As the world faces quarantine, closures and mass infection in "The Time of Coronavirus" - we're all ears about the fact that meditation could boost your immune system.
Precisely how meditation can influence the biological mechanisms underlying disease isn’t yet fully understood. But one theory is that it can shift gene expression.
In one study, researchers from medical schools at both Harvard and University of California at San Francisco looked at blood samples of 94 women, half of whom took vacation and half who participated in a mediation retreat. The women were a mix of novice and experienced meditators. All the women showed shifts in the expression of genes related to stress, inflammation and wound healing. BUT here's what's interesting: the experienced meditators had particular shifts in genes related to fighting viral infection.
Rudolph Tanzi, Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Vice-Chair of Neurology, Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit, and Co-Director of the Henry and Allison McCance Center for Brain Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, says:
"Based on our results, the benefit we experience from meditation isn't strictly psychological; there is a clear and quantifiable change in how our bodies function. Meditation is one of the ways to engage in restorative activities that may provide relief for our immune systems, easing the day-to-day stress of a body constantly trying to protect itself."
Is this scientifically proven?
No, while the findings from existing studies are interesting, it's far from proven that establishing a meditation practice will definitely offer immune benefits.
The authors of one systematic review of randomized controlled trials into mindfulness meditation and the immune system concluded that "it may be salutogenic for immune system dynamics, but additional work is needed to examine these effects."
Basically, it's still being investigated and the evidence isn't conclusive as things stand.
BUT given the potential for improved immune response comes on top of OTHER proven benefits of meditation, like: managing anxiety, depression, stress, improving focus, mood, cognition, body image and even healthier aging, there's really no downside to carving out a little productive, healthy downtime in your schedule. And plenty of potential upsides.
As health services around the globe face overwhelming pressure, there's never been a more pertinent time to make sure you're looking after your health and your wellbeing.
So, tonight, try the free 10 minute meditation (scroll to the top) to help ease any anxiety you might be feeling about the outbreak AND potentially provide some extra power to your immune system in the process.