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Vacation Might Change Your Gene Activity, According To New Study

Vacation Might Change Your Gene Activity, According To New Study

Most people’s lives are filled with high stress—the pressure of meeting deadlines, battling with colleagues and angry customers, or simply the monotonous, but demanding, day-to-day grind. Their minds and bodies are coiled up, defensive and taut.

A relaxing vacation in a resort-like atmosphere can allow your body to lower its guards, get out of the defensive posture, and unwind. The reduction in stress levels can positively affect the immune system cells at a molecular level.

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Relaxation versus Meditation

A study was conducted to compare the benefits of just relaxing in a pleasant locality with attending a meditation retreat in the same place. Improvements were seen in many cellular markers in the blood including better stress regulation and immune function. [1]

The researchers continued to measure the gene activity and blood markers, and they discovered that there was a large and immediate “vacation effect” in all the candidates. The benefits were seen even ten months later in the participants who continued meditating.

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Senior author Dr. Eric Schadt, founding director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology at Mount Sinai in New York, revealed that on a relaxing vacation, stress levels are reduced, and this in turn affects the states of cells that are involved in your immune system. Schadt told Reuters Health that at the molecular level, additional changes only happened, or happened more, in the meditation group, including more effective manufacture and use of proteins. He said “We don’t know what this means exactly, but given associations with biomarkers of aging, there is the potential that these changes could enhance overall wellbeing and longevity.” [2]

How the Study was Done

102 women between the ages of 30 to 60 participated in this study in which their blood was tested before and after five days at the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California.

A third of these candidates were regular meditators who had already booked the retreat. Half of the remaining 70 non-meditators were randomly assigned to meditation or yoga programs, while the remaining ones were assigned to just vacation and relax. Reports were collected from these women concerning their depression symptoms, stress, vitality and mindfulness on day five, one month later and 10 months later.

The Study Results

At the end of the retreat, gene-expression changes and aging biomarkers in blood samples had improved significantly for all groups. This indicates the benefits of simply being on vacation. For all three groups, the psychological well-being scores improved by day five and one month later. The candidates who had meditated during their vacation had bigger reductions in their depressive symptoms and stress at the 10-month point compared to the ones who had only been on vacation.

Telomerase is an enzyme that repairs and fortifies the tips of chromosomes. Telomeres grows shorter and shorter as age progresses. The regular meditators in the study group showed a higher activity of the enzyme telomerase. The results of the study indicate that vacation and meditation seemed to turn down defense response, inflammation response, and innate immune response. Schadt said, “Of course you want these pathways activated if they are fighting off a disease, but if they are continually activated we have seen that they are partially responsible for increasing susceptibility to a whole range of diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.”

Limitations of the Study

The researchers acknowledged that there are several limitations to this study, which was funded by The Chopra Foundation and Benioff Foundation.

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“It’s not clear if a weeklong vacation or meditation sessions would lead to changes in corresponding diseases. I don’t know that our results are such that they would speak to changes people should make in their lives to achieve a more healthy state, but rather it is another strong piece of evidence that relaxing and meditating may produce favorable healthy benefits,” Schadt said.

 Conclusion

Irrespective of these study results, there is no doubt that high levels of continuous stress is harmful to our bodies, especially our immune system, and that reducing stress is definitely beneficial to our health. There are many things you can incorporate into your daily life to boost your immune system. Find ways to de-stress, massages with aromatic oils are a great way to relax, and essential oils like tea tree oil help stimulate the immune system and ward off colds and flus. Whenever you can find the time, enjoy a relaxing vacation in a great resort at a beautiful locality. It will surely lift your spirits, if not your immune system.

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Reference

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Anju Mobin

Anju is a Certified Nutritionist, and a Highly Experienced Health, Fitness and Nutrition Writer.

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

More About Working From Home

Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

Reference

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