Holiday is the best medicine to boost your mood

Wednesday 07th September 2016 06:22 EDT

A California University study has found that going for a holiday gives you physical and psychological benefits and it can last for a month. The researchers found that just six days away is enough to cause genetic changes that dampen stress, boost the immune system and lower levels of proteins linked to dementia and depression. Holidays included meditation, yoga and sessions of self-reflection provided even greater benefits.

“It’s intuitive that taking a vacation reduces biological processes related to stress, but it was still impressive to see the large changes in gene expression from being away from the busy pace of life, in a relaxing environment, in such a short period of time,” said Dr Elissa Epel, professor of psychiatry at University of California. The team found that holidays which included meditation session provided even greater benefit.

Although previous studies have shown that getting away has a positive impact on mental health, the new research is the first to prove that a break can actually change how a person’s genes function. The study involved 94 healthy women aged between 30 and 60 who were recruited to stay at a meditation retreat in California for six days. Half were simply told to relax on holiday while the others joined a programme which included meditation, yoga and self-reflection exercises.

The team were hoping to discover the long-term impact of the “vacation effect” and the “meditation effect”, and to see if one was better than the other. Researchers collected blood samples from all participants immediately before and after their stay, one month and 10 months later. They were asked to complete well-being surveys at the same times.

The scientists then compared the activity of 20,000 genes to determine whether any altered during and after the resort experience. All groups had significant changes in molecular network patterns after the week at the resort, compared with their pre-vacation biology. The most notable changes in gene activity were related to stress response and immune function. While all groups showed psychological improvements up to one month later, the novice meditators also had fewer symptoms of depression and less stress much longer than the non-meditating vacationers.

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