As I approach my 30th birthday, aging has been on my mind... and I find myself struggling with society's decidedly negative attitude toward getting older. According to nearly everyone I meet, it all goes downhill after 30. However, I refuse to accept the idea that my life is going to get progressively worse, and my meditation studies have confirmed that I need not despair about aging, let alone turning 30.
Here's what I know now:
- Your age is simply the number of birthdays you've had... minus one, technically, because the day you were born also counts as a birthday. Age by this definition is known aschronological age, and it has very little to do with your actual body.
- What matters more is biological age, which is characterized by how well your body functions compared to the population norm. Everything from genes to lifestyle choices affect your biological age, and this is more closely linked to your health than how many years you've existed.
Here's an illustration: When Martin Luther King, Jr. died, he was 39 years old (chronological age). But during his autopsy, a doctor commented that he had the heart of a 60-year-old man (biological age). This isn't surprising when you consider the decades of chronic stress and mental suffering that MLK endured (he attempted suicide at age 12).
The good news is meditation has a reversal effect on biological aging. If you started meditating daily at age 30 and had matching biological and chronological ages, you would be 7 biological years younger by age 35. In other words, you would have the skin elasticity, sexual responsiveness, auditory threshold, memory, and vision of your 23-year-old self, after just five years of meditating. A study done by Blue Cross Blue Shield had even more dramatic results: in a five-year period, daily meditators' biological age decreased by an average of 12 to 13 years. On the flip side, a 2015 study found that the average rate of aging in non-meditators is 1.2 biological years per chronological year. You can probably guess why Blue Cross Blue Shield took an interest in this topic: they wanted to find out if meditators are cheaper to insure, and the answer is a resounding yes.
Let's bring it back to MLK: the most significant contributor to his biological age was likely chronic stress. This is true for the rest of us, too - recent studies suggest that stress is worse for your health than junk food, smoking, and pretty much any other lifestyle choice. Each time you meditate, your body sheds a layer of stress - and meditating daily eradicates stress from your body over time. What happens in tandem? Biological age decreases, happiness increases, and you find yourself living a life of infinite possibility.