Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Meditation Produces Opposite Effect of ‘Fight or Flight’ | Psych Central News

By Traci Pedersen Associate News Editor

Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 4, 2013

Meditation Produces Opposite Effect of ‘Fight or Flight’ A new study reveals that practitioners of meditation experience changes in gene expression that are the exact opposite of what occurs during the “flight or fight” stress response.

Specifically, genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion, and telomere maintenance are turned on, while those involved in inflammation are turned off.

These effects are more significant and consistent for long-term practitioners.

People who practice simple meditation aren’t “just relaxing,” explained the study’s senior author, Dr. Herbert Benson. Instead, they’re experiencing “a specific genomic response that counteracts the harmful genomic effects of stress.”

It’s been shown that repeating a yoga pose, prayer, or mantra while disregarding other thoughts protects against anxiety and depression as well as physical conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and types of cancer that are exacerbated by stress.

For the study, published in the open access journal PLoS One, researchers at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Subjects trained 26 adults with no previous meditation experience for eight weeks.

The participants practiced deep breathing, repeated mantras, and learned to ignore intrusive thoughts.

At first, they were given blood tests immediately before and 15 minutes after listening to a 20-minute health education CD. This was repeated after their training, except this time with a CD that guided them through meditation. Twenty-five other individuals, who had long-term experience in evoking the relaxation response, were tested as well.

All of the subjects’ blood samples revealed changes in gene expression following meditation. The changes were the exact opposite of what occurs during flight or fight. In the long-term practitioners, the effects were more pronounced and consistent.

Although the study only explored one way of reaching a relaxation response, people have been figuring this out for themselves for thousands of years, through yoga, prayer, and other forms of meditation.

This is the first time, however, that researchers have been able to show that these practices actually produce a change in gene expression.

The findings show that the effects of the relaxation response become stronger with practice, typically twice a day for 10 to 20 minutes. “Do it for years,” said Benson, “and then these effects are quite powerful in how they change your gene activity.”

Source: PLoS ONE

via Meditation Produces Opposite Effect of ‘Fight or Flight’ | Psych Central News.

 

If Your Doctor Said to Meditate, Would You? | Psychology Today

If Your Doctor Said to Meditate, Would You?

An Increasing Number of Physicians Are Prescribing Meditation

Published on January 29, 2013 by Robert Puff, Ph.D. in Meditation for Modern Life

meditation

Scientific studies come out every week regarding how meditation helps us. But when we have a health problem and visit our doctor—particularly if we have a serious condition—how often does our physician refer meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises as a form of treatment? In this blog post, we’ll explore why the medical community may be resistant to embracing treatments such as meditation, and I’ll point to evidence that indicates how the trend is changing.

Science Isn’t Always Logical

In fact, science most often isn’t logical. It’s often based on things like tradition and history. For example when Einstein came out with his theory of relativity, there were only about one or two scientists who embraced his theory. Thankfully, they were the world’s top scientists, which helped his theory become accepted. Ultimately, it took the old physicists to die out and the new ones to replaced them, and they were the ones who accepted and became the teachers of Einstein’s theory.

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There’s a wonderful book by Thomas Kuhn titled, The Structures of Scientific Revolutions. It explores how science really isn’t as black and white and objective as we think—especially when it comes to the scientists themselves. I highly recommend the book if you’re interested in learning more about this particular subject.

Studies Indicate a Sea Change

In regards to meditation and the medical community, what’s actually happening? We know that about one-third of Americans use some form of alternative medicine to address their health and wellnes. This is in large part due to the increased use of Mind Body Therapies (MBT) like meditation and yoga. In 2011, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medial School conducted a study where they sought to find out how many doctors were actually referring their patients to mediation and other forms of alternative medicine.

The researchers gathered information from about 23,000 U.S. households. They expected that a very small percentage of doctors were actually referring their patients to practices like meditation. What they actually found was that doctors referred 6.3 million Americans, or roughly 1 in 30 Americans, to meditation and other alternative treatments. Clearly, the medical community is beginning to realize the benefits of meditation and yoga. If you want to read about this study, you can find it in the May 9, 2011 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

So what do studies, like this, this mean to you and me? We all know people who are ill—maybe it’s even you. If doctors are prescribing meditation to help improve their lives, perhaps this signals that we should embrace this for our own physical health and well being.

People have been meditating for thousands of years, and now research is showing how this practice is good for us. On a physiological level, it helps us with many stress related diseases, such as hypertension and high blood pressure. Thus if we can reduce our stress, our health will benefit. And when we’re healthy, we’ll spend much less on medical care. In my case, I’ve been working for 25 years, and I’ve only missed one day on the job due to illness—and that was a result of food poisoning. Other than that one time, I’ve never missed a single day of work. I’m a long time meditator, and I’m a strong believer that my consistent practice is a major reason why I don’t get sick. But if my example isn’t proof enough, a growing body of research points to the healing power of meditation. If you’ve never meditated before, try it, and see for yourself how it will improve your life.

via If Your Doctor Said to Meditate, Would You? | Psychology Today.