The Gift of Meditation
Our brain is a complex network of moving parts, that all work together to make our bodies function, our mind think and our mood regulate.
We have 86 billion brain cells.There several chemicals that are responsible for making all of that wonderfulness work, including Serotonin (a feel-good chemical)- part of its job is to send signals from one brain cell to another (allowing for clear thinking).
Stress can reduce our serotonin levels, causing foggy head, feeling sluggish, & trouble thinking)
Our brain works in conjunction with the Sympathetic nervous system, also known as the old reptilian brain left over from dinosaur times. It was responsible long ago for being on the lookout for threat, such as a saber toothed tiger. The sympathetic nervous system would prepare our body for the fight or flight response…
- Blood runs to our arms & legs, our heart races
- Digestion slows down so that we can run from the threat of the saber tooth tiger
- Palms sweat
- We may even start to shake
- Stress chemical called cortisol rises and so does adrenaline
Then the the Paraympathetic nervous system would kick in and help the body to return to normal rhythm.
Even though we don’t have the same threats that we used to, our brains sense stress the same way as in dinosaur times…to our bodies, threat is threat…
Stress lights up our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), but now scientists know that there is also a freeze response…when we cannot move, or think or sometimes even feel.
Chronic stress is like body surfing on the ocean…being knocked by wave upon wave upon wave, until you can’t catch your breath.Your sympathetic nervous system remains activated. It stays at the ready- poised for threat. Your parasympathetic nervous system has more and more trouble calming your body down and returning it to a normat state.You feel:
- Easily startled
- Trouble sleeping.
- Stress chemicals like cortisol remain high
- Memory is affected
- Immune system has trouble fighting off illness.
Sound familiar? I can relate. Prior to Lyme Disease hitting my system, my life was a ball of non-stop, prove my worth, keep going, rest is a luxury, non-stop busy-ness.
After a time of consistent, chronic stress…
Your adrenal gland gets really tired:
- Cortisol levels get really low
- Serotonin levels drop
So you may feel:
- Trouble thinking
- Trouble making decisions
- Reactive (get upset easily)
- Trouble calming down when upset
I experienced all of these symptoms as warnings before my immune system couldn’t fight well anymore and Lyme Disease took over. So I did research on what would help.
A little more biology…The Vagus Nerve (vagus means wanderer in Latin)- which is part of the parasympathetic nervous system-runs through our entire body & calms us down.
Research has shown that there are amazing benefits of meditation and they found that it
bathes the brain feel good chemicals such as:
- Serotonin- the happy & calming chemical which allows those brain neurons to connect with one another much more easily so we think more clearly
- Oxytocin- the wonderful bonding chemical that mamas get when they hold their babies, that we get when we hug each other, that we get when we hold a pet… that wonderful, delicious bonding feeling
- Endorphins which people feel when they are on a runners high
Meditation also lights up your parasympathetic nervous system, which:
- Reduces heart rate
- Slows & deepens breathing
- Lowers anxious feelings
- Improves mood
- Lowers the fight or flight response
- Allows body to calm down more easily when startled or upset
- Helps you to sleep better
- Can Improve your immune system (so you fight off illness more easily)
Meditation can help you to feel…
- More connected to yourself
- More grounded
- Calmer in your day to day life
- Generally HAPPIER!