The science behind the benefits of meditation

Meditation is thousands of years old and there are now numerous of studies and research that show it helps reduce stress and calm the body and mind. Here’s the science [1] behind what happens in our bodies when we meditate and how it reduces stress and helps us feel better. 

I find it amazing really and I guess it’s why I keep up with my daily practice! 

Serotonin production increases and this neurotransmitter (referred to as the Happy neurotransmitter) is a crucial chemical in our brains that has a profound impact on our moods. The more we are producing, the better our mood. Meditation replenishes our serotonin levels and paves the way for the production of new brain cells making us happier and healthier. 

Cortisol or the stress hormone is reduced with meditation. When our bodies are stressed, we produce cortisol and adrenaline and this normal. But, too much of these chemicals and too often, tears the body down, destroys healthy muscle and bone, blocks the creation of good hormones and all this leads to anxiety, depression, increased blood pressure, brain fog, insomnia, inflammation and more. Doing what we can to reduce overproduction of this cocktail is crucial for our overall health. Scientists has discovered a powerful connection between mindfulness and the reduction of cortisol even within a few weeks of a regular meditation practice. One study at Rutgers University showed a 50% decrease in cortisol levels from the meditators. 

The longevity molecule or DHEA which also combats stress is one of the most important hormones in our bodies. As we get older, our DHEA levels decrease which increases our chances of disease and accelerated aging. Meditations is shown to increase our DHEA and in one study by Dr. Vincent Giampapa M.D. meditation practitioners had a 43% more DHEA than non-practitioners.  

GABA best known for making us feel calm is increased with meditation. A lack of this chemical leads to problems including anxiety, nervousness, racing thoughts and sleeplessness. Research by the Psychiatrist at the Boston University of Medicine found a 27% increase in GABA levels after 60 minutes of mindful exercises which was more effective than physical exercise. 

The increase of endorphins during meditation

Endorphins are increased with meditation. Endorphins also known as the ‘natural high’ are the category of neurotransmitters that the body uses as an internal pain killer. They are responsible for the sense of happiness we can feel and what a jogger refers to as the ‘runners high’ after a long jog. 

Meditation boosts our growth hormone. As we age, our body’s supply diminishes and we experience the weaker bones and muscles, increase body fat, poor heart contractions, bad moods and lack of motivation and fatigue. 

When our brains are in the ‘delta’ state, the growth hormone is released the most. The delta brainwave frequency is found during a meditative state and during deepest stage of sleep. Meditators have naturally elevated growth hormone levels.  True Rest meditations are aimed at guiding your body into the delta state while your mind stays aware and in the present moment thereby offering the benefits of deep sleep.

Meditation also boosts melatonin – the sleep molecule. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland and peaks in our blood stream just before bed. This powerful hormone is known to prevent cancer, strengthen our immune system, slow down aging is and linked to helping to prevent numerous diseases. Studies show meditators had an increase of melatonin by an average of 98% and some by 300%. 

In a nutshell, this is what goes on in our bodies during meditation and over the longer term of being a regular meditator. Sounds pretty good for a practice which can be 10 – 20 minutes a day! 

With gratitude, Theresa

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