Solid experimental evidence gathered by Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn supports the claim that meditation can reduce stress, improve general health, and perhaps most impressively, lengthen the human lifespan. Blackburn was the first to discover the existence of telomeres, protective caps on the end of our chromosomes that shield our DNA from degeneration as our cells divide over time. Inevitably, as our DNA splits again and again to create copies of itself, our telomeres wear down and cells lose the ability to divide and replicate. The slowing and eventual halting of that process is what drives aging and eventually the event of death.
What’s the Big Idea?
Experiments have shown that meditating can increase the length of our telomeres, protecting our dividing cells for longer, allowing them to create more copies of themselves over time, thereby increasing longevity. In a study of meditators at the Shambhala mountain retreat in northern Colorado, “those who completed a three-month-long course had 30% higher levels of telomerase than a similar group on a waiting list.” Today, Blackburn is speaking to the federal government, encouraging spending on what she calls “societal stress reduction.” In other words, instructing high risk individuals, such as new mothers, on how to reduce their stress is likely to contribute positively to their long-term health.
A recent study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly reveals that most women are disgusted by the thought of female body hair or the thought of themselves not shaving. The stigma of female body hair no doubt stems from societal pressure, but perhaps there's a scientific explanation as well.