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Episode 7: The effects of meditation on telomere length – with Quinn Conklin

By October 31, 2021December 11th, 2021No Comments

Episode 7: The effects of meditation on telomere length – with Quinn Conklin

Research on longevity and how to live a healthier life longer is increasingly gaining momentum. In this episode we sit down with Quinn Conklin, one of the people moving research on this topic forward and we learn about telomeres, a form of internal clock for cellular aging. Here she tells us what they have found when looking at meditation retreat participants to see how meditation might affect our longevity. Join us here to learn more about this fascinating aspect of human life and aging as we seek answers to whether it might be possible to turn back the clock.

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Main topic notes

  • What are telomeres and telomerase? [02.10]
  • Why do telomeres shorten over time? [03.48]
  • The telomere as a global health index and predictor of mortality [06.20]
  • How is telomere length measured? [07.30]
  • The effect of meditation on telomere length and telomerase levels [11.30]
  • The connection between meditation and the effect on telomere length [18.31]
  • The generalised unsafety theory of stress [21.42]
  • Looking at life and the balance between safety cues vs stressors [26.18]
  • The exciting future of this field [29.55]
  • Research as a creative outlet [34.40]
  • Personal experience of meditation as inspiration [38.00]

Main articles

Conklin QA, Crosswell AD, Saron CD, Epel ES. Meditation, stress processes, and telomere biology. Curr Opin Psychol. 2019 Aug;28:92-101. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.11.009. Epub 2018 Nov 19. PMID: 30553080; PMCID: PMC6526075.

Conklin QA, King BG, Zanesco AP, Lin J, Hamidi AB, Pokorny JJ, Álvarez-López MJ, Cosín-Tomás M, Huang C, Kaliman P, Epel ES, Saron CD. Insight meditation and telomere biology: The effects of intensive retreat and the moderating role of personality. Brain Behav Immun. 2018 May;70:233-245. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2018.03.003. Epub 2018 Mar 5. Erratum in: Brain Behav Immun. 2018 Oct;73:736-737. PMID: 29518528.


  • Telomeres are the caps at the ends of our chromosomes. They are made up of DNA themselves and serve as buffers where they protect the coding DNA. Telomeres become incrementally shorter with each cellular division due to the fact that the replication machinery needs a place to attach to and this part never gets copied into the new cell.
  • When they reach a certain limit the cell enters a state where it starts to function differently or is marked for cellular death. Telomere length is therefore known to be connected to health and can be seen as a form of global health index where it is predictive of several diseases and overall mortality.
  • There is some scientific evidence to support that meditation practice (in this case intense retreat practice) may have an effect on telomere length and thereby our longevity. The idea is that what is happening in our mind is also affecting our physiology and that we by supporting more beneficial psychological states reduce the wear and tear on our body and also possibly cultivating states where restoration and repair can happen as well.
  • The generalised unsafety theory assumes that our stress response is always primed and ready to respond but that there are safety signals in ourselves and our environment that help us to inhibit this response. So rather than assuming that a specific stimulus will cause us stress we think of our stress being suppressed by supportive or safety signals.

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