Compassion meditation: How to slow aging and stress less

Compassion. It feels like there’s not enough in the world nowadays…

Whether a stranger’s swearing at you for getting the parking spot first or your family members are arguing with each other about politics on Facebook, people are more likely to jump to judgment than kindness. And I think I know why…

Impatience and anger come easily to most of us, while compassion takes effort.

But there are a lot of fantastic reasons to work on being more compassionate. It makes the world a better place for all of us (who likes to be on the receiving end of an angry Facebook troll). Plus, it makes your life happier (being impatient and angry all the time is stressful).

But there is one more big benefit of cultivating compassion… one that would inspire even the most selfish among us to give compassion a try…

Compassion keeps you younger.

A new study shows that practicing compassion meditation regularly can prevent some of the DNA damage that leads to aging.

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Compassion meditation protects your telomeres

There are a lot of meditation styles out there. But a study from researchers at the University of North Carolina, Duke University and the University of California shows that a meditation practice that focuses on compassion can keep you biologically younger than other forms of meditation.

The study included 142 adults. Researchers tested the length of their telomeres (caps on the end of chromosomes that protect them from damage) two weeks before they started a compassion meditation practice and three weeks after they finished the practice.

Now, typically telomeres get shorter as you get older. In fact, telomere length is one of the best ways to measure biological aging. But people who practiced compassion meditation seemed to slow biological aging…

After meditating for six weeks, their telomeres maintained more length than the telomeres of people who didn’t meditate or those who practiced mindfulness meditation. In other words?

Compassion keeps you young!

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Cultivating more compassion

So, forget the Botox and serums, use compassion to keep that youthful glow. It’s the only one, after all, that keeps you younger on a biological level, rather than just masking the signs of biological aging.

How do you get started?

Well, people in the study did what’s known as a loving kindness meditation. There are a couple of ways to approach it, but one simple method is to practice sending love to other people and receiving love from other people. Here are some directions to guide you:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and breathe deeply.
  2. Focus your attention on your breath going in and out for a few minutes, so you can calm your body and clear your thoughts before you begin.
  3. Then picture someone you love (a friend, family member, teacher, pet… alive or deceased). Focus on the feelings that arise in your heart, like warmth, tenderness, and opening.
  4. Next, imagine a gold light shining out from your heart and extending toward your loved one, making him or her feel peaceful and happy.
  5. Then, silently recite the following phrases a couple of times:
    • May you have happiness.
    • May you be free from suffering.
    • May you experience joy and ease.
  6. Now, imagine a time when your loved one was suffering, whether due to a physical illness, injury or an emotional challenge.
  7. Notice what your heart feels like now. Does it still feel warm and open? Or do you feel sadness and pain?
  8. Picture a gold light shining out from your heart toward your loved one, easing his or her suffering.
  9. Send the light out as you exhale and recite these phrases:
    • May you be free from this suffering.
    • May you have joy and happiness.
    • May you be free from this suffering.
    • May you have joy and happiness.
  10. Repeat steps 6-9 for yourself, a stranger and someone you don’t like.

If you prefer audio guidance so you don’t have to memorize all those steps, here are more detailed instructions and a 30-minute audio compassion meditation. In the study, people did a once-per-week, one-hour group meditation and a 20-minute guided audio meditation at home daily.

If you can squeeze this into your schedule, try to match this frequency. If you can’t, practice loving kindness as much as you can. Even if you only do 10 minutes per day, it’ll probably have a positive effect on your telomeres. But more importantly, it’ll make you a much happier and more patient person, especially during these trying times!

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  1. Kindness Meditation May Slow Biological Aging — Psychology Today
  2. Loving-kindness meditation slows biological aging in novices: Evidence from a 12-week randomized controlled trialPsychoneuroendocrinology
  3. Telomeres: What causes biological aging? — Medical News Today
Margaret Cantwell

By Margaret Cantwell

Margaret Cantwell began her paleo diet in 2010 in an effort to lose weight. Since then, the diet has been instrumental in helping her overcome a number of other health problems. Thanks to the benefits she has enjoyed from her paleo diet and lifestyle, she dedicates her time as Editor of Easy Health Digest™, researching and writing about a broad range of health and wellness topics, including diet, exercise, nutrition and supplementation, so that readers can also be empowered to experience their best health possible.