DNA is pretty much the genetic material that is responsible for carrying hereditary information, mutations, and replication process, just to name a few. Genes consist of DNA and they can actually be defined as DNA stretches that encode certain proteins. Now DNA makes up a great percentage of an individual’s unique features but it is not permanently fixed. There are certain factors such as our environment that can influence our genes.
But can meditation also have an effect in the same area?
Here, we take a closer look at how meditation can influence our DNA and genes and what that means for us.
Studies on Meditation Effects on Genes
Several studies have been done on meditative practices and how they influence and affect our genes, and results have shown that they have a substantial amount of effect that enhances different aspects of our bodies and lives generally.
A study that investigated the specific transcriptome (the total number of all the messenger Ribonucleic acid molecules that are expressed from an organism’s genes) changes associated with blood pressure reduction in hypertensive patients after a meditative practice called Relaxation Response Training found that after the practice, the participants had 1771 genes linked to the circadian rhythms, inflammation regulation, metabolism and other body processes that had changed (1).
And the changes recorded from the study led to a reduction in the blood pressure of the participants.
Another study that inquired into how long-term meditation affects the patterns of DNA showed that people who meditate in the long term tend to have different DNA activation patterns compared to people who don’t, which suggests that meditation influences gene expression (2).
15 female participants had some experience in the loving-kindness meditation practice and another group of 22 female participants had not gotten involved in meditation at all. All of them were examined. Blood was taken by venipuncture and their genomic DNA was drawn out from peripheral blood leukocytes, where their Relative Telomere Length (RTL) was measured.
Results showed that those participants who had done the meditation practice had longer Relative Telomere Length (RTL) than the participants in the control group, which is a good health sign.
A 2014 study published in the US National Library of Medicine sought to determine how meditation affects gene expression (4).
19 participants who were experienced in meditation were taken through one day of intensive mindfulness meditation practice. Then, the control group that consisted of 21 participants was only given leisure activities. They were all tested afterward to see how the activity each group was given affected the expression of chromatin modulatory genes, inflammatory genes, and circadian genes.
Results showed that there was a lower gene expression for inflammatory genes as well as an epigenetic effect which means that mindfulness meditation is potentially effective in influencing gene expression and improving our health condition.
Another research whose publication was made in the journal Frontiers in Immunology did a thorough analysis of the previous studies on how genes behave after mindfulness-based interventions such as meditation, Tai Chi, and yoga are employed (5)(6).
The review consisted of a total of 18 studies that featured 846 volunteers and they were done over a period of 11 years. The researchers found that there is a pattern of molecular changes that occur in the body due to the meditative practices, and this change positively impacts our physical and mental health.
Those people who actively engage in meditation-based activities have shown a lower production of a molecule known as Nuclear Factor Kappa B (NF-kB) ass well as cytokines (substances secreted by certain immune system cells which affect other cells), which translate to reduced inflammation and its negative effects in the body.
Another study published in the American Cancer Society Journals sought to determine how mindfulness-based cancer recovery and supportive-expressive therapy affects distressed breast cancer survivors (7).
The randomized controlled trial involved offering mindfulness meditation as well as Hatha yoga to the 88 participants while the supportive-expressive therapy provided group support and emotional expression.
In concluding the study, the researchers found that supportive-expressive therapy and mindfulness-based cancer recovery helped to preserve telomere length in the participants compared to the control group.
In summary, these studies have shown that meditation and other meditation-based exercises have a positive effect on our genes and can improve them over time if we meditate consistently.
Getting Started With Meditation
Now that we have seen how powerful and life-improving meditation can be, it is good to consider getting started with meditation, if you already haven’t, and create a routine that you can use to create a habit of meditation.
Getting your feet into meditation is not that hard, you only need to take a couple of steps and you will be well on your way there.
Firstly, it is advisable to take your time and choose the meditation style or technique that best fits you. To know which one is perfect for you, you should ask yourself which kind of benefits you would like to experience from meditation. There are so many benefits of meditation.
Determining exactly what you want from meditation leads you to choose the meditation style that offers those benefits which in turn helps you just the right fit for yourself.
Secondly, you should consider evaluating your daily schedule and finding the best time for you to meditate. In essence, the period when you are free every day is the ideal time for you to meditate.
Thirdly, you should make a conscious decision and take action on adding meditation to your daily schedule and sticking to it.
You can start by meditating for 2 to 5 minutes each day and using guided meditation to get taken through your first few meditation sessions. Soon enough, when you build the momentum, gain the knowledge of how your chosen meditation style is done, you can then do it on your own for a much longer duration.
And that is pretty much it!
In essence, meditation has recently come to show its great potential in our lives as human beings.
With its many benefits ranging from physical benefits to emotional benefits to spiritual benefits, and even deep health benefits, it is clear that engaging in meditation does come in handy. The few minutes you spend every day on meditation do improve your life in a big way.
We believe as scientists and researchers continue to take a keen interest in meditation and its effects in various areas of our lives, we are going to discover even more hidden gems about it.