Anxiety and stress are bad for telomeres
I bet the Dalai Lama has healthy telomeres but I don’t know about the rest of us because a recent study suggests chronic anxiety and stress shortens our lives by shortening our telomeres.
A brief telomere explication
- Each of our cells contains a nucleus;
- Inside this nucleus are our chromosomes;
- Our genes abide on these chromosomes;
- At the ends of chromosomes are bits of DNA called telomeres;
- Telomeres are like the plastic tips of shoelaces and they stop chromosome ends from falling apart and sticking to each other;
- If chromosome ends get damaged it confuses our genes and
- Genetic confusion leads to cancer, auto-immune disease and death.
Telomeres are our genetic guardians, allowing each cell to divide with structural integrity.
Each time a cell divides its telomeres shorten
When the telomeres become too short the cell dies.
In the interest of keeping our chromosomes intact and our telomeres happy, here are two breathing exercises and a meditation to reduce anxiety and stress.
1. Following your inhalation and exhalation
Simple, safe and portable, this lovely practice can be incorporated seamlessly into your life.
- As you inhale through your nose, simply notice your breath without trying to alter it in any way.
- Then, as you exhale through your nose, gently notice your breath as it leaves your body. No need to judge how you are breathing — it’s all in the noticing.
- Do this for a few breaths whenever you remember.
2. Equal Breathing
- Lie on the floor or sit on a chair with your back straight.
- Soften your face and drop your shoulders away from your ears.
- Begin to notice your breathing.
- After several breaths, inhale through your nose to a slow, silent count of four.
- Then, exhale through your nose to a slow, silent count of four.
- Keep your inhalations and exhalations the same length. Do this for several minutes.
3. A Hand Meditation
You can do this anywhere and it’s an instant anxiety killer.
- Close your eyes and become aware of your breath.
- Notice your inhale and notice your exhale.
- After a few breaths, focus attention on your hands.
- You could ask yourself, “How do I know I have hands?” You may notice a warmth or tingling, or perhaps a numbness. No need to judge, simply notice the sensations. Are your hands warm or cool? Hard or soft? Fingers curled or flat? Can you feel the life in your hands?
- Try this for five or ten minutes. If your attention wanders, gently bring it back to your breath and hands.