It’s hard to keep up, sometimes–seems like mindfulness research data just keep piling up; a good “problem” to have, indeed. A recent study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France, indicates the first evidence of molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation, specifically, lowered cortisol.
“The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared 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 correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.” [emphasis added]
The study, co-authored by renowned psychology and mindfulness researcher, Richard Davidson, of the University of Wisconsin, revealed faster cortisol “recovery to a social stress test involving an impromptu speech and tasks requiring mental calculations performed in front of an audience and video camera.” Cortisol is one of the stress-related hormones that released during “fight or flight” stress responses, and is associated with heart disease and other ailments (Psychology Today referred to it as “Public Enemy Number One.”) Unless it’s removed from the system (exercise can also help with this) chronic releases of cortisol can lead to decreases in learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease. That’s the bad news, the good news is that mindfulness helps combat this!
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice.”
~ Neuroscientist, Richard Davison
Inflammation helps us heal in certain circumstances, but chronic inflammation is bad news, and is widely considered the root of all chronic illness we experience ranging from heart disease and obesity to depression and a host of other ills.
And there you have it: yet more evidence that mindfulness meditation can do the body a world of good.
Yours in Mental Hygiene,
The Ancient Brain and Modern Mindfulness