“Just breathe…and relax…” Doesn’t sound like rocket science does it? But an increasing number of scientific studies indicates that meditation doesn’t just make you calmer – it might also make you healthier.
Dr Herbert Benson (now retired) was the associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and spent many years studying the effects of meditation and relaxation on health.
In one study, they found that people who practice relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation had far more ”disease-fighting genes” active in their system than those who practised no form of relaxation.
Dr Herbert Benson says, they found ”a range of disease-fighting genes were active in the relaxation practitioners that were not active in the control group,”
The research went even further and asked the control group to start practicing relaxation methods every day.
According to Jake Toby who is a hypnotherapist at London’s BodyMind Medicine Centre, the experiment, which showed just how responsive genes are to behaviour, mood and environment, revealed that genes can switch on, just as easily as they switch off.
”After two months, their bodies began to change: the genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells and protect the body from cancer all began to switch on,” he said.
And it gets better. The benefits of the relaxation effect were found to increase with regular practice. Put simply, the more people practised relaxation methods such as meditation or deep breathing, the greater their chances of remaining free of a range of ailments including arthritis and joint pain. They also had stronger immunity, healthier hormone levels and lower blood pressure.
Benson believes the research is pivotal because it shows how a person’s state of mind affects the body on a physical and genetic level. It might also explain why relaxation induced by meditation or repetitive mantras is considered to be a powerful remedy in traditions such as Ayurveda in India or Tibetan medicine.