By: Soriyya Bawa
Stress and aging are inevitably linked—aging can lead to more stress and more stress, in turn, can speed up the aging process. A lot of men and women spend so much of their time and energy worrying about aging well that they’re actually accelerating the aging process. Or maybe you don’t worry about aging well so much as you’re overwhelmed and worn down with the stresses of everyday life. In either case, it turns out that all you need is a little peace and quiet.
The art of meditation has been practiced for centuries as a means of elevating stress and promoting relaxation and inner peace. Many health professionals maintain that if we can control the body’s stress response, we can shape our body’s ability to age better. In other words, changing your state of mind can change your state of body. That’s why meditation is one of the easiest and most inexpensive anti-aging secrets. The key to aging well and feeling younger can be as simple as learning to clear your head through meditation. There are a few key reasons why meditation is the answer to aging well.
Meditation and Melatonin
One of the reasons that meditation allows for aging well is because it has been shown to increase the level of the hormone melatonin in your body. Melatonin is what regulates your body’s internal clock, which means it helps to regulate your sleep cycle—your brain naturally secretes more melatonin when it’s dark versus when it’s light. Like many other hormones, melatonin production decreases with age. Meditation boosts melatonin, which affects sleep, which is good for aging well because when you’re properly rested, you’re better able to address other means of aging well, like anti-aging fitness, nutrition, and skin care habits.
More melatonin isn’t just good for regulating sleep. This particular hormone is also critical to aging well because of its antioxidant properties. Research has shown that increased levels of melatonin can protect against free radical damage, prevent heart disease, manage blood sugar levels, and lower blood pressure. Melatonin has also been shown to be helpful in the treatment and prevention of cancer. Because your melatonin level naturally decreases as you get older, increasing it through meditation can help to improve your overall health, therefore ensuring that you’re aging well.
Meditation and DHEA
Meditation also boosts the production of DHEA, another hormone that affects aging well. Lower levels of DHEA in the body have been linked to several age-related conditions, such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and immune system disorders. DHEA may also be effective for improving bone mineral density (which can prevent osteoporosis), as well as improving the look of aged skin by increasing thickness and reducing the visibility of age spots. Like melatonin, DHEA reduces with age—meditation increases DHEA levels, which, as we now know, influences the process of aging well.
Meditation and Cortisol
When you’re stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol—the longer you’re stressed, the more cortisol your body will produce. Too much of this hormone can be detrimental to aging well, as excessively and continuously high levels of cortisol have been linked to several unhealthy conditions, such as imbalanced blood sugar levels, decreased bone density, decreased muscle tissue, high blood pressure, and compromised immunity. Meditation can significantly reduce your levels of cortisol by engaging your body’s relaxation response.
How to Start Meditating
If you’re interested in taking up meditation to promote aging well, start by finding a quiet space; that means leaving behind your cell phone, pager, and any other distractions. Sit in a comfortable position and focus your mind on an object, like a picture on the wall or a spot on the floor. Concentrate on your breathing—feel the air go through your nostrils and fill your lungs as you inhale, and focus on slowly exhaling. If you have a hard time concentrating, which you probably will, try counting your breaths—slowly count up to five as you inhale, and back down to one as you exhale.
Start with four to five minute sessions. The goal for aging well is to try and work up to doing at least 20 minutes of meditating twice each day. It’s easier to commit to it if you do it around the same time every day, like first thing in the morning or right before bed.
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