Study Shows Meditation Retreats Benefit Attendees Longer Than Resort Vacations

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“All groups showed improvements up to one month after the retreat; however, the novice meditators had fewer symptoms of depression and less stress longer than the non-meditating vacationers.”

Because the meetings industry is so engrossed in travel, it can be difficult to remember that there are several people who have begun to fear air travel due to its association to terrorism, according to the Global Wellness Institute. With more people staying closer to home, the profitability of the wellness industry is on the rise, and more research is being conducted to highlight the benefits of meditation retreats compared to resort vacations.

Scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF); and Harvard Medical School recently conducted a study to assess the biological impact of meditation compared to vacation. The study, published in Springer Nature’s journal Translational Psychiatry, researched the effect of meditation on gene expression patterns in both novice and regular meditators, according to Science Bulletin.

The study observed 94 healthy women, aged 30 to 60—and 64 of which who were not regular meditators. They all stayed at the same resort in California for six days and were randomly split into two groups. Half were simply on vacation while the other half took a meditation training program run by the Chopra Center for Well Being, which included training in mantra meditation, yoga and self-reflection exercises. The researchers also studied a group of 30 experienced meditators who were already enrolled in the meditation program that week.

Researchers collected blood samples and surveys from all participants before and after their stay as well as conducted surveys a month and 10 months after the stay was completed. By comparing gene expression networks across all three groups of participants, the research team found that all three had significant changes in molecular network patterns after the week at the resort, according to Science Bulletin. All groups showed improvements up to one month after the retreat; however, the novice meditators had fewer symptoms of depression and less stress longer than the non-meditating vacationers.

While the research will need to be replicated to verify the findings, Elissa S. Epel, PhD, professor of psychiatry at UCSF and first author of the study, told Science Bulletin, meeting planners may want to start considering meditation retreats more seriously as the meetings and travel industries continue to change.

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