The link between ageing and negative thinking

"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think". Buddha

It is well-known in psychology that our thoughts have a wide sphere of influence. Thoughts hold the power to affect our mood, guide our behaviours and impact our performance.

Yet when you pause and look in the mirror, has it ever crossed your mind that your thoughts have contributed to the grey hair on your head or the crow's feet lining your eyes?

When you can't quite remember details that used to come so easily to you, or your body doesn't bounce back quickly from a dose of illness, would you have attributed that to the string of words that flow through your mind?

Research from Nobel laureate Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and health psychologist Dr. Elissa Epel recently demonstrated that the way in which we think can influence our genetic expression and cause premature ageing. Specifically, negative and unhelpful thought patterns can cause your telomeres to shorten, in turn speeding up the ageing of individual cells within your body.

What are telomeres?

The human body is made of many different cell types (e.g. skin, nerve and muscle cells), which all operate to keep us functioning optimally. Every cell contains a set of chromosomes, which hold our DNA or the genetic material that makes each individual unique. At the end of each chromone sits the telomere, which keeps genetic material from unravelling. Think of telomeres like the hard caps at the ends of your shoelace.

How are ageing and telomeres related?

As we age our cells divide and replicate. Every time this division occurs, our telomeres naturally shorten. When telomeres become too short, their cell stops dividing and the cells die. Think about the cells in your hair that hold your hair pigment. When the telomeres in that particular cell become too short, the cell dies, and your hair turns grey. This is ageing.

Five thought patterns have been identified to