The University of Wisconsin-Madison has provided the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation.
Researchers from Spain, France, and Wisconsin have reported that the effects of a single day of intensive mindfulness meditation can change our genes. The study, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, showed that after eight hours of mindfulness practice, meditators showed a range of genetic expression changes, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which means that people could recover from stress and its physical ramifications much faster than previously thought possible.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice,” says study author Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs,” says Perla Kaliman, first author of the article and a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain (IIBB-CSIC-IDIBAPS), where the molecular analyses were conducted.
This finding goes hand in hand with Dr. Bruce Lipton’s work on genetic expression. Scientists used to think that genes were responsible for controlling cellular behavior. In fact, many biologists still hold this view today, even though this has been experimentally debunked.
Genes are merely blueprints for the construction of proteins. Blueprints can’t do anything on their own. If I set a blueprint for a building on the ground, it will not magically turn itself into a building. Cellular behavior is exclusively controlled by interactions with the surrounding environment. Changing the environment a cell resides in can completely change the genes it chooses to express.
Identical adult stem cells placed into differing Petri dish cultures can turn into bone, skin, muscle, even brain tissue depending on the environment of the Petri dish in which they are placed. Cells display conscious decision making processes in reacting to their environment.
Meditating changes the chemical environment of all cells within a body. By meditating, we can take control over the emotional chemical soup that the brain is constantly generating. We can make conscious choices about our emotional states depending on how we chose to interpret our present situation and our surrounding environment.
By consciously choosing not to judge or interpret our present situation through meditation, we simultaneously alter the chemicals flowing through our bodies. This change in the chemical environment, brought about through meditation, changes the way cells genetically express themselves.