Dec. 9, 2013 at 5:56 PM ET
The next time your nerves have reached a boiling point, consider passing on that extra cocktail (or perhaps your trusted make-me-calmer prescription med) and instead try closing your eyes.
Researchers from Spain, France and Wisconsin have discovered the very first piece of scientific evidence that links mindfulness mediation to changes in the body that occur at a molecular level.
The experiment consisted of two groups of people—one group consisted of those who meditated, the other group contained those who took part in quiet yet non-meditative actions. After eight hours, the meditators displayed both genetic and molecular differences—changes that can encourage a speedier physical recovery from a stressful situation. The hushed group did not.
According to ScienceDaily.com, Perla Kaliman, first author of the article and a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain, said, “Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs.”
While this study is the first to show proof regarding a shift in the body’s molecules, it is certainly not the first to report on the positives of this age-old ritual. Over the years, mediation has been shown to boost mood and improve cardiovascular issues.
This is fantastic news, no? Learning how to manage stress, not only improves your overall health and wellbeing but doesn’t cost a dime—no special clothes, expensive shoes or membership required. You might eventually want to do a retreat or take a class, but for now, you can start off with these easy exercises.
And contrary to popular belief, mediation is not all hocus pocus. Yes, while some people devote weeks to this practice on a mountaintop in some country you couldn’t pinpoint on a map, the rest of us can find serenity at home, at the office or on a park bench. To quote the late—and ultra-peaceful—John Lennon, “It’s easy if you try…Imagine all the people, living for today.”
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.