Can loving-kindness slow down ageing?

image: iStock photo

You might have heard of telomeres! They’re the little end-caps on DNA that stops it unraveling, a bit like the little plastic caps on shoelaces that stop them from unraveling.

Telomeres have become popular because they’re closely linked with the age of the body. Short telomeres tend to mean faster ageing.

Lots of research has now shown that meditation can slow ageing. I’ve written about some of the research in some other blogs. See: (Harvard Study Finds that Meditation Impacts DNA) (Can Compassion Beat Botox in the Anti-Ageing Stakes?)

One of my favourite meditations is the Buddhists’ Loving-Kindness Meditation. It helps you cultivate a sentiment of love, kindness, and compassion for yourself and others. It always leaves me feeling warm inside.

I am pleased to learn that scientists have now studied the effect of the Loving-Kindness Meditation on the length of telomeres. Fifteen practitioners of the Meditation were compared with 22 people in a control group. They were all around the same age. Each person had their telomeres measured.

The study found that the practitioners of the Loving-Kindness Meditation had longer telomeres than the control group. Basically, it meant that even though they were all around the same age, the people who practiced loving-kindness were physiologically younger.

And if you’re a female reading this, you’ll be very pleased to know the following: Female Loving-Kindness Meditation practitioners had the longest telomeres of all! The meditation seems to effect women more than men.

You have two ages. There’s your chronological age, which is your actual age. So if you were born in March 1960 your chronological age is 54 (I’m writing this in August 2014). Your physiological age, on the other hand, is the age of your body and it is affected by diet, lifestyle, stress, attitude … and clearly love, kindness, and compassion.

An unhealthy diet, lifestyle, or lots of stress, all tend to age the body faster. A person whose chronological age is 54 but who leads a very unhealthy lifestyle might have a physiological age of 68. Another person with the same chronological age but who leads a very healthy life might have a physiological age of 37.

The length of your telomeres is a good estimate of your physiological age.

So the Loving-Kindness Meditation basically reduces physiological age. You really can grow younger! You can’t become chronologically younger, but it’s your physiological age that ultimately matters.

How to do the meditation:

You can use the following set of statements:

May ____ be filled with loving kindness, be well, peaceful and at ease, happy, and free of suffering.

Where I’ve put a ____, insert first yourself and repeat it three times, then choose a loved one, and again repeat three times, followed by someone emotionally neutral to you, again three times, then a difficult person in your life; that’s someone from the present or past who causes or has caused you stress and you still have a negative emotional charge towards. Again you wish them the sentiments three times. Then you finish by wishing the sentiment to all sentient beings, again three times. That’s one cycle.

You can do as many or as few cycles as you wish. Some people like to do a few so that they can focus on their closest loved ones. Some people focus on the same difficult person on all of their cycles. There is no rule that says you have to do it in any particular way. What matters most is the sentiment of love, kindness, and compassion.

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  1. sue creaton on August 5, 2014 at 7:32 am

    I liked this thank you.

  2. Pam Keri Brettell on August 5, 2014 at 8:18 am

    I have just attended a 4 day teaching class on Zero Balancing bodywork by its founder Fritz Smith. His main focus was on having the following elements in the treatment given to others in the session.
    Loving kindness

    I say this would just be the way to live our lives.

  3. Rosemarie Martin on August 5, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Good morning David,
    Some interesting research with the telomeres. It also makes sense that women have the longer telomeres as we are “nurtures and the men are worriers”. Very few men are balanced with their masculine and feminin side. My brother is a very balanced person. So it would be interesting to have his telomeres measured. I also agree with you on the Buddhist meditation of love and kindness as I practice it myself. I do have a question though. Can the telomeres change in size as one practices love and kindness towards oneself and towards others regardless of their sex? Which in return would change biochemistry/telomeres ect. in our body as we become kinder and more loving towards ourselves and others.

    Love and kindness


  4. Safaya on August 5, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Thank you David, you continue to be an wonderful inspiration. What a lovely way to start the day. Love the video too. Bless you.

  5. rachelle on August 5, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Keep the fascinating and awesome information coming please

  6. jacqui reid on August 5, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    So true love your posts. practice all this myself and everyone says I look a lot younger for my age. I’ve been on an emotional healing journey for 5 years and my heart condition has as the professor said “your heart Is healing keep doing whatever It Is your doing cause It’s working” . Thank you David for your posts and words of wisdom.

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on August 25, 2014 at 9:27 am

      Well done Jacqui. 🙂

  7. Ursula Brown on August 6, 2014 at 3:10 am

    You’re brilliant. I just love how you can express otherwise difficult scientific facts in such a down to earth, easy to comprehend way. You are doing a huge service to humanity. Love your writings and your sense of humour!

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on August 25, 2014 at 9:26 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words Ursula. 🙂

  8. Elaine on August 6, 2014 at 5:14 am

    Thank you, Dr. David, for this wonderful Meditation as I was so concerned about an event that happened today. I will now go to bed repeating these kind words and know that all is well.
    I am grateful for all that you do, Elaine

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on August 25, 2014 at 9:28 am

      Thanks Elaine,
      I hope you find some comfort in the words. 🙂

  9. Georgina on August 6, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    I can confirm some of this, David. I was lucky enough to come across Vipassana & Loving-Kindness mediation over thirty years ago. It helped me a lot in dealing with the aftermath of a particularly unpleasant divorce. Am delighted that scientists are now “proving” the value of such meditation! Hope you & family are having a good summer.