Scientists Find The Ultimate Way To Reduce Stress Involves A Holiday
We all know that glorious feeling that washes over us when we return from a relaxing holiday. Our limbs are nimble, our minds clear. Harvard researches have discovered that going on holiday – and meditating while you’re on one – can restore our bodies and minds on a genetic level.
If you’re planning on heading on vacation soon, it might be worth trading in bars and museums for mindfulness and meditation – it’s been proven to rejuvenate your mind and repair your body on a cellular level. In other words, meditating while on holiday can make us live longer and heal faster.
Scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the University of California, San Francisco, and Harvard Medical School teamed up to study the long and short-term effects of going on holiday versus going on a meditation retreat in regards to how it affects the body’s biology.
The vacation effect vs the meditation effect
The study in question involved 94 healthy women, aged 30 to 60, broken into three groups: non-meditators, non-meditators who would like to try meditating, and regular meditators. Participants stayed at the same resort in California for six days; half were on vacation while the other half joined a meditation training program run by the Chopra Centre for Wellbeing.
The meditation program included training in mantra meditation, yoga, and self reflection exercises. Meanwhile, researchers tracked 20,000 genes to understand the associated biological effects of the “vacation effect” compared to the “meditation effect” on each group.
Blood samples and surveys were conducted before, during and after their vacations and the results are pretty conclusive.
No matter the group, everyone taking a break from their daily routines reported lower levels of stress. But it turns out that immediately after their meditation getaway, the women who meditated frequently showed the highest increase in a blood-biomarker that is predictive of decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and major depression. Quite impressive.
The post-resort surveys indicated that all participants – both the vacationers and meditators – reported increased feelings of wellbeing even a month after their holiday, but again, the biggest benefits were seen in those who took part in meditation while on the break – with novice meditators reporting fewer feelings of depression and less stress even 10 months after their time away.
“It’s intuitive that taking a vacation reduces biological processes related to stress, but it was still impressive to see the large changes in gene expression from being away from the busy pace of life, in a relaxing environment, in such a short period of time,” said Elissa S. Epel, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at University of California.
So it’s all good news?
Yep, taking holidays and meditating has immediate affects on our wellbeing. It’s just that if you’re meditating, your positive effects last much, much longer. This research suggests that mindfulness-based stress reduction and regular meditation can slow cellular ageing, as well as reduce inflammation in our bodies.
If you can commit to regular meditation, you could see better immune health, a lowering of health risks and healthier ageing. So there’s no excuses not to get your mindfulness on.
Esther is a freelance writer, editor, publicist, content maker and dog patter. She has written for Interview Magazine, New York Press, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, and local titles Broadsheet, Beat and Tone Deaf. Please tag her in photos of dogs @esthersaurus.