There are various forms of Yoga and meditation practiced across the world since the time of Patanjali, known as the father of Yoga. There is more and more scientific evidence about the positive effects of meditation on overall health, especially mental health.
Having said that, how does meditation help with anxiety and mood disorders? To answer that question, first we must understand the role of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers in the brain. They transmit impulse from one nerve fiber to the other or from nerve fiber to a muscle fiber. Hence, they play a vital role in mental and physical processes. Even though we do not know the exact origin of thoughts, it is safe to believe that these neurotransmitters do impact the inherent nature of the thoughts.
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There are various neurotransmitters with specific function, however there are some which have been studied and measured in relation to meditation. Decrease in Gamma – aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity may increase anxiety levels. Special brain scans called positron emission tomography (PET) scans of Buddhist meditators have shown increased blood flow in the front part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) that is involved in decision-making and problem-solving, which in turn increases the GABA levels thereby decreasing anxiety and facilitating calm state of mind. Another neurotransmitter called Serotonin is linked with anxiety and depression when its levels are low. Meditation can produce more Serotonin, thereby decreasing anxiety and improving mood. On the other hand, increase in Norepinephrine levels can increase anxiety and as expected, meditation decreases Norepinephrine levels. Similarly, meditation helps in increasing Dopamine and Melatonin levels which in turn can reduce anxiety. Interestingly, commonly used medications to treat anxiety and depression promote similar changes in some of these neurotransmitter levels!
Therefore, incorporating meditation in daily routine may significantly enhance your mental health and quality of life. Let’s meditate and optimize the brain chemistry!
Reference: National Institute of Health article
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