You know that amazing feeling you get after a vacation: You are relaxed but energized, calm but excited, creative and ready to take on the world?
What if you could feel like that all the time?
Research shows that one way to make the rejuvenating effects of vacation a part of everyday life is with a regular meditation practice. Not only does meditation positively impact mental health, but it also improves mood, lowers stress, and protects the body from inflammation.
In a 2016 study, researchers recruited 90 women, aged 30 to 60 and invited them to a resort in California. They were placed into three groups: One group of women already had a regular meditation practice and had enrolled in an intensive week-long meditation program. A second group had no meditation experience but also enrolled in the intensive meditation. A third group that had no meditation experience was given a vacation at the resort without any meditation or mind-body activities. The participants had blood drawn and filled out wellness surveys immediately before, after, and at 10 months post intervention.
Results showed that all three groups benefited from the week at the retreat, demonstrating lower stress and better immunity. Interestingly, the meditators also had fewer symptoms of depression and less inflammation compared to the vacationers. What is really striking is the results from 10 months later: Both meditation groups maintained their benefits over time, reporting better mental outlook, higher mood, and lower perceived stress. The vacationers did not fare so well: They were back to baseline levels for mood, stress, and immunity, slogging through their daily lives, exhausted and overwhelmed.
Researchers concluded the following:
Regular meditation conveys benefits that are not available from a stress-free vacation.
The benefits of meditation extend beyond the brain, improving health at the genetic and cellular level, which has implications for improved immunity and lower risk of chronic disease.
Meditation lowers amyloid beta, which is a predictor of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline with aging.
Experienced meditators demonstrated longer telomeres—a predictor of longevity. Shorter telomeres are linked with cardiometabolic diseases of aging, chronic stress, inflammation.
Since we are on the topic of meditation, it’s worth noting other reasons you should adopt a practice today:
Meditation and other mind-body activities are perfect for kickstarting other health promoting-habits like regular exercise and healthy eating. First, meditation has been shown to improve energizing hormones and neurotransmitters like testosterone, dopamine, and growth hormone, which can translate into more motivation to exercise. Higher fat burning, muscle building hormones also mean you’ll see faster results from your training, which can help inspire you to maintain your exercise habit.
Second, meditation encourages mindfulness, a key component that helps you make intelligent food choices. Instead of being one of those people that turns to junk food as your workload increases and stress overwhelms you, meditation will allow you to become someone who is in control of what you put in your mouth.
Third, although meditation takes time, it also improves your quality of mind, allowing you to waste less time on fretting over unnecessary thoughts. By improving your efficiency in other tasks, meditation can actually save you time, especially if you are able to get into a regular routine and develop a consistent practice.
Final Words: Hopefully, you are ready to start meditating, or take your current practice to the next level. Make the vacation mindset an all-the-time reality!