Did you know that our genes are only 3.9% different to those of a chimpanzee? But since you are reading this, you also have the will to stop. And the will to start something new. There are 2 easy practices you can do to change your genes without even moving a finger!
By changing the expression of your genes for the better, you could slow down your aging, reduce stress, reduce your chances of getting chronic illnesses, live longer, healthier and happier lives. If these were the benefits of a new pill, you would all be standing in the queue. But I am not selling any pills, this info is free and without any side-effects.
We are made up of trillions of cells, most of which contain our DNA and genes. Genes are segments of DNA, which are the recipes that tell your cells how to function and what traits to express. 99% of genes (humans have about 25 000). Genes are the building blocks and the information inside you that for example makes your hair curly or straight, but not because you have a gene for curly hair but because that specific gene gets expressed (or something like that).
Nearly everything around us and in our life has the ability to affect our genes, switch them on or off. These factors are physical (heat, tension, training, exercise), chemical factors (foods, alcohol, smoking, environmental) and mental. We have the knowledge and awareness to change the first two: the physical and chemical. Just stop doing the things that hurt you and make you ill. The challenging part of life is understanding and taming the mind. It controls everything really and if you learn ho to use it right, new doors and opportunities open.
There are two key practices, which you can start doing today to affect your genes into a healthier you form the inside: laughter and meditation. You can do both of these without even moving!
Laughter induces a positive emotional state and is good for your health! Laughing increases the activity of your natural killer cells, normalizes hormone levels and it is de-stressing on the cellular level. Negative emotions like anxiety, fear and sorrow worsen symptoms in diabetes patients however laughing (elicited by a comedy show) reduced the elevation of blood sugar and affected the expression of genes involved in immune reactions and cell communication in diabetes patients. Some bored yet clever scientists developed real laughing rats, which they regularly tickled and found that their genes in the brain cells were altered for the better.
Meditation is a popular practice nowadays even in the western world and with apps like Headspace it is convenient and easy to access. Have you tried it yet? The perceived consumption of time not doing anything is a barrier to most people. There is a good quote I read somewhere which says that normal people should find 20 minutes a day to meditate and busy people should find one hour. But again, who has time for that when there are so many other things to do and achieve which feel significantly more productive?
There are many ways to meditate and they don’t all consist of you sitting in awkward poses! The point of meditation is that it activates the relaxation response in your whole body. This reduces your heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen consumption, stress hormones and more. The effects of meditation on gene expression have confirmed that it is the relaxation response, which changes your gene expression and leads to healthier, younger cells.
However I believe that you do not have to sit in a lotus position and that you can get the same relaxation response by other unorthodox “meditation” techniques, which you enjoy and will stick to. Not many people can relate to sitting still in a “comfortable” crossed legged position. It is not comfortable! So find an activity such as painting, playing a musical instrument, cooking, riding a bike or other activities where you feel relaxed, switch off your mind and get lost in the moment.
If I was to summarize this article in 5 words: Laugh more and start meditating!
(Or do another practice which brings you into the relaxation response, smoking & alcohol don’t count).
Originally published at medium.com