If you're looking for good ways to fights stress, chances are you've stumbled across yoga or meditation at some point. Maybe you've gone a bit trendier and looked a getting a mindfulness app. But you might not realize just how much good these habits can be. Sure, you know that yoga is great at making you feel less stressed for a bit, but new research published in Frontiers in Immunology shows that the effects are much bigger than what we encounter in a 90 minute class. In fact, the research found that mindful activities like yoga and meditation can actually help change your genes. Your GENES, people.
Basically, the study consisted of the researchers looking over data from 18 other studies — with 846 respondents — looking at the effects of meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, Qi gong, and Tai Chi. And they found that these types of exercises, that work with the mind and body combined, seemed to actually suppress the expression of genes and genetic pathways that promote inflammation. Because while your body need a little inflammation, these days a lot of us have way too much — and then you're dealing with chronic stress. But these exercises seemed to reverse the effects of chronic stress.
These activities "cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our well being," Ivana Buric, a PhD student in Coventry University’s Brain, Belief and Behavior Lab in England and lead author told Time Magazine. “By choosing healthy habits every day, we can create a gene activity pattern that is more beneficial for our health. Even just 15 minutes of practicing mindfulness seems to do the trick." Interestingly, she pointed out that this is a relatively new field of research — and that it may be that other forms of exercise have a similar effect.
It's clear that more study needs to be done to see if there are other ways to combat our stress levels and rework our genes. But, for the moment, this is still really important information for those who suffer from chronic stress — especially those who feel like things are too far gone to do anything about. Because it can sometimes feel like everything has gotten a bit too much and there's no point in trying to change them. But if you can change your actual genes, then what can't you do? It shows just how much power we have. So get out that yoga mat and start practicing.