how burnout affects epigenetics
How Burnout affects Epigenetics
- Nov 19, 2020

In an online article published by James Baird (Baird 2020) he wrote about how our mind has the ability to control the genetic structure of our bodies. This means that we have the power to heal ourselves or make ourselves well. We have the power to succeed in life or to lose our dreams. We have the power to choose to live or die.


What is Epigenetics?

Epigenetics encourages the belief that problems caused by our behavioural genes can be fixed by our mind. Epigenetics demonstrates the power of the mind. The article by Baird referred to cases where participants in studies have shown that they have activated certain genes inherited by their parents and not others. This is a process termed genetic expression. This is pretty special because let’s say our mother/father has an academic gene and we want to work in academia, we have the ability to switch this on to get our perfect job. Likewise, we may not want to activate destructive genes that are pre-disposed to worry or depression.

This article was interesting to me as it referred to studies that illustrated how our thoughts and feelings are much more powerful than we often realize. In order for cells to respond positively, however, they must be given the right mental intervention and perceptual thought signals. The National Institute for Health (NIH 2020) division of Health and Human Services includes a National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). The NCCAM lists mindfulness, compassion focussed therapy and yoga among alternative therapies, and there is a growing awareness and evidence of their effectiveness. The correct cognitive training will have dramatic positive effects but it needs to be the right method that has been rigorously tested and proven to work – like mindfulness.





The Physical Impact

So, if we consider Burnout, the high levels of stress a person undergoes before they reach burnout has an enormous epigenetic effect. This has been linked to a whole host of epigenetic results like cancer, heart attack and stroke to name a few. However, what is sometimes overlooked is how much this affects performance. A person who is overstressed and overloaded is not likely to be switching on the natural achievement genes needed to progress in an exciting career. They are likely to be switching on other genes that activate conditions that are counterproductive.

Dr Brian Marien (You Tube 2020), founder of The Positive Group, is an expert in resilience. He refers to how exercise, social support and cognitive style can turn genes on or off. He was asked to talk for Action for Happiness in 2018 and in this talk, he demonstrated how our brain is hard-wired to look out for threats and has to be trained to see the positives in life. If we are always threat-focused then we are always going to be switching on genes that do not help us win at work. Dr Marien (you Tube 2020) promotes the use of working with a coach in this arena and has said how it is especially impactful working with an expert is in the field of mindfulness, positive psychology and compassion. Dr Marien confirmed that we have a greater chance of success in our career if we develop habits early as they make us resilient and success focussed.

One of the most proven steps we can take without seeking an expert to develop high-performance genetics to expand our mind. The best source of self-development at home is reading as it requires dedication, focus and is habit-forming. The best two books to develop positive habits that will lead any person to become more successful and resilient are Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (2020) and The Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck (2020). The most effective part of changing our lives is in the doing. If these books have not been read already then reading them and applying the learnings can be the start of a transformation in which genes you are switching on, which will translate into you having a happier and more successful life.



 Baird, J. (2020) Epigenetics And Well-Being [online] Available from <> [9 November 2020]

National Institutes Of Health (NIH) (2020) available from <> [9 November 2020]

The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People (2020) available from <> [9 November 2020]

The Growth Mindset – What Is Growth Mindset – Mindset Works (2020) available from <> [9 November 2020]

Youtube (2020) available from <> [9 November 2020]


Wellness and Mental Health

John Earls

Managing Director at The Heart Base. The Heart Base builds wellbeing cultures for organisations worldwide by offering the complete wellbeing programme that includes leadership coaching, resilience training, cultural change initiatives and physical health products.

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