Scientists at Ohio State University, Ronald Glaser and Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, created small blisters on the skin of volunteers who were married to each other. First they asked the married couples to discuss a neutral topic, then they monitored the levels of a protein that is produced during wound healing over the next 3 weeks.
Then they asked the couples to discuss something that they disagreed upon; that would create stress in them both. Again, the scientists monitored the levels of the wound-healing protein. ?Astonishingly, the levels were lower when the couples had disagreed – when they had been stressed.
The effects of calm and stress work at the genetic level. For the wound-healing proteins to be made in the body, a gene must be switched on. Most attitudes of mind produce genetic effects. Neuroplasticity in the brain, where connections are forged between brain cells, requires the activation and deactivation of many genes, and occurs on account of what we focus our minds upon, just as it does when we repetitively move particular muscles. Furthermore, studies in epigenetics imply that prolonged emotional states might even have genetic effects that can be passed on to the next generation.
I like to consider the idea that if I strive to be the best person I can; that is, the most kind, caring, patients, understanding, and tolerant I can be, then perhaps positive genetic effects that come from these prolonged states in me might be passed on to my children.
And don’t worry if you are not in the place right now where you can focus in this way. I have had prolonged times in my past when I’ve been depressed and it’s been extremely hard. I think of it as us constantly writing genetic programs, in terms of which genes are switched on and off. For instance, we activate a stress program when we’re stressed and a calm program when we’re calm. We can teach ourselves ways of being that are healthy in the long-term for both mind and body, and we will activate a program associated with that way.
So any programs running right now, if they are unhealthy, can be deactivated in time. All things eventually change. Stress can be replaced with calm, anger with compassion, and aggression with gentleness.
Copyright 2021 David R. Hamilton PhD.