A Wandering Mind and Brain Cells
A wandering mind may be due to aging brain cells, according to new research.
A preliminary study conducted at the University of California San Francisco suggests that having a wandering mind – i.e. a failure to be “in the moment” – is associated with having shorter telomeres than those who are able to concentrate on current tasks.
Previous studies have suggested a link between a wandering mind and unhappiness, but this is the first study to prove a link between a wandering mind and a concrete biological marker.
Telomeres, a biomarker for cellular aging, protect the ends of chromosomes from deteriorating or blending with neighboring chromosomes. Typically, telomeres shorten with age. The researchers found that the study participants who reported being more engaged with their current activities had longer telomeres than those who weren’t engaged. The results were the same even when stress was taken into account.
The researchers emphasized that they don’t yet know whether mind wandering leaders to shorter telomeres, or shorter telomeres lead to mind wandering. There may also be a third factor that hasn’t yet been discovered.
They also said in a statement that mindful mediation, with its focus on being in the moment, may help and even restore telomeres via an enzyme known as telomerase.
The findings were published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.