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Surprising Science

A Wandering Mind Makes You Age Faster

New research suggests that living in the moment, rather than being preoccupied with outside concerns, can extend the life of your body’s DNA and keep it from aging prematurely. 

What’s the Latest Development?

If your mind wanders a lot, your DNA may be aging faster than those around you with more focused attention, suggests new research which measured the length of telomeres—DNA-caps that prevent the ends of chromosomes from deteriorating—relative to one’s ability to live in the moment. In a study of 239 healthy, midlife women ranging in age from 50 to 65 years, being present in the moment was defined as “an inclination to be focused on current tasks,” while mind wandering was defined as “the inclination to have thoughts about things other than the present or being elsewhere.”

What’s the Big Idea?

The new study, published in the Nov. 15 edition of Clinical Psychological Science, found that “those who reported more mind wandering had shorter telomeres, while those who reported more presence in the moment, or having a greater focus and engagement with their current activities, had longer telomeres, even after adjusting for current stress.” Elissa Epel, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and lead author on the study, said: “Results suggest the possibility that the attitude of acceptance of negative experiences might be one of the factors that promotes greater ability to be more present.”

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