It is my personal belief that kindness is the most undervalued tool for mental and physical wellness.
The truth is, it takes literally nothing to be warm, kind, and thoughtful towards yourself and the people around you. And the benefits of it are unlike any you’ve ever experienced.
This is something I’ve always believed in. Something that I’ve tested multiple times. And something that I’ve always based my life on.
If you don’t believe me, I’ve got science to back me up.
According to a new study out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that was published in the Psychoneuroendocrinology in October 2019, kindness does not only make your life happier, but it also prolongs your life by protecting your genes.
The team of researchers gathered 150 middle-aged participants with no prior mediation experience and formed three groups. The first group was challenged to go through a six-week mindfulness meditation training, which involved weekly one-hour long classes and 20 minutes of home practice daily. The second group received a very similar training called a loving-kindness meditation that encourages one to cultivate friendly, warm feelings toward oneself, a loved one, or a random person. The third group was a control group.
Mindfulness meditation required paying attention to the thoughts, breath, feelings, and bodily sensations without judging oneself in the process. The volunteers were instructed to only observe their experience through an objective point of view.
Loving-kindness meditation, on the other hand, required focusing on cultivating compassion towards oneself, a loved one, a simple acquaintance or a challenging person, and then everyone else. The volunteers in this group were told to shift their focus on the connection they have with others.
At the beginning of the experiment, all of the participants provided blood samples. The researchers needed the material so they can determine the telomere length in every person.
In case you didn’t know, telomeres are compound structures at the end of the chromosome that protect them from sticking to each other. In other words, they are these tiny caps that protect our DNA and prevent the loss of genetic material. This means that the slower the telomeres wear down, the longer a person’s life span is likely to be.
After the 12-week study period, the results showed that all the three groups had shorter telomeres than they did at the beginning.
But what really surprised the researchers was the fact that the loving-kindness meditation group had lost the least of all. The group that lost the most was the control group. While the mindfulness meditators were in the middle. Which only proved the team’s theory.
Practicing loving-kindness meditation for six weeks can definitely slow the aging process, even if it only for a little.
This is small, short-term research that might not be 100% accurate. Truth be told, there are many reasons that indicate why these results should be taken with a grain of salt. However, you shouldn’t forget that there are also plenty of reasons to believe that kindness is indeed the best medicine and can definitely be linked with better health and longer life.
So, while the exact link between loving-kindness and DNA is yet to be proven, it is safe to say that it literally won’t take you anything to just try and be a little kinder both to yourself and those around you. For kindness will always be the best medicine.