I bet you have a few habits you would like to break, or better yet, a few personal traits – maybe anxiety or depression -- that you would love to kick to the curb, too. Hey, we all do! Those ticks are just part of our pesky human existence. Luckily there are various tools we all can use to help ease the excess stress we face every day. One great tool is meditation.
All meditation junkies know that anyone can cool stress by repeating a prayer or mantra, and pushing negative thoughts out of their minds. Well, a recent study from Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Subjects, considered the effects of meditation on a group of 26 adults. All adults in the study had no previous experience with meditation. The study also tested 25 other participants who had experience with meditation. The study was published in the journal PLOSOne.
For eight weeks, the study group practiced deep breathing, repeated mantras, and was coached on how to ignore intrusive thoughts. To monitor how the study group reacted, they were all given blood tests before and 15 minutes after listening to a 20-minute health education CD, which was repeated after the group’s training.
According to the study’s results, all of the study participants’ blood samples showed positive changes in gene expression after meditation. The study found that the genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion, and telomere maintenance, were turned on, while the genes that were involved in inflammation, were turned off. The members of the long-term group experienced even more pronounced and consistent effects.
While genes weren’t actually altered -- only gene expression was -- this study shows how important rest and relaxation is to the human body, and that meditation can counteract the harmful genomic effects of stress.