Relaxation Response Can Influence Expression Of Stress-related Genes

on 01 February 2019
letting go of past trauma

If you want to resolve an emotional or mental issue, use hypnotherapy. And if you want to maintain a well balanced and functional life, use hypnosis! Prevention is better than cure but hypnotherapy is effectively both, i.e. the cure and the prevention . . . 

Relaxation is King!

Dr Herbert Benson is the doctor who came up with the term, "relaxation response" (the opposite of Walter Cannon's Fight or Flight response) and the author of the now-famous book, "The Relaxation Response." This study is merely another way of authenticating his hypothesis, that love regulates stress, stress regulates everything else! The inner machinations of a cells life are complex and lengthy and if we are to maintain a healthy life balance, we need to be in specific cellular states at specific times. In terms of cellular activity Human Growth Hormone (HGH) plays a significant role in our everyday lives, we, fortunately, are blissfully unaware of its importance. Acute stress actually increases HGH production and, in turn, enhances performance, hence why athletes use it and why WADA has banned its use. However, in chronic stress, the opposite is true, there is a decrease in the amount of HGH production; this decrease interrupts normality at a cellular level and that leads to us becoming somewhat abnormal; life just doesn't feel as good as it once did!

HGH is synthesised in the pituitary gland and released into the bloodstream via the HPS axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-somatotropic axis). The stress response (fight or flight) also involves the pituitary gland, albeit a different part, via the HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis). In relation to the stress response, the body reestablishes normal function, homeostasis, after the threat or danger has been dealt with or no longer exists. However, in modern-day life, many of the stressors that plague us, are not real or have no apparent ending. For example, being in a toxic relationship or having a job you do not like, financial worries, loss of a loved one etc. these events can be a constant source of stressors and result in a state of chronic distress; not a good thing for us to experience. While stress may not be a direct cause of illness or disease, it certainly is recognised as a collaborator of such. 

So, one of the most effective ways to counter stress is by being more relaxed. This leads to a cellular state known as love/growth, the opposite of the stress response of fear/protection. This, I believe leads us to misunderstand the term "self-love," all too often people confuse self-love with romantic, spousal or parental love. The latter forms of love allow us to experience periodic and unsustainable feelings that we have come to express as love. However, these are merely the presence of euphoric states of specific hormones, peptides and/or neurotransmitters, similar states, albeit more elevated, are experienced through certain mind-altering drugs, cocaine, heroin, LSG etc. They, like romantic love, are also unsustainable. Similar but less harmful effects are seen in children who get a sugar rush. The body, however, needs milder, more tolerable and more sustainable forms of this love effect and the natural form of this comes through what we know as, "Relaxation!" One of the most effective producers of the relaxation response is hypnosis. Hypnosis is the primary instigator of the relaxation response, although it's not magic, just a collateral effect of doing a certain routine, a trance induction, which can be deepened.

In terms of hypnotherapy, the deeper trance state is where the therapeutic intervention occurs, not so much as a consequence of the relaxation, but rather as a consequential effect of certain brainwave states, states wherein the brain/mind are open to re-coding, aka memory consolidation and reconsolidation. So, hypnotherapy aims to make you well - the cure - (resolve the emotional/mental issue) and hypnosis - the prevention - (relaxation therapy) aims to keep you well.

Hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is, especially in its ability to promote clear thinking and good states of mental wellness. The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of too much stress, too little sleep and too little by way of clarity! So, to get or take back control of your mind and your life, it makes perfect sense to use a methodology that addresses the subconscious mind's role in perpetuating negative, vague and ambiguous states of mind. Hypnosis helps us to create calm relaxing states of mind that make life work better! If you would like to address any concerns you have in this direction, or, if you just want to make your life feel better,  then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life! 

The objective here is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into irrational emotional experiences that may actually be happening for reasons different to that which we would imagine! If you want to know more about how Hypnotherapy can help you; why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here or to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here

The Research: 

How could a single, nonpharmacological intervention help patients deal with disorders ranging from high blood pressure to pain syndromes, to infertility, to rheumatoid arthritis? That question may have been answered by a study finding that eliciting the relaxation response -- a physiologic state of deep rest -- influences the activation patterns of genes associated with the body's response to stress.

The collaborative investigation by members of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Genomics Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) appears in the open-access journal PLoS One.

"For hundreds of years Western medicine has looked at mind and body as totally separate entities, to the point where saying something 'is all in your head' implied that it was imaginary," says Herbert Benson, MD, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute and co-senior author of the PloS One report. "Now we've found how changing the activity of the mind can alter the way basic genetic instructions are implemented."

Towia Libermann, PhD, director of the BIDMC Genomics Center and the report's co-senior author, adds, "This is the first comprehensive study of how the mind can affect gene expression, linking what has been looked on as a 'soft' science with the 'hard' science of genomics. It is also important because of its focus on gene expression in healthy individuals, rather than in disease states."

More than 35 years ago Benson first described the relaxation response, which can be elicited by practices including meditation, deep breathing and prayer; and his team has pioneered the field of mind/body medicine.

Over the years, studies in many peer-reviewed journals documented how the relaxation response not only alleviates symptoms of psychological disorders such as anxiety but also affects physiologic factors such as heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen consumption and brain activity. While it became evident that the relaxation response was the opposite of the well-documented fight-or-flight response, the mechanism underlying these effects was still unknown.

The current study was designed to investigate if changes in gene expression -- whether specific genes are activated or repressed -- were behind the wide-ranging effects of the relaxation response. The first phase compared gene expression patterns of 19 long-term practitioners of different relaxation response techniques with those of 19 individuals who had never engaged in such practices. Those control participants then went through an 8-week training program to investigate whether initiating relaxation response practice would change gene expression over time.

Both phases of the study indicated that the relaxation response alters the expression of genes involved with processes such as inflammation, programmed cell death and how the body handles free radicals -- molecules produced by normal metabolism that, if not appropriately neutralized, can damage cells and tissues. To validate those results, both phases were repeated in 6 different relaxation response practitioners and 5 non-practitioners, resulting in significantly similar changes in gene expression.

Jeffery Dusek, PhD, co-lead author of the study notes, "Changes in the activation of these same genes have previously been seen in conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder; but the relaxation-response-associated changes were the opposite of stress-associated changes and were much more pronounced in the long-term practitioners." Formerly with the Benson-Henry Institute, Dusek is now at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.

Benson explains, "People have been using these culturally determined mind/body techniques for millennia. We found that no matter which particular technique is used -- different forms of meditation and yoga, breath focus, or repetitive prayer -- the mechanism involved is the same. Now we need to see if similar changes occur in patients who use the relaxation response to help treat stress-related disorders, and those studies are underway now."

Libermann notes that the sensitive genomic analyses conducted in this study are at the cutting edge of efforts to unravel the genetic aspects of complex disorders. "There are a lot of differences in gene expression between one healthy person and another, so it is challenging to analyze the kinds of subtle changes we are seeing and identify what changes are significant and what are just background noise. Our approach uses the latest bioinformatics tools to identify potential gene functions, generating hypotheses that can then be tested in laboratory or clinical studies."

Benson is the Mind/Body Medical Institute Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, where Libermann is an associate professor of Medicine. Hasan Otu, PhD, of BIDMC Genomics Center, is the co-lead author of the PLoS One study. Additional co-authors are Ann Wohlhueter, Benson-Henry Institute; and Manoj Bhasin, PhD, Luiz Zerbini, PhD, and Marie Joseph, BIDMC. The study was supported by grants from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

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Cite This Page:

Massachusetts General Hospital. "Relaxation Response Can Influence Expression Of Stress-related Genes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 July 2008. <>.