Mood Reset: Science Behind How Yoga & Meditation Increase Happiness

Many people start (or continue) with yoga and meditation because it lifts their mood.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons I got hooked.  If you have a practice, or your curious about starting yoga and/or meditation, here’s some background I dug up on how it works

I’ve been prepping for my new e-course coming up this fall and reading A LOT of research.  It’s fun to read research and see what other people have found.  Most of the time, my life is my research; I try things out and see whether or not they work.  In this article I’m going to cover two things that effect mood and stress, and how you can shift the game in your favor.  Ready?

One of the major mood uplifting chemicals in the brain is serotonin.  There are two others (oxytocin and dopamine). Since it’s a short article, we’ll just focus on serotonin.  Serotonin levels fluctuate up and down depending on lifestyle choices such as exercise, thought patterns, nutrition, as well as genetics. When serotonin levels are up, we may feel like we can do anything.  We generally have a positive outlook.  We generally feel more confident.  When serotonin levels are low we might feel depressed, doubtful, anxious, and unmotivated. While we can’t change our genetics, we can make lifestyle choices to keep your serotonin levels up.

Yoga and meditation are high on the list, but what else? Exercise for sure (think runners high). CranioSacral Therapy and other forms of bodywork. Spending time in nature. Watching an uplifting video.  Connecting authentically with friends.  We also sometimes get a rush of serotonin when we take a risk or try something new. 

Besides the chemicals that effect how we feel the human brain has different compartments that contribute different feelings.  There’s the frontal lobe which is responsible for calming moods and there’s the amygdala which is responsible for fear based responses.  In the book Confidence Code (great read btw), research showed that meditation decreased the size of the amygdala and increased the activity in the frontal lobe.  I found this fascinating and I hope you do too!  That means when we’re meditating, we’re changing the brain in a measurable way.   While the study was specific to meditation, I believe that certain forms of yoga such as Kundalini Yoga, would generate similar results. 

This explains what I observed from my own practice— less fear, stress, anxiety, and more confidence, happiness, love, and peace.  Yes it’s possible!  Now I’d like to hear from you.  What benefits have you noticed from your yoga or meditation practice?