With a growing body of scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of meditation, researchers are investigating the physical effects of this ancient practice on the body.
Participants in the study were divided into two groups; one group of experienced meditators engaged in eight hours of intensive meditation and an untrained control group were involved in quiet non-meditative activities.
Results of the study
What the study revealed was the group of meditators exhibited an array of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and lower levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which is correlated with accelerated physical recovery from stressful situations.
According to the study author Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison,
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice.”
Published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, the study supports prior clinical research demonstrating the beneficial effects on inflammatory disorders by mindfulness-based trainings. Endorsed by the American Heart Association as a preventative intervention, the new evidence offers a possible biological mechanism for therapeutic effects.
The affected genes include RIPK2 and COX2, the pro-inflammatory genes, and in addition, several histone deacetylase (HDAC) genes, which regulate the activity of other genes. Also down-regulated were other genes associated with accelerated cortisol recovery to socially stressful situations, involving calculating equations in front of an audience.
Only meditators exhibited the observed genetic changes. Its important to note that the results of the study cannot be applied to the long term but rather only a single day of practice.
This study has laid the foundation for future research to evaluate meditation as a means of treating chronic inflammatory conditions.
I hope this post inspires you to continue to meditate or if you have been sitting on the fence and have stumbled across this article, perhaps its a sign that now is the time to start engaging in the mindful practise.