By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Lower your anxiety and risk of stress-related disorders! Improve your energy! Put the brakes on inflammation! Just closing your eyes every day for less than a half-hour and practicing a simple mental technique can provide some very surprising, welcome, and often amazing, benefits.
Two 2014 studies featuring two popular stress-relieving practices provide a glimpse of how powerful such techniques can be.
In the first, researchers assessed the effects on gene expression in a single session of a practice known as the Relaxation Response, in which an individual focuses on a word, sound, phrase, or prayer for 20 minutes. When blood draws were taken from healthy practitioners, and particularly long-term practitioners, the practice was found to enhance expression of genes associated with energy metabolism and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory responses and stress activity.
Meanwhile, a review of 16 previous anxiety studies on Transcendental Meditation (TM), in which a sound called a mantra is used in an effortless manner, found that the practice is more effective than usual treatments for individuals with high anxiety, including prison inmates and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
My Viewpoint: If you can improve the “work” of your genes simply by sitting quietly for a few minutes a day – taking an effective break – what’s stopping you?
What This Means to You: Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the United States, affecting 40 million adults (18 percent of the population). Meditation is a tried-and-true method to reduce resistant anxiety that increases the use of smoking and alcohol, as well as the risk of chronic diseases including heart disease.
My Recommendation: Stress can harm you in many ways, and shorten your life. We all need to find a technique that works to defuse stress and try to stick with it. The Relaxation Response and TM are two simple-to-do examples with solid research behind them. You can find details about them at www.relaxationresponse.org/ and www.tm.org/.
© 2014 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.