It is July! We are over half-way through 2017 and in the Southern Hemisphere we have passed the shortest day. Yay!
For those of you in the North, the longest day of summer has already been. Where-ever you are in the world we hope that your personal journey of learning, growing and progressing toward wellbeing, is going well!
Pauline has recently returned to New Zealand from Austria where she taught two seminars; the first, on the exciting topic of Epigenetics and the other, a condensed Insight Focused Therapy course. Pauline reports that the atmosphere was fantastic as people enjoyed the learning experience and also the wonderful natural surroundings of the Austrian mountains.
For those of you who may have heard of epigenetics but don’t really know what it is or why it’s relevant to our daily health routines, the following is a brief overview:
Our DNA which contains our genes is often regarded as the code our bodies use as a blueprint to build and rebuild from. Genes themselves, however, need instructions for what to do, and where and when to do it. This brings us to the epigenetic process.
Epigenetic ‘tags’ provide the instructions. These tags are made of chemicals that attach to the DNA forming an epigenetic layer (above the DNA strands). They serve to switch genes on and off, to allow the gene to be expressed or repressed. All genetic expression is epigenetically activated. Scientists are still exploring the ways in which developmental cues trigger activation.
In addition to the developmental process, an intergenerational inheritance of specific epigenetic tags sometimes occurs. It is thought to be an adaptive/survival phenomenon that attempts to prepare subsequent generations for the conditions their ancestors were experiencing.
There are times when this provision is not helpful, however, e. g. if our ancestor was living in famine conditions and we are not. The epigenetic tags signal our genes to cause us to store fat excessively as though we too are experiencing famine conditions and this will often lead to obesity.
Although this may seem rather frightening, there is some good news. Our epigenetic destiny is not ‘written in permanent ink’.
Tanzi and Chopra write, “Only 5% of disease-related gene mutations are fully deterministic, while 95% can be influenced by diet, behaviour, and other environmental conditions. Current models of well-being largely ignore genes, yet studies have shown that a program of positive lifestyle changes alter 4,000 to 5,000 different gene activities.”
We are not merely the sum total of the genes we have been born with!
We have the power to follow our own path toward well-being by modifying our external and internal environments by deliberate lifestyle choices.
We are the directors and users of our genes and to a large extent, the authors of our own biological destiny.
No prospect in self-care is more exciting.