You read that right.
New science tells us that our thought patterns inform much more than just our daily decisions and amount to much more than just our personality and sets of preferences. Any kabbalist will tell you this is true, but for the layman, it can feel pretty groundbreaking. And this research is exactly that.
It all comes down to telomeres; the repeating segments of noncoding DNA that exist at the ends of our chromosomes. They do a few important things like making sure our genetic material doesn’t unravel, and, most importantly, they shorten with each cell division determining how fast that cell ages. When they become too short, they stop dividing altogether. They are not responsible for our overall aging process, but they are a huge contributor to what makes us “get old.”
Not only that; they are listening to you. They are listening to the thoughts you think, the way you eat, how you feel about what you eat, and every other thing you do for that matter. They take direction from your dominant thoughts.
Before you get paranoid about every negative thought, I’ll invite you to start new thought patterns right now and get excited! A shift from negative thinking to positive thinking can, quite literally, halt your aging process.
Again, there are more factors, but as I teach, every single thing in your life begins at the level of a single thought. The kabbalists have long taught the power of thoughts. Rav Berg himself stated over and over again that our consciousness is everything. What you think turns into what you do and, based on this science, also determines how quickly you are aging. A new thought may require a new behavior, and that behavior may require making a few changes, but if you’ve followed me for a while, you’re probably already on your way to becoming a Change Junkie. If not, you’re thinking about it, which is the first step.
The power of a positive outlook is now supported by science, giving us even more reasons to check our thoughts and thought patterns. But before you go meticulous scrubbing your mind, let’s look at the three states of mind that cause the most harm to these magical telomeres.
Cynical hostility is defined as “high anger” and “frequent thoughts that others can’t be trusted.” This type of hostility isn’t just a general annoyance at sitting in traffic; it’s the rageful thought that the person who cut you off is stealing your time and actively disrespecting you in the process. Ebeneezer Scrooge didn’t just mildly dislike Christmas, he hated it and hated people that celebrated it. According to a study out of University College London, those who scored high on measures of cynical hostility tend to have higher rates of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, and often die at younger ages. They, coincidentally, also had shorter telomeres.
When a stranger is outwardly rude to you, it can be jarring. You leave the aggressive interaction feeling shaken, maybe a little angry, but you take a moment to shake it off, and by the time you arrive home, you’re laughing about it. That is if you even remember it all at that point. This is not rumination. Ruminating would be replaying the interaction over and over in your mind, comparing it to a list of other similar interactions, drawing conclusions about yourself as a person, and steeping in the negativity.
Research from the University of Michigan says that when you ruminate, the stress and anxiety caused by those thoughts sticks around in the body long after the thoughts are gone. Your heart rate remains elevated, as does your blood pressure, and your vagus nerve (responsible for keeping you calm and keeping your heart and digestive system steady) remains withdrawn for much longer.
While the study around this thought pattern is still new, the current findings show what we may suspect at this point: people who scored high on pessimism inventories had shorter telomeres. This study comes to us from Harvard School of Public Health and shows that higher levels of pessimism in veterans were associated with shorter telomere length over time. This also fits with existing research that says consistent pessimism adversely affects the healing of those who are battling life-threatening or age-related diseases.
Have you caught yourself in any of these thought webs? If so, how does this information change the way you think about how you think? If you’re like me, suddenly the things I have been irked by, angry at, or frustrated with no longer seem to matter — not when I know they’re affecting my health.
Our thoughts become things. And they affect us and only us. The angry, hateful thoughts you harbor toward someone else hurt you. The resentment you carry only harms you. The negative beliefs you call “practical” are anything but, and the more time you spend thinking about things that make you sad, mad, depressed, or stressed is time you could be living. And, as science suggests, living longer.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
This week if you catch yourself in a negative thought pattern, stop and look for as many ways as you can to turn it around. Your telomeres and your body will thank you!