“Place your hands into soil to feel grounded. Wade in water to feel emotionally healed. Fill your lungs with fresh air to feel mentally clear. Raise your face to the heat of the sun and connect with that fire to feel your own immense power.” – Victoria Erickson
Did you know that your lifestyle affects your DNA?
In fact, your DNA is being altered all the time by the environment, lifestyle and traumatic events, and your choices will have an impact on future generations.
The latest scientific findings of how our genes are affected by lifestyle choices, the environment where we spend most of our time and also traumatic experiences in life. All these factors determine not only longevity, aging, general health and well-being, but also leave a detrimental or beneficial legacy for our children and grandchildren.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge have discovered the biological mechanism for this effect, revealing that genetic faults caused by trauma, poor lifestyle or environmental stress can be passed down to future generations.
“Between week two and week nine of an embryo’s development the genetic code is being rewritten to erase genetic alterations from the parents. However, the researchers found that the processes do not clear all of the changes. Around 5 per cent of DNA appears resistant to reprogramming”.
This leaves us a big responsibility… Don’t you think?
However, DNA can’t explain all inherited biological traits.
A study conducted at the University of Edinburgh concluded that characteristics passed between generations are not decided solely by DNA, but can be brought about by other material in cells, like proteins, known as histones. They mention that histones are not part of the genetic code, but act as spools around which DNA is wound and control whether or not genes are switched on!
For the first time, it is known that DNA is not the only responsible for how characteristics are inherited. But the question remains about the method of inheritance and if it is linked to particular traits or health conditions. What this group of scientists questioned is if environmental conditions – such as stress or diet – may produce changes to the histone proteins and therefore influence the function of genes passed on to offspring.
This makes us question if health conditions can be resistant to reprogramming? Or whether healthy lifestyle choices can alter this information!
“The ancestral exposure of your great grandmother alters your brain development to then respond to stress differently… We did not know a stress response could be programmed by your ancestors’ environmental exposures”, says Michael Skinner.
Real increases in mental disorders like autism and bipolar disorder also bring into perspective the cumulative effect of environmental exposure: “It’s more than just a change in diagnostics. The question is why? Is it because we are living in a more frantic world, or because we are living in a more frantic world and are responding to that in a different way because we have been exposed? I favor the latter.” (Michael Skinner, Today’s environment influences behavior generations later, Washington University News).
Transformational DNA, reprogramming the present and the future.
All the above independent studies point out aspects of environmental conditions and ancestral epigenetic inheritance and how individual early life events play a role in how well we socialize or how your anxiety levels respond to stress. You are what you eat, the saying goes. And, according to these genetic studies, you are what your mother, father, grandparents, and great-grandparents ate, too.
The mechanisms of behavioral epigenetics (a study of how signals from the environment trigger molecular biological changes that modify what goes on in brain cells) underlie not only deficits and weaknesses but strengths and resiliencies too.
Histones, DNA and… Nature!
Research reveals that environments can increase or reduce our stress, which in turn impacts our bodies, minds and our relationships with others. The stress of an unpleasant environment can cause you to feel anxious, sad, disconnected or fearful. This, in turn, elevates your blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension and suppresses your immune system. A pleasant environment reverses that.
That’s why the decisions we make regarding our daily life choices – what and how we eat, where and how we spend most of our time, our self-talk and how we relate to others – has profound effects not only in ourselves but in all of the humanity. What you are seeing, hearing, experiencing at any moment is changing not only your mood, but how your nervous, endocrine, and immune systems are working, and also the information that is passed into your DNA.
Studies that used MRI to measure brain activity showed that when participants viewed nature scenes, the areas of the brain associated with empathy and love “light-up”, but when they viewed urban scenes, the areas of the brain associated with fear and anxiety were activated. These results contribute for the premise that nature inspires feelings that connect us to each other and our environment.