Meditation is the practice of using specific mind-body techniques for spiritual and physical benefits. The earliest recording of meditative practices comes from the Vedic scriptures in India, dating back to around 1500 BCE. Through various methods like mantra, chanting, mindful observation, focused attention, and visualization, the goal is to achieve greater self-awareness, emotional balance, and a clearer mind.
But can meditation also have an effect on hormones? In the last few years, modern science has tried to understand the physiological impacts of meditation and whether hormonal balance is one of the benefits.
Hormones are silent but mighty messengers that affect every mind and body function. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone help regulate reproduction, and testosterone helps develop male features. But these are only three of many other hormones in the body that work behind the scenes to optimize bodily function.
Hormones naturally decrease due to age but also from stress and lifestyle choices. Cortisol, the stress hormone, helps in tense situations, but if someone lives with elevated levels, it can cause chronic symptoms.
Lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking too much, and eating an unhealthy diet can also affect hormones. Add in aging, and your hormones are bound to be low. It then becomes necessary for people with a hormonal imbalance to find a solution, such as meditation.
Meditation has grown in popularity in modern wellness practices. It has launched many different apps to help bring meditation even further into everyday life. There are different kinds of meditation, but there are three well-known types of meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is quieting the mind to only focus on the present moment. The practitioner observes emotions, sensations, and thoughts as they arise without becoming attached or carried away. It can be practiced while walking, sitting, eating, or even in daily activities. Mindfulness meditation brings self-awareness, reduces stress, and enhances self-acceptance and forgiveness.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) involves repeating a specific mantra to help achieve a state of restful alertness and to help quiet the mind. People sit with closed eyes and repeat the mantra to produce inner stillness and deep relaxation. The practice is simple and accessible, making it popular for stress reduction and increased focus.
Known as the Metta meditation, the Loving-kindness meditation focuses on eliciting love and compassion towards oneself and others. Practitioners repeat positive affirmations or phrases expressing goodwill towards themselves, others, and even those who have harmed them. The idea is to foster empathy, reduce negative emotions, and promote a sense of interconnectedness.
High cortisol levels lead to chronic stress symptoms like insomnia, weight gain, depression, and more. Studies show that meditation can reduce cortisol and bring about a sense of well-being.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. An imbalance of serotonin is linked to anxiety and depression. Meditation has been shown to boost serotonin levels in the body, leading to a more profound sense of happiness.
Melatonin is the sleep hormone that regulates the circadian rhythm. The production of melatonin is regulated by light. As darkness descends, levels of this hormone increase and then decrease as dawn approaches. If there is an imbalance, the sleep-wake cycle is impacted. Meditation practices can boost melatonin levels and improve sleep quality.
Endorphins are natural painkillers that promote feelings of well-being. Decreased levels of endorphins make feeling happier complex, and studies show that meditation helps to release the happy hormone.
DHEA, or the aging hormone, can slow down aging. Considered the father of all hormones, it's produced in the adrenal glands, and some of these hormones help to create other hormones like testosterone in the body. Meditation may increase DHEA, resulting in feeling more vigorous and younger. You can also supplement with DHEA and is available in non-prescription form online.
Human Growth Hormone, or HGH, comes from the pituitary gland at the brain's base. HGH helps regulate growth, regeneration, and cell production. Meditation facilitates its secretion and produces positive anti-aging effects all over the body.
Meditation, while seemingly a simple concept, can be a difficult practice to start and sustain. It takes daily dedication and a willingness to be uncomfortable. However, the practice is free, and only a few minutes per day are needed before seeing the benefits of meditation. There are two main ways of meditation: guided meditation and solo practice.
Guided meditation involves listening to a podcast or person who "guides" you through imagery and relaxation through a story or soothing images. In a sense, you're carried away into relaxing and repetitive mindfulness without having to hold onto anything. The most popular app that does this is the Headspace app. You can find more information about meditation and take advantage of all their podcasts. Sometimes Headspace will also be included with other subscription services like Netflix.
The solo practice has the same effect, but rather than being in-tangent with someone or a meditation app, you're alone in your journey in a quiet space and taking yourself down the path of meditation. Both choices can involve mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, or loving-kindness meditation.
It's essential to have patience and make a commitment to the practice of meditation because the benefits come over time. Meditation may not bring immediate reward, so giving yourself time and permission to fail are keys to success. The benefits of meditation will accumulate over time.
Meditation has a profound influence on hormonal balance. It can bring about a deep sense of well-being and happiness due to its hormone-generating influence. Essential hormones like cortisol, melatonin, DHEA, and others can be increased through daily meditation. It's also necessary to incorporate healthy lifestyle choices like daily exercise and a diet full of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and protein. Together with meditation may be the best treatment you can find for increasing hormones.