Meditation Magic: How Sitting Still Can Make Your DNA Happy and Healthy

Imagine achieving optimal wellness with one simple practice: meditation. Though it might not be the first thing that comes to mind, an expanding body of research is revealing the extensive health benefits that meditation can provide, both mentally and physically.

The most well-known benefit of meditation is its ability to dissolve stress. Chronic stress can suppress immunity, fuel inflammation, damage cellular health and DNA, and promote numerous diseases. Fascinatingly, studies have now shown that ongoing stress can affect our DNA by shortening telomeres, thereby putting us at a higher risk of chronic disease. Thankfully, meditation is proving successful in repairing this DNA damage while providing numerous other powerful health benefits simultaneously.

Telomeres, Health, and Meditation

Our genes are located on twisted, double-stranded molecules of DNA called chromosomes. At the ends of these chromosomes are stretches of DNA called telomeres. Telomeres are the end caps that protect chromosomes from fraying due to aging, poor health, or environmental assaults. Telomeres get shorter and deteriorate as we get older, but new studies have revealed that chronic stress can accelerate this process.

The wear and tear of telomeres can be slowed through the activation of an enzyme called telomerase. This enzyme adds bases to the ends of telomeres, keeping them from fraying. Research reveals that regular meditation can increase telomerase activity by over 30 percent. This means increased DNA protection, healthy cellular longevity, and achieving optimal wellness.

Reducing Inflammation with Meditation

A multitude of studies have demonstrated that regular meditation can reduce chronic inflammation. Stress releases cortisol and other pro-inflammatory signals into circulation, and meditation has been found to reduce inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein in saliva samples. Other research shows that regular meditation can suppress the expression of genes related to inflammatory processes.

Enhancing Immunity through Meditation

Research with cancer patients and other immune-compromised subjects has shown that meditation helps restore healthy immune function, including NK cell and cytokine activity, and antioxidant function.

Supporting Heart Health with Meditation

Numerous studies have shown that meditation practice reduces blood pressure and slows resting heart rate. Other research demonstrates that regular meditation can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by up to 48 percent. The stress-relieving, anti-inflammatory benefits of meditation help support heart health, but there may be deeper factors at play. Meditation helps increase our feelings of love and compassion, strengthens areas in the brain related to empathy and emotional processing, and promotes our natural state of an open heart. This can have a profound impact on physical heart health, as well as overall healing capacity.

Reducing Pain and Improving Outlook through Meditation

MRIs have revealed that meditation can reduce activity in areas of the brain related to pain processing. Other studies in patients with chronic pain have shown that regular meditation can help reduce pain severity and improve the quality of life.

In the field of neuroscience, researchers are learning how meditation practice enhances brain power, strengthens connections between neurons, lifts depression, tempers emotional reactivity, builds compassion and empathy, and improves concentration and focus, among other benefits.

Starting a Meditation Practice

Meditation practice begins by quieting our constant mental chatter. It is about training our minds to become more calm, focused, and aware. Simple steps to meditation involve finding a quiet space, sitting comfortably with your back straight, placing a small object on the ground in front of you, and focusing on the object and your breathing. As you practice this regularly, it will become easier to achieve inner calm and access peace of mind, as well as the incredible array of health benefits meditation offers.

Regardless of your age, health, or belief system, regular meditation can benefit you on all levels. As more health practitioners recommend this ancient practice, meditation is well on its way to holding a well-deserved reputation as a powerful modality for supporting health and preventing illness. Simply put, a meditation practice—even just 10 minutes a day—allows our healing capacity to take a quantum leap.