Along with the new UCSF study, these findings support the possibility that a focus on the present may be part of what promotes health measurable at the cellular level, the researchers said.
"Our attentional statewhere our thoughts rest at any moment turns out to be a fascinating window into our well-being. It may be affected by our emotional state as well as shape our emotional state," said Elissa Epel, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and lead author on the study. "In our healthy sample, people who report being more engaged in their current activities tend to have longer telomeres. We don't yet know how generalizable or important this relationship is."
Moving forward, Epel, along with Eli Puterman, PhD, a psychologist in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, and colleagues are developing a series of classes to promote more mindful presence, to see if this intervention protects telomere maintenance or even lengthens telomeres.
In the current study, participants self-reported a tendency to mind wander, and were measured for aspects of psychological distress and well-being. The sample was highly educated and had a narrow range of both chronological age and psychological stress (most were low stress), all of which might have contributed to the ability to detect this relationship, Epel said.
The study is the first to link attentional state to telomere length and to control for stress and depression, Epel said. Previous studies have shown links between telomere length and particular types of stress and depression. Since this study relied on self-reported attentional state, she said, further studies directly measuring presence and mind wandering will be needed.
"This study was a first step and suggests it's worth delving into unde
|Contact: Abigail H. Mortimore |
University of California - San Francisco