Recently, I’ve been sharing how we can change our mindset and alter our biochemistry and brain functioning to shift our genetic destiny. Through integrative medicine (IM) and mindful-based practices, we have the ability to “turn on” genes that are health promoting and “turn down” molecular signals that are harmful.
In fact, several mind-body practices have been found to reverse the detrimental cellular signals of stress and initiate beneficial molecular signaling as they rewire our brains and bodies to thrive. This is important, because most physical and emotional issues are either rooted in or are aggravated by stress.
Essential oils, which instantly interrupt the perception of stress as they balance mood and bodily processes, can provide a powerful synergy for this epigenetic modification. So, if we find ourselves stuck in a loop of negative news, fear, and worry that harms our health, we can choose to implement these natural approaches to wellness to place “mind over genes.”
Now that we’ve learned various scientific reasons why practicing IM and mind-body medicine can make us healthier and optimize our wellness outcomes, I will summarize how to take this serious topic with a bit more levity. I will also give some tips on how to make relaxation and IM more of a ritual in your life.
Changing Your Genes Doesn’t Always Have to Be So Serious
Many conjure up images of meditators being very stoic and sitting calmly in a corner on their meditation pillow. First, that’s not always how meditation is practiced or pursued. Secondly, you don’t have to be that serious to shift your genetic destiny.
For example, laughter has many cardiovascular and health benefits and it also can positively impact our genes.
In an article in Townsend Letter, the author describes how laughter affects genetic expression to improve blood sugar. This can result in better heart functioning. Furthermore, not only can laughing modulate our genes, but some may be genetically hardwired to laugh. Specifically, an alteration in a serotonin transporter gene, which influences a key neurotransmitter in mental health, helps to determine how likely and often one will laugh out loud.
The author explores these connections between laughing, blood sugar, and modifying mood states for better cardiac outcomes in the excerpt below:
Takashi Hayashi and Kazuo Murakami reported in 2009 that laughter improved blood sugar levels in diabetic patients through changing genetic expression. Their research identified specific genes that changed in response to laughter and also, “… revealed that laughter decreased the levels of prorenin in blood; prorenin is involved in the onset of diabetic complications.”,  In particular, “… prorenin and the (pro)renin receptor play a pivotal role in the pathophysiology of diabetic nephropathy” Could prorenin, which plays a role in regulating the angiotensin pathway, effect cardiac disease risk?..
Results from research by Claudia Haase and colleagues published in 2013 suggest that the short allele of 5-HTTLPR polymorphism in the serotonin transporter gene has a significant impact on emotional expression, increasing the likelihood a person will laugh out loud. Short 5-HTTLPR alleles also appear to increase the amount of influence environmental factors have on emotional development and on behavior. This gene is associated with post stroke depression, and depression associated with coronary artery disease. These relationships between depression and heart disease also appear to be bi-directional.
These associations between laughter, genetics, and mood have several potential heart health implications:
- Not only is there a link between laughing “tickling” our blood sugar genes, but this impact could also explain some of the cardiovascular benefits associated with laughter.
- It may be that those who are more depressed have a genetic tendency to laugh less. This can lead to low mood and depression is a risk factor for heart disease.
- You can use this information to empower your health, and you likely don’t need a fancy test. If you find yourself to be on the serious side, and less inclined to giggles, you may want to seek out more humor. In this way, you can modulate your “seriousness” so you can improve your cardiovascular wellness. 🙂
Now, that’s something to enliven your spirits, right?
Relax, You Got Your Whole Life in Front of You: The Power of Relaxation on Epigenetics
Sometimes, humor is hard to come by when we are moving so fast and bombarded by so much from so many directions. Many are finding it hard to find a balance between being informed and getting overwhelmed and distressed. This does not make for a laughing matter; however, it does make the findings I discussed on IM and mind-body medicine even more imperative to put into practice.
In a recent post, Dr. Kara Fitzgerald explains the concept of how relaxation impacts our DNA and why it’s so important to practice:
Renowned cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Sara Mednick states just this: “Restoration is incredibly important, and if we don’t focus on restoration, this is what leads us to grow old faster and to have chronic diseases.”
Although we’ve known for a while the health benefits of self-care, we’re now beginning to see it also has the incredible power to nudge DNA methylation, epigenetic expression, and subsequently biological aging – in a positive direction. (AKA change your gene expression to function more optimally toward health.)
Even a single practice that elicits a relaxation response can lead to favorable changes in DNA methylation patterns and take us out of the negative epigenetic pattern caused by stress.
This could be anything from meditating, breathing, tai chi, and yoga, to weeding, cuddling, sharing a meal with a friend, and volunteering.
Dr. Kara provides several tips on making relaxation practices a ritual to impact our genes and make for a more vibrant life. Her three steps include:
1. Finding something that is nourishing that will bring you joy. You are more likely to stick to something you like, so make this ritual about your pleasure.
This could be listening to or playing music, a cool meditation app, laughing with friends, mindfulness, walking in nature…anything that is mind-body based that you look forward to doing.
2. Use what motivates you to follow through on your intention to incorporate more relaxation into your day.
You cannot optimize your purpose, life goals, or be a good friend, parent, or worker without taking time to downregulate stress and upregulate “molecules of health.”
Here are some questions to consider:
-Which key areas in your life can be used to drive you to commit to your relaxation intentions?
-Why do you want to alter your wellness outcomes at the DNA level for the better?
3. Find a time that makes the most sense to do your relaxation ritual daily.
It is best to practice relaxation and “unplugging” at a time that you have the most space and are most likely to follow through with it. The “right” time for you is when you will do it.
Summary and Bringing it All Together: Altering Your Epigenetics for Better Wellness in a Mindful, Mind-Body Way
Taking time to find joy in life and nurturing yourself with silence and calm should be as much a priority and part of your wellness program as exercise and diet.
By disengaging from the chaotic world and taking time to practice integrative medicine (IM) techniques, you can alleviate the negative emotional and physical impacts of stress and overwhelm and promote mind-body thriving.
I heard a wise guru once state, “The more I have to do, the longer I meditate!
Of course, that’s a guru’s take!
You can start off slow with as little or as much time as you can muster. You want to set yourself up for success so you’ll stick to it.
Even if you start with one to two minutes, I believe you’ll soon realize you are craving more.
You can also incorporate in essential oils to calm the brain chatter and help you to refocus, recenter, and ground in the present.
So, what do you think?
Will you commit to relaxing and tuning-in more to your mind-body now that you know it can literally make you healthier and less stressed?
I’d love to hear how you are planning on doing more mind-body practices.
Please share your thoughts in the comments and check out the resources below!
Click here to learn more about my approach to whole-person, mind-body care.
Free resources and more education are also available to you here.
Stay tuned for an upcoming opportunity that can support you in holistic mind-body-heart-soul healing. (Join my newsletter below to learn more.)
If you struggle with mental health, please reach out for professional mental health support.
You may also wish to consider implementing holistic resources and partnering with a naturopathic doctor.
For example, I offer mind-body support for general mood issues using a functional medicine and wellness-oriented approach.
Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.