In recent times, we have read a lot about the mind-body connection where movement of the body is connected to development of the brain. This connection is so deeply entwined that the converse is also true – where training the mind can affect the body. Sports professionals know the importance of mental discipline and having a well-trained mind and how it can affect their performance. Now, we are discovering that this connection goes even deeper…
Changing Our DNA through Mind Control? – Scientific American
Despite the rather gimmicky title, this article from Scientific American discusses a study demonstrating the effects of yoga and mindfulness meditation on our genes. Such activities have been associated with preserved telomere length. While the actual benefits of preserving telomere length isn’t known, it does seem suggestive that this is a good thing.
“Telomeres are stretches of DNA that cap our chromosomes and help prevent chromosomal deterioration — biology professors often liken them to the plastic tips on shoelaces. Shortened telomeres aren’t known to cause a specific disease per se, but they do whither with age and are shorter in people with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and high stress levels. We want our telomeres intact.”
According to research findings, individuals with heart problems could reduce their cardiac risk by:
- Being grateful – which helps patients recover from heart failure
- Being optimistic because people have healthier hearts
- Having a strong sense of purpose which may also lower heart disease risk
Meditation boosts genes that promote good health – New Scientist
We’ve heard about how meditation changes the brain, now a new study demonstrates that gene activity changes too:
After eight weeks of performing the technique daily, the volunteers gene profile was analysed again. Clusters of important beneficial genes had become more active and harmful ones less so.
The boosted genes had three main beneficial effects: improving the efficiency of mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells; boosting insulin production, which improves control of blood sugar; and preventing the depletion of telomeres, caps on chromosomes that help to keep DNA stable and so prevent cells wearing out and ageing.
Clusters of genes that became less active were those governed by a master gene called NF-kappaB, which triggers chronic inflammation leading to diseases including high blood pressure, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease and some cancers.
Mind over matter: Can you think your way to strength? – Science Daily
Apparently, you can… A study from the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute (OMNI) at Ohio University revealed that mental imagery may be key in reducing the associated muscle loss for individuals with wrist-hand immobilisation due to injury.
- Control group – no cast, no treatment
- Group 1 – cast immobilising wrist and hand, performing mental imagery exercises
- Group 2 – cast immobilising wrist and hand, no mental imagery exercises
- Findings: the group that performed mental imagery exercises lost 50% less strength than the non-imaginative group. The nervous system’s ability to fully activate the muscle (called “voluntary activation” or VA) also rebounded more quickly in the imagery group compared to the non-imagery group.
For many, sports injuries are often associated with loss of muscle strength while in recovery. These findings suggest that mental imagery exercises can help reduce that loss.
These are just some of the ways that the mind can affect the body. It will be interesting to see how far we can harness the mind to enhance the body’s potential.