Q. Can you give me any benefits for taking time every day to meditate? I’m a busy person!

A. In 2008, Benson and Libermann led a study that found a long-term practice of the Relaxation Response changed the expression of genes involved with the body’s response to stress. Studies in many peer-reviewed journals have documented how the relaxation response both alleviates symptoms of anxiety and many other disorders and also affects factors such as heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen consumption and brain activity. 

A recent study was coauthored by Manoj Bhasin, HMS assistant professor of medicine and co-director of the Beth Israel Deaconess Genomics, Proteomics, Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Center—to examine changes produced during a single session of relaxation response practice, as well as those taking place over longer periods of time. They reported that pathways controlled by activation of a protein called NF-κB—known to have a prominent role in inflammation, stress, trauma, and cancer—were suppressed after relaxation response elicitation. The expression of genes involved in insulin pathways was also significantly altered.

Dr. Herbert Benson, internationally renowned cardiologist and co-senior author of the report, indicated that many studies have shown that mind/body interventions like the Relaxation Response can reduce stress and enhance wellness in healthy individuals and counteract the adverse clinical effects of stress in conditions like hypertension, anxiety, diabetes, and aging.