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Meditation and Longevity: Are There Lifelong Benefits to Meditation?

Meditation and Longevity: Scientific Evidence for How Meditation May Affect Longevity

Do you regret being so busy that you can’t relax? If you feel this way more often than not, your body is likely suffering the health-deteriorating effects of prolonged stress.

What if you could do something to effectively counteract the stress that weighs on you daily? Something that could increase your resilience and allow you to rest even in the middle of a busy day?

Meditation can be a life-changing — even life-extending — practice that helps you not only cope with stress but also have a stronger, more positive mental and emotional posture throughout your life.

Here we discuss how meditation may affect longevity and how you can begin cultivating your own meditative practice to counter the fast-paced lifestyle that may not be conducive to a long, enjoyable life.

Table of Contents

What Is Meditation and How Might It Help With Longevity?

Meditation is the practice of training attention and awareness in order to achieve mental clarity, emotional calmness, and stability. There are several techniques by which people endeavor to train the mind and soul to these ends.

Across cultures and throughout time, meditation has been undertaken in various ways, such as:

  • Concentrating on breathing, visualization, an idea or object, or a mantra

  • Cultivating qualities like kindness and compassion

  • Being receptive to one’s present experience and environment through mindfulness

  • Reflecting on and contemplating your identity and purpose

Meditation for one person might look completely different than it does for someone else, even within the same meditative tradition. They might use different techniques involving established postures, frequency of practice, and/or aids to support meditation.

Meditation is not a cure-all for improved longevity. Health is holistic and there are hundreds of factors that play into the length of an individual’s life. Nevertheless, there is evidence that meditation may contribute to the kind of health associated with a longer life span.

The most obvious contribution is lowering the body’s response to stress. Other benefits are less discernible, but no less real.

Good Bitters would love to support you in securing these advantages for yourself. Visit our website to learn more about how we can be a partner in your health journey.

An elderly woman doing breathing meditation in a field.

Does Meditation Help Preserve the Aging Brain?

A comparison of brain age in meditators and non-meditators indicates that meditation can preserve brain structure, protecting the brain against age-related atrophy and making it age more slowly.

In his book How God Changes Your Brain, leading neuroscientist Andrew Newberg explains that meditation can slow dendrite deterioration and thus help preserve memory and cognitive function.

Scientific Connections Between Meditation and Longevity

Meditation May Reduce Stress

Meditation can bring about deep relaxation as you focus your attention on something calming –- getting rid of the chaotic, worrisome, and unnecessary thoughts that disturb your peace.

The state of emotional balance meditation may bring can lead to physical improvements such as:

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Lower resting heart rate

  • Better sleep

Even people in the following situations have been seen to benefit from meditation:

A young woman doing heart chakra meditation outside.

Telomeres May Regenerate Through Meditation

Telomeres are the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that get shorter each time cells divide. They are understood to be a vague indicator of longevity. Their shortening can be accelerated by chronic stress and depression.

Meditation, which counteracts these states, can improve the condition of telomeres and thus slow cellular aging. Various studies have observed longer telomeres in participants who engaged in regular meditation than in those who did not.

One way meditation aids in telomere maintenance is by reducing oxidative stress, which normally shortens telomeres.

Meditation May Help Regulate the Nervous System

A 2009 study found that people who engaged in short-term meditation experienced better regulation of their autonomic nervous system, as indicated by superior activity in terms of:

  • Heart rate variability – Variation between heartbeats is higher in individuals in a relaxed state and lower in those experiencing fight-or-flight mode. Higher heart rate variability is linked to a lower-stress, happier life.

  • Skin conductance response – This is a measure of sympathetic autonomic nervous system activity associated with emotion and attention.

  • Respiratory amplitude and rate – Less efficient respiratory function is correlated with anxiety, depression, anger, and stress.

Meditation May Help Lower Blood Pressure

Although the exact mechanism is not entirely clear, studies have identified meditation as a major contributor to lower blood pressure. A decrease in blood pressure is probably a secondary effect of lower stress.

There is no set amount of time for a meditation session. If you feel calm after ten minutes, then you may experience the health benefits associated with relaxation, including lower blood pressure, as much as someone who meditates for an hour at a time.

If you make meditation a part of your routine, you can continue to enjoy these benefits regardless of how long each session is.

Meditation May Enhance the Immune System

Meditation may support immunity in different ways. Here are a few scenarios that probably occur together:

  • Meditation activates many immune system-related genes, particularly interferon-signaling genes. Interferon proteins help coordinate the immune system’s response against viruses.

  • By promoting relaxation, meditation enhances vagal tone, which increases stress capacity and resilience. Enhanced vagal tone also suppresses pro-inflammatory cytokines when they reach dangerous levels.

  • Meditation lowers levels of cortisol, which is the body’s long-term stress chemical that can suppress the immune system.

When your body can effectively fight off disease, it experiences less stress, contributing to the sense of well-being you seek through meditation.

5 Meditation Techniques That May Help Increase Longevity

Keep in mind that there is no “one way” to meditate - it can look different for everybody. Some general principles, however, that tend to govern the way people should approach meditation include:

  • Openness to new experiences – Don’t let your past experiences keep you from appreciating the present.

  • Patience – Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results right away.

  • Non-judgmental attitude – Don’t allow your likes, dislikes, and opinions to distract you.

  • Trust in your intuitions.

  • Focus on giving attention to and accepting circumstances, rather than reacting and striving against them.

Here are some standard meditation techniques that have had positive results.

An elderly woman doing seated meditation outdoors.

#1: Seated Meditation

The following elements are characteristic of this type of meditation in which posture is key:

  • A comfortable seated position, often in a chair with feet flat on the floor or loosely cross-legged on the floor

  • Straightened back

  • Shoulders relaxed, pulled down and back

  • Broadened chest

Seated meditation performed outdoors in a peaceful setting can be particularly calming. Below is an example of a great place for nature meditation in Sedona, Arizona.

#2: Walking Meditation

Walking meditation involves cultivating a distinct awareness of the environment and the sensations of your body as you walk. This can be done anywhere. It is good practice for mindfulness, which is purposefully paying attention to the present moment without judgment.

Grounding is a term within the field of mindfulness that means learning to stay in the moment when your thoughts are drifting or trying to take you back to a traumatic past. There are several activities that can aid in grounding:

  • Do a body scan – Slowly tense and relax each part of your body one at a time, moving from feet to face.

  • Engage in focused breathing.

  • Play the 54321 game – List the following items in your vicinity:

    • 5 things you see

    • 4 things you feel

    • 3 things you hear

    • 2 things you smell

    • 1 good thing about yourself

  • Hold a grounding object – This can be any small object that reminds you of your connection to the world.

#3: Mantra Meditation

This kind of meditation has been used in religious and non-religious contexts. One type became known as Transcendental Meditation by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who taught in India beginning in the 1950s. Two 15-20 minute sessions per day are recommended.

During mantra meditation, a calming thought, phrase, or word is repeated silently to prevent distracting thoughts and release your mind from anxiety. This might be particularly helpful before going to sleep.

A 2012 study of older adults with memory problems observed increased cognitive function and cerebral blood flow after they participated in 8 weeks of mantra meditation known as Kirtan Kriya from the Kundalini yoga tradition.

#4: Silent Retreats

During a silent retreat, you have the opportunity to spend time in a community that agrees to uphold silence for a period of time. This communal and personal quiet has several effects:

  • It slows us down. Our nervous systems relax and we become more receptive. Constant access to the Internet and the ubiquitous availability of entertainment bring so much noise and motion to our lives. Though we are conditioned to continue going at such a volume and pace, we are not designed to do so. We need space and time to withdraw into a more peaceful place so we can be reminded of our limitations and the pleasantness of periodic inaction.

  • It allows us to examine ourselves and our relation to our fellow humans. When we are stuck in the rat race, sometimes we fail to consider the deeper meanings of our thoughts and behaviors. We often don’t consider our interconnectedness with others. When we can do so in an honest, unhurried manner, we can perceive facets of our and others’ lives that we never thought to cultivate.

  • It gives our real self, the self that tends to be smothered by the things that keep us busy, space to speak. Sometimes duty takes precedence over identity and we can almost forget who we are. When we are left to ourselves with no pressing responsibilities, we begin to be acquainted with the person underneath that needs to be expressed.

#5: Guided Audio Meditations

Also called guided imagery or visualization, this involves forming and focusing on mental images that are relaxing. A teacher often guides this process, helping you to imagine sights, sounds, smells, and textures.

Guided meditation can help you manage negative and/or repetitive thoughts and train you to not dwell on distressing thoughts and feelings.

Another kind of guided audio meditation is sound meditation, in which the soothing nature of sounds is used to assist in reaching a state of serenity.

Many studies have been conducted exploring the healing effects of sound. A 2016 study observed decreased tension, anger, fatigue, and depression in those who participated in sound meditation.

Good Bitters: Products and Coaching Designed To Help With Meditation and Connecting With Your Inner-Self

At Good Bitters, you can find support for your venture into meditation through our coaching services as well as our Kalm Drops, a product that promotes relaxation and focus and can be used during a meditation session.

Contact Good Bitters today to get specific help with beginning a meditation routine and improving your mental and physical health. The content in this blog is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is taken from traditional wisdom and modern research/databases and is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to act as medical advice or to replace medical treatment. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The statements and information on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA. Please consult a knowledgeable healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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