I’m going to show you 9 reasons why, no matter who you are or what you want to improve, meditation is a must. You are the instrument for performing your skill, sport or profession and you are also the obstacle in the way. Meditation trains your inner awareness to align with the optimal performance state we call the flow state. In Flow, we are dissolved into the action of the task at hand, our focus, concentration is at its peak of performance and fear and self-doubt are nowhere to be seen. The obstacle is away.
An in-depth study carried out by Fadel Zeidan Ph.D. on meditation found “strong evidence for the idea that we may be able to modify our own minds to improve cognitive processing - most importantly in the ability to sustain attention and vigilance”. “The profound improvements that we found after just 4 days of meditation training are really surprising… It goes to show that the mind is easily changeable and highly influenced, especially by meditation.” This changeable is called neuroplasticity “the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury”
“Meditation is the process whereby we gain control over the mind and guide it in a more virtuous direction. Meditation may be thought of as a technique by which we diminish the force of old thoughts habits and develop new ones” - Dalai Lama
THE 9 MEDITATION MOLECULES
Let’s discuss in a little detail a few specific neurotransmitters and hormones that are produced during consistent Meditation practice. My aim here is to underline the importance of recovery and using Meditation to accelerate this recovery. Simultaneously you will be developing self-awareness, which will dramatically assist your (struggle, release, flow state, and recovery) pre, post and flow state experiences. For example, imagine the struggle phase of the flow cycles as a darkened room. What you develop through meditation is like having a candle lit on the side that dark room.
Our “Joy Chemical” or “Bliss Molecule”. The word Anandamide comes from the Sanskrit word anada, which means “joy, bliss, delight” and amide is “an organic compound derived from ammonia” In the late 1980s interesting receptors were found in the brain for THC (tetra-hydro-cannabinol). THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Hence some Scientists call Anandamide, the “brain’s own marijuana”. So this will come to no surprise, that when this neurotransmitter is released and binds to the THC receptor we get a feeling of bliss, joyfulness.
The “happy neurotransmitters” affects our mood, social behaviour, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, sexual desire. Scientists from the University of Montreal has shown that meditation has a direct impact on the brain’s production of serotonin. Serotonin has shown to melt away stress and depression.
The “love hormone.” Actually, this love hormone is also a love neurotransmitter. Oxytocin occurs naturally and is produced by our hypothalamus. Stimulated during sex, nurturing, group flow, giving us an increased sense of empathy, trust, altruism and social bonding.
New Research from Duke University reported, "Oxytocin appears to be part of the way our bodies support spiritual beliefs." Lead author Patty Van Cappellen, a social psychologist at Duke said, "Spirituality and meditation have each been linked to health and well-being in previous research," Van Cappellen said. "We were interested in understanding biological factors that may enhance those spiritual experiences. "Oxytocin appears to be part of the way our bodies support spiritual beliefs."
Endo and Orphin; these are short forms of the words endogenous and morphine. "a morphine-like substance originating from within the body” This morphine-like neurotransmitter is a feel good, pain reliever, produced during orgasm, exercise, excitement, pain, spicy or hot food and meditation.
2003 Goteborg University in Sweden reported that endorphins triggered also during extreme relaxation.
The School of Behavioural Science at the James Cook University of North Queensland undertook a study on elite runners and trained meditators and relieved that both groups released Endorphins.
No, it’s not a tribute band for ABBA. GABA the “calm chemical” (gamma-aminobutyric acid) inhibitory neurotransmitters in your nervous system. Calming your nervous system down.
In 2010 Boston University of Medicine found a 27% increase in GABA through meditation. They found that meditation and mindful exercises were “more powerful than exercise”
An interesting similarity with people who are addicted to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, caffeine, and food. They all lack GABA.
Dehydroepiandrosterone is known as the “longevity molecule”. The counter-puncher to stress and one of the big guys when it comes to the body’s important hormones. Doctors measure DHEA levels to find a patient physiological “true age”. Dr. Vincent Giampapa M.D reported a finding of 43.77% more DHEA of patients who regularly meditate.
GH has an effect on both tissue repair and growth, plus a full mobilization. An imbalance of Gh will affect aging, weaken bones and muscles, increased body fat, moods, lack of motivation, fatigue and will affect the heart's contractions. Produced by your Pituitary gland GH is reported to begin to gradually deceased unless addressed by our 40s. And you guessed it, GH is naturally produced through deep meditation and sleep. When you’re in a Delta brainwave, deep sleep or deep meditation.
Known as the Sleeeeepppppp Molecule. So you guessed it again! Poor Melatonin production will dramatically affect your sleep, immune system and speed up the aging process. Poor sleep and immune system will seriously slow recovery from injuries and be in the Flow State. Oh, but wait! Researchers from Rutgers University found a 98% boost in Melatonin on average! And in many of the participants a massive 300% boost from people incorporating a consistent meditation practise.
Not to mistake it for nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas). Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator. When released it will relax the muscle fibers within the walls of the arteries stimulating blood flow and provides us with extra oxygen in oxygen-depleted environments. This “miracle molecule” has received a lot of attention due to its cardiovascular benefits. Cool story; Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Nobel Prize, was prescribed nitroglycerin by his Doc to help with his heart condition. Nobel was very skeptical, knowing that nitroglycerin was used in dynamite. Little did he know that nitroglycerin acts by releasing Nitric Oxide relaxing widening blood vessels, increasing oxygen and blood flow.
AND you guessed it, it is released during Meditation.
BYE BYE CORTISOL - The Reduction in Cortisol
Rutgers University reported a near to 50% reduction in cortisol levels with regular meditators. Cortisol is our number 1 stress hormone and is needed, BUT not to the extent that people produce. A chronic level of cortisol can lead to the breakdown in muscle and bone, the blocking of the creation of productive hormones. Leading to anxiety, depression, increased blood pressure, brain fog, insomnia, inflammation. Bottom line, too much cortisol is very bad for your health, let alone entering the flow state.
The Oxford dictionary definition of Meditation:
“Focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purpose or as a method of relaxation”
The Meditation technique Doctor Zeidan used with his subjects was “to focus on the changing sensations of breath and to follow the breath with the mind’s eye as it goes down the chest and abdomen” Your attention to this simple focused practise will allow you to let thoughts and emotions pass without judgment or shifting of attention.
Over the last 20 years I’ve been training people from all walks of life and in particular over the last 5 years I have found a giant leap in myself’s and in my clients’ performance by incorporating this specific meditation that not only triggers the 9 meditation molecules BUT also the 6 powerful neurotransmitters and hormones triggered in a flow state experience.
I teach a very simple 3 steps formula to trigger the flow state during meditation.
- Representational Systems
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Thanks for reading and keep in the flow,
University of North Carolina at Charlotte. (2010, April 19). Brief meditative exercise helps cognition. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 2, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100414184220.htm
Duke University. (2016, September 21). Oxytocin enhances spirituality: The biology of awe. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 1, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160921085458.htm
Meditation boosts endorphins. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.brainwave-research-institute.com/meditation-boosts-endorphins.html
ANANDAMIDE-THE JOY CHEMICAL. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.sohamhappinessprogram.com/anandamide-joy-chemical/
Goldberg, L. (n.d.). 6 Ways You Can Use Meditation To Balance Your Hormones. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-26895/6-ways-you-can-use-meditation-to-balance-your-hormones.html
How Meditation Boosts Melatonin, Serotonin, GABA, DHEA, Endorphins, Growth Hormone, & More. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/dhea_gaba_cortisol_hgh_melatonin_serotonin_endorphins/
Keim, B. (2017, October 31). NITRIC OXIDE IS ZEN: MOLECULE COULD EXPLAIN TIBETANS' HIGH-ALTITUDE EASE. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2007/10/nitric-oxide-is/
On Growth Hormone, Muscle Gain, And Recovery. (2014, September 18). Retrieved from https://efficientexercise.com/growth-hormone-muscle-gain-recovery/