The 30 retreat participants meditated for 6 hours daily for 3 months and were compared with a wait-list control group (n=30) matched for age, sex, body mass index, and prior meditation experience. Retreat participants received instruction in concentrative meditation techniques and complementary practices used to cultivate benevolent states of mind. Psychological measures were assessed pre- and post-retreat. Peripheral blood mononuclear cell samples were collected post-retreat for telomerase activity.
Investigators found that telomerase activity was significantly greater in the retreat participants than in the controls at the end of the retreat (p<0.05). Increases in Perceived Control, decreases in Subjective Distress, and increases in both Mindfulness and Purpose in Life were greater in the retreat group (p<0.01). Additioally, mediation analysis revealed that the effect of the retreat on telomerase was mediated by increased Perceived Control and decreased Subjective Distress. And changes in Perceived Control and Subjective Distress were partially mediated by increased Mindfulness and Purpose in Life. Additionally, increases in Purpose in Life directly mediated the telomerase group difference, whereas increases in Mindfulness did not.
This is the first study to link meditation and positive psychological change with telomerase activity. Although this study did not measure baseline telomerase activity, the data suggest that increases in perceived control and decreases in negative affectivity contributed to an increase in telomerase activity, with implications for telomere length and immune cell longevity. Further, Purpose in Life is influenced by meditative practice and directly affects both perceived control and negative emotionality, affecting telomerase activity directly as well as indirectly.
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