Everyone wants a vacation — sometimes from work, sometimes from our families, sometimes just from life. Stress happens to everyone, and imagining a place we can go where stress doesn’t follow does sound magical, but it’s a once-a-year luxury for some, and a fantasy for many others.
But is there a way to reap some of the benefits of the beach without the sand and sun? Maybe.
First, let’s talk about the vacation effect. It’s not just the glow you feel when you turn notifications off — it’s a scientifically studied reality. Researchers recruited 94 women ages 30-60 to take part in a six-day retreat at a resort in California. (Sign me up!) The women were broken into groups: regular meditators, non-meditators, and non-meditators who opted into a meditation program during the retreat. Blood was drawn at the beginning and after the retreat and was assessed for genetic patterns and aging-related biomarkers. Changes in gene expression were detected, and the results of those changes (like improved immune function) were shown across all groups (what they’re calling the “vacation effect”). Plus, all groups showed improvements in self-reported scores of depression and stress.
Of course! It’s vacation! But what about the meditators? It turns out, the women who had not meditated and signed up to participate in meditation at the retreat showed greater maintenance of lower stress over time compared with those who just took a vacation without meditating. In fact, 10 months later, the vacationers scores for stress and depression were back to baseline, whereas the regular meditators still showed improvements, and the novice meditators showed even more. Now, that doesn’t mean meditation can produce the vacation effect by itself. But if you (like most of us) can’t book six days at a retreat in California, what can meditation do for you? Well, for starters, it might decrease anxiety, make you less aggressive, boost your compassion, and reduce stress. Sounds like a vacation to me.
If you (like most of us) can’t book six days at a retreat in California, what can meditation do for you?