New research shows that meditation can actually reduce your feelings of loneliness while simultaneously boosting your immune system. The study was conducted at the University of California Los Angeles. Researchers had elderly participants take part in an eight-week meditation program, and then they compared blood samples they took from each of them before the program to blood samples taken after it. The results turned out to be more positive then they had hoped for.
The study consisted of 40 adults between the ages of 55 and 85 who were split into two groups. One of the groups practiced mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). MBSR trains your mind to focus only on what is happening in the moment. The participants meditated at home for 30-minutes a day. They also took part in a two-hour, weekly meeting and went on a one-day retreat.
When the blood samples taken from the group that practiced MBSR were compared to the control group at the end of the program, researchers saw a huge drop in the expression of inflammation-related genes. What was also surprising, though, is that the MBSR group members reported reduced feelings of loneliness.
Loneliness is obviously an unpleasant emotional state to be in, but it also has severely negative effects on your physical health. Loneliness is actually a form of stress, and it has been linked to illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease, and even early death. Decreasing the feeling of loneliness by meditating is literally like taking a preventative medicine.
Senior study author, Steve Cole said at a press release, “Our work presents the first evidence showing that a psychological intervention that decreases loneliness also reduces pro-inflammatory gene expression…” Cole is also a professor of medicine and psychiatry at UCLA. He then went on to say, “If this is borne out by further research, MBSR could be a valuable tool to improve the quality of life for many elderly.”
Dr. Michael Irwin, professor of psychiatry at UCLA’s Seminal Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, added, “While this was a small sample, the results were very encouraging. It adds to a growing body of research that is showing the positive benefits of a variety of meditative techniques, including tai chi and yoga.”
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