Taking Your Vacation Days And Learning To Meditate Could Actually Save Your Life

Meditation (however you choose to get into it) and vacationing are both great ways to relax the mind. Hotels and resorts have even capitalized on this stress-busting combination. Now there’s scientific proof backing up the benefits of these relaxation techniques not just for the mind, but also the body.

Scientists from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and the University of California, San Francisco, collaborated on a study assessing the effects of both meditation and vacation-induced relaxation on biological markers of aging and gene expression. The 64 lucky recruited participants, all healthy non-meditating women, were invited to stay at a California resort for six days. Some however, had more planned for them than others.

From Science Bulletin:

Participants stayed at the same resort in California for six days, and randomized so that half were simply on vacation while the other half joined a meditation training program run by the Chopra Center for Well Being. The meditation program included training in mantra meditation, yoga, and self reflection exercises. It was designed by Deepak Chopra, MD, who did not participate in data collection or analysis.

Both groups were compared to a separate group of women enrolled in the retreat. This group consisted of women who regularly practiced meditation so that researchers could take a closer look at any differences between the “meditation effect” and the “vacation effect.”

The study, published in Translational Psychiatry this month, found significant changes in expression of genes related to stress responses and immune function in all three of the groups, something that researchers attribute to the relaxing atmosphere of a resort vacation. Each of the groups also self-reported improvements in vitality and well-being up to a month after the retreat.

Interestingly, the participants who were introduced to meditation through the retreat seemed to maintain their increased chill over a longer period of time than either the experienced meditators or the non-meditating vacationers. However, those who meditated regularly before the study beat the others in measured activity of telomerase, the enzyme that increases the length at the end of our DNA (known as telomeres). This is great news for meditation junkies, as shorter telomeres are associated with the onset of both stress and aging-related diseases.

Vacations and meditation: great alone, even better together. Just like nacho cheese and fries!