Vacation Improves Wellbeing

Vacation Improves WellbeingVacation Improves Wellbeing

In a new study comparing a meditation retreat with just relaxing in the same locale, both options improved immune function and other cellular markers in the blood.

Researchers measured gene activity, blood markers and reported wellbeing during the vacation and months afterward, and found a large and immediate “vacation effect” in all participants. For those who continued meditating, benefits were seen even 10 months later.

“Vacation in a relaxing, resort-like environment takes you away from your day-to-day grind, which may be high stress in which your body is in a more defensive-like posture, with pressures to meet deadlines, ‘battling’ with colleagues for resources to accomplish your mission or whatever,” said senior author Dr. Eric Schadt, founding director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology at Mount Sinai in New York.

“We don’t know what this means exactly, but given associations with biomarkers of aging, there is the potential that these changes could enhance overall wellbeing and longevity,” Schadt told Reuters Health by email. Researchers’ enrolled 102 women aged 30 to 60 in the study and tested their blood before and after five days at the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California. Some women were participating in a meditation and yoga retreat while others were simply staying at the resort and not taking part in yoga or meditation.

In addition to providing blood samples before and after the retreat, the women reported on their depression symptoms, stress, vitality and mindfulness on day five, one month later and 10 months later.

Gene expression changes and aging biomarkers in blood samples had improved significantly for all groups at the end of the retreat. In addition, women who were already regular meditators had higher activity of telomerase, an enzyme that repairs and fortifies the tips of chromosomes. Telomeres get shorter and shorter as we age.