Will Meditation Make Us Happy?

 

Recently, I put my meditation practice on the back burner for a few consecutive days...I had so much to do!

I felt full of angst and generally blah. Once I finally sat down to get quiet and meditate - I came out glowing.

I said to my partner later, "It's amazing that I forget sometimes...meditation just makes me feel significantly happier!"

Sure, I want to be happier. Do you think that's possible?

I'm not talking about the circumstance or how I express myself — I'm talking about feeling a sense of contentment and wonder throughout life. 

If you also think you could be happier — then you wont be alone. In fact, you'll be joined by most of the world's population. 

If you think you're already happy all of the time, then you probably see no need to become happier and there's no need to read more!

But for me, an emerging sense of presence reveals that not everything is a big deal ... more "happy" potential. I've found so many reasons why meditation softens troubles, no matter what they are.

I'm sure you have to! 

 

The Brain's Happy Center

Meditation grows the brain’s “happy” center, the left prefrontal cortex. It's seen as the "holy grail" for mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. 

Dr. Sara Lazar of Harvard discovered that meditators had much more neural density, gray matter thickness, and activity in their happy center. She also found that the more practice, the bigger it was.

Yup. Yogis, the neuroscience community, and the psychological researchers all agree — the more we meditate, the more significant the brain changes that reflect stability, resilience, empathy and presence. 

Actually, the potential is there all along, as is your true self. Practicing meditation is to root out mental conflicts — one's we see and one's we don't see. These conflicts are the things that prevent us from having an experience that some call joy, bliss and so many other names that don't do justice.

 

The Brain's Resting Place

Stress is the new biological clock. With such stimulation and they way we get lost in our minds...it's becoming more and more important for us to create the conditions for our brains to get to a resting place.

Harvard University physician Herbert Benson coined the term "relaxation response" when he proved that meditation simultaneously activates the “cool and calm” parasympathetic nervous system and deactivates the "fight or flight" stress mode. 

He discovered that with practice — people were generating their own relaxation response more and more easily.  He saw meditation reverse countless health issues.

"Everything is so difficult," you say?

You probably get some relaxation in the day — but can you imagine if that was baseline for your brain?

In spring, hundreds of flowers; in autumn, a harvest moon;
In summer, a refreshing breeze; in winter, the snow will accompany you.

If useless things do not hang in your mind,
Any season is good for you.
— zen flesh, zen bones

The Brain's Alchemical Factory

Your brain has a factory of it's very own, making, mixing and using chemicals {hormones} that help make you feel happy and good. Meditation has been shown to cause the factory to get to work producing these important building blocks. 

1. GABA

Known as "the calm chemical," this hormone plays a role in our mood. Studies show that low gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) correlates with anxiety, nervousness, sleeplessness, and addictions. Psychiatrists at the Boston University School of Medicine found a 27% increase in GABA after meditation. 

Visiting this soothing state every day during meditation can melt away any anxiety.

2. Melatonin

Since the beginning of time, our inner clocks have been dictated by Earth’s natural cycles of light and dark. It's really only in recent decades that we've become tuned into technology 24 hours a day - from trying to stare at the screen all day to the 3am bathroom inbox-refresh.

Melatonin is necessary for deep, regenerative sleep, it helps ADD, regulates healthy menstrual cycles, helps PMS, and increases production of cells in bone marrow.  It also counters chemotherapy side effects, it's good for weight loss, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, headaches, IBS, and more.

Rutgers University researchers discovered that melatonin levels for meditators were boosted by an average of 98%.

Meditation could be the much needed biological re-balancing tool.

3. Serotonin

This powerful chemical plays a role in mood regulation. Low serotonin is associated with depression and lots of fear. We all have fear and I don't think serotonin is necessarily the cure - but we can help ourselves to the serotonin made and released during meditation.

What also happens during meditation is the building of awareness around our thoughts, feelings and mood. So as if a gift from nature, when we meditate we're able to have more self-induced mood changes - which in turn produces even more serotonin for the factory. 

Meditation has been proven to naturally fill the brain with many others including DHEA, Norepinephrine, Dopamine and more. At the same time it cleans out other ones like Cortisol, the stress hormone. 

Since meditation has no side effects or cost, it's a monumental, in-house solution to helping our brains get happier.

 

And Beyond

As we practice meditation, it helps us assign the proper value to things in our life — it just happens as we practice. We grow in our discerning mind and we're able to fully enjoy the stuff of life that makes us happy - AND we don't loose our happiness when these things aren't there.

We learn to not assign the wrong value to objects of the world — a concept discussed in the yogic philosophy.

Take for instance, a child playing with a balloon. He places his entire happiness on the balloon, and when it floats away - so too does his happiness. He has a melt down.

On the other hand, and adult playing with the balloon can assign the proper value, a play thing. And when it floats away, it doesn't affect his overall happiness. 

We do the child-like version all the time without realizing it.

Through meditation we touch the place in ourselves that speaks to the fundamental problem of underlying unhappiness. 

The fact that we could be happier is great because it keeps us rising to higher levels of understanding, right?

As we practice, we gain presence.

As presence and beingness comes in more and more, EACH OF US can enjoy more contentment and happiness in daily life —even when times are blah, or worse.

Everyone has that potential, and this is the promise of meditation. 

Keep practicing.

 

With Love,

Lauren