A recent study of cancer patients, who were under stress, found that they obtained stress management through counselling (economist.com). This is fine, but perhaps no big surprise. However, the study also investigated the link between chronic stress and biological markers of changes due to the stress. This evoked my interest. Chronic stress causes biological changes, similar to signs of old age, e.g. premature shortening of the ends of the chromosomes – the telomeres. Under chronic stress they are torn to fringes, and their biological function is disrupted as a result of their shortening. Stress management not only stopped the telomeres from shortening, but also promoted their repair. This effect occurred simultaneously with the decreased emotional stress. The conclusion was that the obtained stress management was a result of the attitude. The biological markers described in the study are also signs of ageing. If the findings are replicated, it may increase our understanding of the relationship between the health of the mind and the health of the body.
Long-term experience with Acem Meditation supports that the mental attitude plays an important role in stress management. The free mental attitude during meditation helps us include and accept whatever comes to the mind. This may help us develop a better tolerance for what is in our mind. Without the necessary tolerance, unpleasant thoughts and emotions may increase our level of stress. When we gradually digest, little by little, our stressful thoughts and emotions, the result may be a substantial relief. If this also keeps the biological markers of ageing away a bit longer, we might do well in training our capacity for the free mental attitude.