For the first time, scientists have found clear biological evidence that meditation and support groups can affect us on a cellular level.
We’re often told that being happy, meditating and mindfulness can benefit our health. We all have that one friend of a friend who says they cured their terminal illness by quitting their job and taking up surfing - but until now there’s been very little scientific evidence to back up these claims.
Now researchers in Canada have found the first evidence to suggest that support groups that encourage meditation and yoga can actually alter the cellular activity of cancer survivors.
Their study, which was published in the journal Cancer last week, is one of the first to suggest that a mind-body connection really does exist.
The team found that the telomeres - the protein caps at the end of our chromosomes that determine how quickly a cell ages - stayed the same length in cancer survivors who meditated or took part in support groups over a three-month period.
On the other hand, the telomeres of cancer survivors who didn’t participate in these groups shortened during the three-month study.
Scientists still don’t know for sure whether telomeres are involved in regulating disease, but there is early evidence that suggests shortened telomeres are associated with the likelihood of surviving several diseases, including breast cancer, as well as cellular ageing. And longer telomeres are generally thought to help protect us from disease.