It started out something for lazy hippies to do — probably just to annoy their parents…sitting around all day, doing nothing and saying “ommmmm.”
But it turns out this form of “tuning out” could be pretty powerful medicine, if you can stand to sit still long enough.
Before you dismiss meditation as some “new age silliness” consider this: It actually activates genes that perform beneficial tasks in your body. And it deactivates genes that can make you sick.
It’s no secret these days that stress is more dangerous than we used to think. In fact, it’s a killer. But when you stimulate your vagus nerve, you reduce inflammation and activate a neurotransmitter that relaxes your brain and body.
And you can easily stimulate your vagus nerve by taking several slow, deep breaths. If you do that with your eyes closed while making a conscious effort to calm your mind… well, then you’re meditating.
Studies have shown that meditation may be the super pill we’ve all been searching for. It supports immune function, relieves depression, alleviates insomnia, and even helps control blood pressure. It also reduces levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone.”
In a new study, meditation activated genes that do three things…
1) Boost insulin production
2) Keep DNA stable
3) Improve efficiency of mitochondria, the cell powerhouses
But meditation also deactivated genes that play a role in inflammation.
In subjects who were new to meditation, gene changes occurred within minutes. But in those who had practiced meditation for years, evidence showed genetic benefits before meditation sessions even began.
It turns out, that long-term practice had actually locked benefits in place.
No doubt, meditation can be a challenge for those of us with Type A personalities that start getting our to-do list together in our heads. But this new research certainly makes it worth another look. The worst side effect? People may think you’re a new age hippie.
“Meditation boosts genes that promote good health” Andy Coghlan, New Scientist, 5/2/13, newscientist.com