by A. Grano on March 22nd, 2013 at 2:08 pm
As children grow up, friends move away, and spouses pass on, many elderly people find themselves lonely on as they reach their so-called “golden years”. According to researchers at UCLA, the psychological effects of loneliness increases activity of inflammatory genes, which promotes a variety of conditions, such as an increased risk of heart disease, depression and in extreme cases, even premature death. However, new studies have shown that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) can help quash the emotions that lead to loneliness.
A two-month study lead by Steve Cole, UCLA professor of medicine and psychiatry and a member of the Norman Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA, and his colleagues reported positive findings that MBSR helped train the minds of study participants to focus on the present and avoid negative thoughts of dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. In this state of mind, participants showed reduced pro-inflammatory gene expression. As we know that inflammation impacts the immune system and thus puts us at risk for disease, avoiding any creating such conditions that can aggravate this delicate balance is ideal and often necessary for maintaining health, especially in the elder years.
While the study was small, the results were encouraging. In addition, other research is building, further supporting that there is a strong tie between the mind-body connection. Another study from UCLA lead by Dr. Helen Lavretsky, UCLA professor of psychiatry and Cousins Center member, found that yogic meditation involving chanting also showed a decrease in inflammatory gene expression, as well as stress reduction, in caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients.
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