People who practice the ancient art of meditation swear by the way it resets the mind and body, and there have been claims made about its healing powers for centuries. Now there is scientific evidence to back them up. Researchers have found that meditation does far more than just relieve stress on a psychological level. It literally changes our genes.
Scientists from UC San Francisco, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Harvard Medical School sent around a hundred healthy women to a meditation retreat. Some were regular meditators, others were practicing for the first time. A third group, who served as controls for comparison, simply went on vacation and did not practice meditation. The researchers used advanced data collection and computation analyze the test subjects’ genes before, during and after the study.
Studying the effects of meditation to find clear evidence of bodily changes can be tricky. But after analyzing 20,000 genes, the results were clear and conclusive: meditation affects your body in concrete physical ways. There were significant changes in the molecules of subjects’ DNA after one week of meditation. This was true as much for the vacationers as for the meditators.
But those who meditated experienced considerably longer-lasting psychological effects. They reported “fewer symptoms of depression and less stress much longer than the non-meditating vacationers,” according to the press release issued after the study. The researchers were expecting to see such psychological benefits for those who were meditating, but were surprised to also find very clear physical changes in the test subjects’ DNA. Benefits in how subjects handled stress and improvements in their immune system were directly related to these genetic changes.
“Meditation isn’t strictly psychological; there is a clear and quantifiable change in how our bodies function,” said Rudolph Tanzi, one of the lead researchers on the study.
All of this is excellent news for those who practice meditation, but I’m left with just one question: Who do I need to talk to in order to participate as a test subject in one of these studies?