At a networking event recently, I met a woman whose business sells natural anti-ageing products.
When introduced to a group of us, we all marvelled that her skin was incredible, and that the product clearly worked. Then I jokingly commented that people are often shocked when I tell them my age too, and that I put it down to the ‘product’ my business sells – mindfulness and yoga. And while I was having a laugh, I am convinced without a doubt that there’s some truth in this.
These practices are all about cultivating the ability to reside in the present moment more, and in the future, or past, of our thoughts less. With a recent explosion of research, scientists understand more and more about the benefits of mindfulness practices. From preventing and treating mental health problems, pain management, treatment of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, weight management, to mindful parenting and performance enhancement in business and sport … mindfulness’ applications are endless.
In short, mindfulness is really good for us in countless ways. One of the truly exciting areas of research is that there is now evidence that meditation and yoga appear to slow the ageing process. While this science is complex, here’s an attempt to summarise some of this research.
At a cellular level, the length of telomeres has been demonstrated to be an effective indicator of cellular aging. Telomeres are protective caps at the end of strands of DNA that enable cell replication. Longer telomeres enable more cell division and when a cell replicates, its telomere length and lifespan gets shorter as a natural part of ageing. In brief, the shorter our telomeres, the more likely our cells are to die and the more illness we are likely to experience as we age.
In keeping with this picture, it appears that stress is closely associated with telomere length, so it is not surprising that more recent studies have shown a correlation between telomere length and meditation practice. Telomeres shorten naturally as we age but this can be accelerated by stress. Research has also shown that meditators have longer telomeres and that the longer the person has meditated for the longer the telomere length.
Radiating inner beauty
This is great news in terms of visible signs of ageing. Anecdotal reports emphasise the transformational power of these practices on inner beauty – when the mind’s chatter settles, our vitality can shine through.
Peace of mind is the best wellbeing and skin tonic there is. If you’re practicing mindfulness or yoga and you’re not quite there yet, even just taking the edge off the stress you’re experiencing in life can be a powerful way to make a difference. While it can take time to get to this point, remember that all practice, even that which you may feel is not very effective, is going to be doing you some good.
Taking care of yourself can seem like a chore when things are hard. Becoming more mindful naturally helps us to prioritise self-care simply because we’re more tuned in. We tend to listen to our bodies when they need sleep, or exercise, or more nutritious food – or less alcohol for that matter! And while we’re on that topic, many report they tend to eat and drink less if they’re less stressed. I know I do. When we’re more mindful, nurturing ourselves becomes a way of life. We tend to be more and do less. Not surprisingly, doing less means we’re less fatigued, and tiredness is an arch enemy of bright skin and light in our eyes. When you tune it, you’re much less likely to allow yourself to be exhausted.
I’m the sole parent of a toddler. I’m caring for elderly parents, and I’m getting a business off the ground. I feel as though there’s an expectation that I should look exhausted, bedraggled and strung out. Yet I’m frequently told that’s not the case. Of course, I have days when it all feels way too much. No amount of practice can undo the fact that at times life is stressful and can wear you down.
But I’m certain of one thing. There is simply no way in the world I could be doing what I’m doing, and still have a sparkle in my eye, if it wasn’t for my mediation and yoga practice! And there’s nothing more beautiful than a sparkle in your eye.
While not scientific research, check out this lovely photo essay to see how a month of meditation can impact our appearance, letting our inner light shine through.
“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” Roald Dahl.