When you’re stressed—whether it’s with financial woes, relationship struggles or job problems—not only do your co-workers and friends know it, your body knows it too, all the way down to the tiny tips at the end of your chromosomes.
Those tips, called telomeres, are like the caps at the end of your shoelaces. They have the benevolent role of protecting your chromosomes from fraying, and that can influence how long you live.
But when you’re chronically stressed, those little tips can wear away and rush your aging at a rate up to 10 years faster than normal. As pioneering researcher and physician Dr. Dean Ornish writes, “…as your telomeres get shorter, your life gets shorter.”
The Good News
As startling as this revelation may be, it leads to a hopeful question: If stress can gnaw at your telomeres, can stress-reducing techniques restore them? The answer is: yes.
Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD and her colleagues discovered an enzyme they named telomerase, and it can repair the telomeres that stress ravages. This discovery was so groundbreaking, that Blackburn and her team were awarded the Nobel Prize for it.
It’s been shown that with a few simple lifestyle changes, the amount of telomerase in your cells can increase in as little as 3 months. Read on to discover just a few ways you can play a part in making that happen.
3 Ways To Live Longer and Better
1. Move Your Body: Studies show that people who exercise have longer telomeres than those who don’t, even when they’re faced with extreme stress. The recommendation is to aim for 75 minutes of exercise a week. Find something you enjoy doing—like walking, swimming or dancing—and keep doing it.
2. Meditative Practice: Mindfulness meditation is all-the-rage these days and for good reason. Meditators who participated in an intensive meditation retreat increased their telomerase by 30%. If you’re new to meditation, try sitting quietly for 5-10 minutes everyday and focus on your breathing. When your mind wanders, simply return to your breath.
3. Good Sleep: Consistently missing sleep can send your body’s stress hormones into overdrive, and that’s likely why some studies have linked poor sleep with shortened telomeres. To replenish yourself, try to get 7-8 hours of sleep most nights.
It turns out that making a few simple changes to your daily routine can be a powerful way to take control of your stress so you can be happier, healthier and live longer. And doesn’t that feel good?