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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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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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