Researchers from UCLA and Carnegie Mellon University now report that a simple meditation program lasting just eight weeks reduced loneliness in older adults. They also found that meditation could help reduce inflammation.
Feeling lonely has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and even premature death.
The study found that a two-month program of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which teaches the mind to simply be attentive to the present and not dwell in the past or project into the future, successfully reduced the feelings of loneliness.
Remarkably, the researchers said, mindfulness-based stress reduction also altered the genes and protein markers of inflammation, including the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) and a group of genes regulated by the transcription factor NF-kB. CRP is a potent risk factor for heart disease, and NF-kB is a molecular signal that activates inflammation.
Learn about mindfulness-based stress reduction: Jon Kabat-Zinn Meditation Book
Inflammation is a natural component of the immune system and can help fight a wide variety of bodily insults, ranging from infections to a whack by a hammer. But chronic inflammation is now known to be a primary player in the pathology of many diseases and psychological disorders.
“Our work presents the first evidence showing that a psychological intervention that decreases loneliness also reduces pro-inflammatory gene expression,” explains senior study author Steve Cole, a UCLA professor of medicine. “If this is borne out by further research, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a valuable tool to improve the quality of life for many elderly.”
Read Dr. David Perlmutter’s Meditation Makes The Brain Work Better
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Online 20 July 2012 “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: A small randomized controlled trial” J. David Creswell, Michael R. Irwin, Lisa J. Burklund, Matthew D. Lieberman, Jesusa M.G. Arevalo, Jeffrey Ma, Elizabeth Crabb Breen, Steven W. Cole