly used biological marker of cellular aging remained relatively steady among people who completed a course in loving-kindness meditation. Those who took a similarly structured course in mindfulness meditation did not experience the same positive results.
The study, led by Khoa Le Nguyen and Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, featured 176 participants between the ages of 35 and 64. All provided blood samples at the beginning and conclusion of the 12-week study.
The researchers used these samples to measure the length of their telomeres, the compound structures found at the ends of chromosomes. Often compared to the plastic tips of shoelaces, telomeres protect DNA against instability and degradation. Shorter telomere length has been linked to various aging-related diseases and a higher risk of mortality.
Participants were randomly placed in one of three groups. One spent six weeks (weeks three to nine of the 12-week study) learning about and practicing mindfulness meditation. Another spent that same period focusing on loving-kindness meditation, while the final third were given no training of any kind.