A new study reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation. The study looked the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators. Researchers compared them to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities.
After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn leads to faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.
The researchers say, there was no difference in the tested genes between the two groups of people at the start of the study. The observed effects were seen only in the meditators after mindfulness practice.
Meditation Reprograms Your Mind
Each week I attend a Friday meditation class with the amazing Nancy Floy at the Heartwood Center in Evanston. I attend to be in community with people of like mind and to create new neural pathways. And I really need them. My thoughts get so stuck in a groove … an endless loop of drama going around and around like the proverbial broken record. Those grooves are the neural pathways, and with meditation, we can form new ones so our thoughts can more easily slip onto another track. Easier said then done. But with practice it is possible. Like putting money in the bank, regular meditation has cumulative effects. In times of great stress and challenge, you can call upon this practice to more quickly bring relief. Having just gone through a deeply challenging situation, I was grateful to have this community and this practice. What had previously taken months to bounce back from now took a few weeks. Priceless.
Meditation by Many Names
Not falling prey to habitual patterns of mind is among the many benefits of meditation. You can also pray, focus on your breathing, laugh or simply say affirmations that help you calm down your system. You can do it anywhere, anytime, and it’s free. Among my favorite teachers are Pema Chordon, Thich Nhat Hanh, and of course the Dali Lama, now on Twitter.
Have some favorite mindfulness practices or benefits in your life? Please share here.