Of course, the mind-blowing effects and profound healing generated from meditation is not as much of a surprise to those of us meditators who have already felt first hand the effects of meditation.
While spending much focus within the brain rewiring our thought processes, reprogramming our minds to live in peace, and learning to be able to witness the human experience objectively it is also balancing the brain’s physical functions such as serotonin production.
What Is Serotonin?
Serotonin is a powerful chemical and neurotransmitter, which helps the brain to relay messages from one region to another. Serotonin helps regulate emotions, sexual function and desires, memory and learning, appetite, and sleep.
Serotonin is partially derived from the essential amino acid tryptophan. Foods that are high in the amino acid tryptophan include nuts and seeds, chicken, soy or tofu, salmon, cheese, eggs, beans and lentils, and turkey.
It is commonly believed to be linked to creating our feelings of happiness and wellbeing. A low serotonin level is directly linked to depression.
How Does Meditation Increase Serotonin?
Many studies have been performed to show that meditation can actually increase serotonin levels. It also showed that regular meditators naturally have higher levels of serotonin than non-meditators.
In 2003 a medical hypothesis by Newberg AB, Iversen J., in the neural basis of the complex mental task of meditation: neurotransmitter and neurochemical considerations, showed that after the participants’ meditation sessions there was a rise in the breakdown products of serotonin. This means that more serotonin was produced and used within the body after meditation.
Another study in 1976 by Bujatti M, Biederer P., in the Journal of Neural Transmission, studied transcendental meditation-technique. They compared urine analysis of serotonin within transcendental meditators to a control group and found after 20 minutes of meditation there was a 50% increase of the 5-HIAA serotonin metabolite.
The results also showed that the experienced meditators had higher dosages prior to meditation as well. This shows that meditation can increase overall serotonin levels as well.
How To Start Boosting Serotonin
Luckily the most beautiful aspect of meditation is there is no end goal or comparison to another practice. This means there is no reason to judge oneself or a checklist that can tell you if you are doing it right or not.
The benefits of boosting serotonin can be found by living out meditative states as well such as practicing mindfulness.
To begin practicing meditation you can simply begin by following the rhythm of your breath, following this guided meditation to still the mind, or practicing pranayama. Pranayama is a practice of yoga that is to extend the breath which directly relates the way life force energy flows through us.
Now specifically in the study Bujatti M, Biederer P. performed they studied transcendental meditators, which is a specific form of meditation developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This meditation consists of working with a mantra given to you by a Transcendental Meditation teacher.
You then work with this mantra every day and peel back the layers “until its subtlest state is experienced and transcended” says Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The technique is not used to produce self-inquiry, but a specific state of awareness and relaxation.