If you’ve been toying with the idea of booking an overseas vacation or even a mini-break so you can escape the daily grind for a few days, we’ve got news that might just give you the final push you need. Taking a vacation has numerous health benefits for both your body and mind, including reducing stress, heart disease prevention, improved productivity and better sleep. But, (and this is where things get really interesting), Harvard research reveals that meditating whilst you are on vacation restores your body and mind at a genetic level.
Scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the University of California, San Francisco, and the Harvard Medical School studied 94 healthy women aged 30-60 to assess the biological impact of meditation compared to vacation. Whilst 30 of the participants who took part in the study were experienced meditators already enrolled at a retreat, sixty four of the women who were recruited were not regular meditators. All of the participants stayed at the same resort in California for six days, and whilst half of the women who did not practice meditation regularly were simply left to enjoy their vacation as they normally would, the other half joined a meditation program designed by Deepak Chopra, MD, which included training in mantra meditation, yoga, and self-reflection exercises.
In order to study and compare the effects of what scientists dubbed the “meditation effect” with the “vacation effect” researchers collected blood samples and surveys from the women immediately before and after their stay, as well as surveys one month and ten months later.
The research team examined the changes in 20,000 genes to determine which types of genes were changing before and after the resort experience. Study results show that all groups – the novice meditators, experienced meditators and the vacationers – had significant changes in molecular network patterns after a week at the resort. The “vacation effect” was evident amongst all participants with the most notable changes in gene activity related to stress response and immune function.