A friend of mine recently gave me a book called Staying Young (by Roizen and Oz), which is sort of a layperson’s guide to understanding the variables that stimulate and accelerate the body aging process. Here’s a snippet that I felt inspired to share with you:
We sometimes hear people refer to their family’s “bad genes” as if they are destined to inherit them. And while in some cases that may be true, it’s not the whole story:
Research on identical twins demonstrates that health and longevity are based only one-quarter on our genetics, and as much as three-quarters on our behaviors and lifestyle choices.
Apparently stress is one of the major culprits of poor health (no surprise there) because it inhibits our immune system from functioning optimally and rapidly accelerates aging. In fact, people who are really stressed have a biological age anywhere from nine to seventeen years older than their chronological age.
To place this into perspective: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (one of my heroes) was killed at the young age of 39. Autopsy reports showed that he had the body age of a 60-year old man (I imagine this was from all of the pressures that came with heading the civil rights movement).
Stress does not just affect us physically; it can be mental too. Scientists have learned that stressed folks who so much as think they are aging faster than normal, actually age faster. (Note to self: keep placing my attention on what I want to happen and not on what I want to avoid)
Here’s the good news: when we take steps to reduce stress (through yoga, meditation, or even by breathing deeply for a few minutes each day), our body age spontaneously reverses. For example, there are studies that show how people who practice Vedic Meditation actually reverse their body age up to 8 years within the first 5 years of meditating.
Imagine that? After 5 years of meditating, these folks live in a “new” body that is up to 3 years younger than the “old” body they had before they started meditating!
Now all of this doesn’t mean that we need to stop doing whatever may be causing stress buildup (although that’s something to consider). But everyone should have some outlet for releasing stress regularly. There’s just no way of getting around the fact that youthfulness and good health mainly comes down to lifestyle choices.
Here are 5 ways to ease stress:
- Practice living life in the present moment. All of the answers to future problems can be found in the present.
- Laugh more (and especially at yourself). Rent comedies, tell jokes, don’t take life too seriously.
- Go to that yoga class your friend keeps inviting you to. If it turns out to be too advanced or too challenging take a class for beginners, and make it part of your routine.
- Take a walk in nature (or a park) a few times a week. Play with your kids (or your friend’s kids) more often and be present with them.
- And for industrial strength stress release, learn and practice meditation, which is renown for releasing stress in the most natural and immediate way.
by Derry (Light) Watkins
Los Angeles Meditation Teacher