The fast-paced, hectic world we live in is fraught with situations that can cause us to feel an unhealthy amount of stress. This stress sometimes develops into, or manifests itself as, worries and fears and then depression. The stress of our lives can quickly snowball out of control leaving us feeling awful.
You may find comfort in knowing that you can ease feelings of anxiety as well as pick yourself up out of depression by understanding your worries and fears and taking action to get to the root of them. One of the most effective natural methods to easing depression and anxiety is the use of meditation.
Meditation is a basic self-help technique that relieves stress, relaxes your body, and calms your mind. An added bonus is that it can also get you in better touch with yourself.
Starting Out With Meditation
There are different ways you can approach a meditative practice. You can start by just picking a time each day when you can calm be alone without distractions – whenever it can work out for you.
It also might be when you get into bed at night. Begin your meditation by taking deep breaths and focusing only on each breath as it goes in and out.
On a particularly stressful day, you might have more difficulty focusing on your breath. The thoughts of whatever is stressing you may creep into your mind. When this happens, acknowledge the thought and then go back to concentrating on your breath.
Eventually, you’ll feel your mind grow calm. Many people choose guided meditations. The beauty of meditation is that the more you do it, the better you get.
See How to Meditate for details.
6 Key Hormones that are Helped by Meditation
Meditation works by aiding many of the feel-good chemicals our bodies produce naturally. Here we will cover 6 chemicals that are positively impacted through meditation.
Cortisol is a stress chemical. While it is particularly useful to us to keep energy up and to handle stressful situations, too much can be incredibly damaging causing anxiety. When we are under chronic stress, our bodies pump out more and more cortisol. Fortunately, meditation lowers cortisol production. In one study, participants experienced an almost fifty percent reduction in cortisol levels after meditating for a few weeks.
Serotonin is known to impact our mood and overall feeling of wellbeing. It is scientifically-proven that meditation (and mindfulness) helps us to produce more serotonin.
GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) is one of the most important chemicals your body produces for helping you to feel calm. It works by inhibiting nerve transmission to the brain, calming the person. Not having enough GABA is problematic and can cause anxiety, racing thoughts, nervousness and insomnia. People with addictions typically have low GABA.
Meditation increases the production of GABA. In one study, participants experienced a 27% increase in GABA levels after 60 minutes of meditation.
DHEA is one of the most important hormones in our bodies responsible for helping us handle stress and stay youthful. Many people with depression have lower levels of DHEA. The good news is that meditation boosts DHEA.
Melatonin is key for good sleep. Our bodies begin to produce melatonin in the evening time signaling to our bodies that it is time to get sleepy. One study demonstrated that meditators have better melatonin production.
6. Growth Hormone
Growth hormone declines as we age resulting in poor mood, fatigue and a general lack of motivation. The delta waves experienced during deep meditation (and deep sleep) help to increase growth hormone production.
Maintaining Your Practice
Many people begin to feel better, even if it’s in just small ways, right away. Meditating is a practice. It is something that works only if you do it regularly. Dedicate a time of each day where you can meditate. Even if it is just 5 – 10 minutes, it can make a difference.
With regular practice, you’ll be able to (and will want to) expand the amounts of time that you stay in the present. You will notice that the way in which you react to stress and the way you feel begins to change.
Try keeping a journal to record your feelings in after you begin your meditation practice. This can be helpful to note progress and see how your mood begins to change.
When Meditation Isn’t Enough
Although meditating can go a long way toward easing your feelings of anxiety, sometimes meditation practice alone may not be your complete solution. In these situations, don’t hesitate to ask for help from a professional. Be proactive about creating a life free from depression and anxiety.