Scientific studies have suggested that a mind that is present and in the moment indicates well-being, whereas shifting our energy to the past or future can lead to unhappiness. Now, a preliminary UCSF study shows a link between mind wandering and aging, by looking at a biological measure of longevity within our DNA.
In the study
, telomere length, an emerging biomarker for cellular and general bodily aging, was assessed in association with the tendency to be present in the moment versus the tendency to mind wander, in research on 239 healthy, midlife women ranging in age from 50 to 65 years.
Being present in the moment was defined as an inclination to be focused on current tasks, while mind wandering was defined as the inclination to have thoughts about things other than the present or being elsewhere.
Many practitioners of spiritual health tell us not to deny the problems we are facing, but to also not get lost in them either. Psychological sciences have shown us that being present brings us greater alertness and inner security, allowing us to face challenges more objectively and with greater calm.
According to the findings, published online in the new Association for Psychological Science journal Clinical Psychological Science
, those who reported more mind wandering had shorter telomeres, while those who reported more presence in the moment, or having a greater focus and engagement with their current activities, had longer telomeres, even after adjusting for current stress.
The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as "junk" but it turns out that so-called junk DNA
plays critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health and consciousness because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.