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January 2015 Publisher Letter

Welcome, 2015! I love the annual opportunity to reflect on the lessons of the past year and to mentally turn the page and begin fresh with a clean slate. This month also brings our annual Health and Wellness issue, packed with empowering information to help each of us claim optimal health so we can become better equipped to live our best life yet.

Fascinating research in recent years reports on the connection between telomere length and the aging process. Telomeres are the tips at the ends of chromosomes that protect our DNA strands. They are often compared to aglets, the little plastic caps at the end of shoelaces that keep everything intact. Over time, as cells reproduce, our telomeres become shorter and shorter, until they can no longer protect our DNA and our cells begin to age, and eventually cell reproduction stops. As this happens, we see signs of aging and possibly disease.

A five-year University of California San Francisco study has demonstrated that simple lifestyle changes that include switching to a plant-based diet, exercising moderately (walking 30 minutes a day, six days a week) and reducing stress (using gentle yoga-based stretching, breathing and meditation) were associated with an increase in telomere length of about 10 percent. Compare that to the control group that made no positive lifestyle changes during the same period and showed a 3 percent reduction in telomere length. This means that we can up our anti-aging wellness quotient simply by making healthy lifestyle changes.

Of course, everyone knows that stress is bad for us, but I’m particularly intrigued by the results of a study by the National Academy of Sciences showing that women with the highest levels of perceived stress average telomeres that are shorter by the equivalent of a decade or more of aging compared to women that feel less stressed.

Mindfulness meditation and practices can help reduce the experience of stress and reverse the associated physical effects on the body, as shown by a groundbreaking study by scientists in Wisconsin, Spain, and France. Published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, the findings revealed evidence of specific molecular changes following a period of mindful meditation that included improved capacity for gene regulation and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.

Practicing mindfulness is simply about being aware of what we’re thinking and choosing where to focus attention. Now, scientific evidence tells us that besides just making us feel better, the acts of looking on the bright side; being kind to ourselves and others; and choosing compassion, loving-kindness and optimism are all steps toward optimizing health.

As we welcome in a new year, let us commit to making mindfulness part of our daily health and wellness regime.

In loving kindness,

Gabriella Buchnik Natural Awakenings Magazine Milwaukee Publisher

Gabriella Buchnik, Publisher

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