Science Links Meditation to Happier, Healthier & Longer Life

Wandering mind is unhappy one :

In their research*1, psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University writes that “A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind”. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost. People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing and and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy.

Meditation reduces mind wandering:

Researchers from Yale, Columbia and Oregon university published their research*2 on meditation and mind wandering. They concluded that meditators have less mind wandering during meditation. The research focused on Default Mode Network (Area of brain which get activated when human mind wanders). They found it to be deactivated for experienced meditators during their meditation. Also, even when they were not meditating they had better self-monitoring and cognitive control.

Genetic Change for longer and healthier life :

Telomeres are caps at the ends of chromosomes (A repeating DNA sequence that protects chromosomes), and as the cells divide length of Telomere becomes shorter. So as we get older they slowly decrease in size, which causes cellular aging and our ultimate crawl towards death. Other than normal aging, Telomeres could be shortened because of stress. And shortened Telomeres has been linked to many diseases*4 like Cancer, Diabetes and Alzheimer.

Meditation can protect and even increase Telomere length:

In 2010, Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn and her colleagues published the first study*5 on the effects of meditation on Telomere. They looked at enzyme levels of telomerase, which manages telomere length. Enzyme activity was higher by 30% in the group of 30 meditators compared to the 30 non-meditators, and the researchers concluded that meditation may increase enzyme activity, thereby protecting telomere length. According to them, most likely meditation reduces stress and hence the positive affect on Telomere. Another research*3 finds longer telomere for people whose mind wanders less. Several other researches have been linking meditation to higher Telomere length since then. So meditation practice can lead us to live happier, healthier and longer life.

References:

*1. http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/wandering-mind-not-a-happy-mind/
*2. http://www.pnas.org/content/108/50/20254.short
*3. http://cpx.sagepub.com/content/1/1/75.abstract
*4. http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/chromosomes/telomeres/
*5. http://med.stanford.edu/scopeblog/sdarticle.pdf