The mind and the body are a power couple, and just like all relationships that were created to be, influence works both ways.
According to recent research, the body and mind both have the power to influence one another and that combined, they have the capacity to alter our DNA.
We can affect our physiology at a genetic level by strengthening the mind and the body through mind-body interventions (MBIs), such as meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi, according to fascinating new research.
We can specifically stop the molecular processes in our DNA that lead to stress, disease, anxiety, and despair.
Let’s Talk About Research
The study examined over a decade's worth of studies that investigated how MBIs like yoga, tai chi, and mindfulness affect the way our genes behave.
They also considered how these modifications influenced both physical and emotional wellbeing.
The scientists focused on how the genes were turned on to create proteins that affected the biology of our body, brain, and immune system. The results are shown here.
The sympathetic nervous system is activated when we are under stress. The fight or flight reaction is started by this mechanism.
When this system activates, it promotes the synthesis of NF-kB, a molecule involved in the creation of cytokines, which are proteins that trigger cellular inflammation.
By guiding cells toward illness and injury, cytokines aid in healing and immunity.
Problems are brought on more by the length of stress than by its intensity. The stress response is beneficial and healthy when it is momentary.
The purpose of inflammation is to strengthen our immune system and aid in healing.
However, psychological stress is just as real and legitimate as physical stress and has the potential to be at least as harmful.
Our physical bodies are not in danger from psychological stress, but it might turn into one.
Our bodies continue to produce immune-stimulating, inflammatory cytokines in reaction to physical or psychological stress, but this inflammation response was only ever intended to activate momentarily and in response to a threat to our physical self.
The stress response's chronic inflammation can result in cell damage when the attack from stress is more enduring and relentless, as it is in many modern stresses (including work stress, relationship stress, family stress, and financial stress).
This is the time when we are most susceptible to a wide range of illnesses, such as physical ailments like asthma, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases as well as mental illnesses like anxiety or depression.
According to the study, MBIs appear to counteract the stress response by reducing the synthesis of NF-kB and cytokines that lead to cellular inflammation.
This mitigates the immune system's negative impacts of stress, which lowers the likelihood of illnesses and disorders linked to inflammation.
Okay, so that’s the science, but how does it work?
It is obvious that MBIs can have a major physiological impact on the functioning of our DNA, but the precise mechanism is yet unknown.
They may function in part by increasing our ability to control stress-inducing mind wandering.
The human brain is an amazing organ. Although it is effective, strong, and diligent, it occasionally has to deal with a deluge of information coming in from the environment.
The brain employs its attention system to focus its resources when there is too much information to comprehend. The brain's resources will follow attention wherever it is directed.
Consider your focus as an amplifier. The goal is enlarged and made clearer, allowing the brain to use its resources more efficiently.
Our attention can sometimes be drawn to items that give us ongoing psychological tension. Our thoughts are masterful rovers.
In fact, according to Harvard University studies, we spend over 50% of our waking hours daydreaming.
Naturally, individuals stray to happy places, but they also stray to the past (regrets), future (where they worry), or to revisiting emotionally charged experiences that give rise to bad moods. These are all potential major psychological stressors.
Our minds are strong, for better and for bad. MBIs put us in charge of the machine. There is nothing wrong with letting our minds roam - minds adore it.
There is also nothing wrong with letting our minds stray to places that generate worry or unpleasant feelings, given that we are able to bring ourselves back from that when we need to.
But all too frequently, our mind-wandering happens automatically and without conscious effort. This is when things start to go wrong.
MBIs have the power to reverse the effects of chronic stress on our DNA and improve both our physical and mental health.
Through MBIs, we can improve our ability to be conscious of our thoughts, feelings, and sensations without allowing them to cause us suffering.
They can also make it easier for us to stop the stress response once it has started.
It's obvious that MBIs—mind-body interventions—are a potent approach to prevent the negative effects of psychological stress and, if they do occur, to potentially reverse those effects.
- Ivana Buric, Miguel Farias, Jonathan Jong, Christopher Mee, Inti A. Brazil. What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices. Frontiers in Immunology, 2017; 8 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670
Inspirational Quote Of The Day
“Yoga is not about self-improvement, it’s about self-acceptance.”