Meditation - You have the power.
Times are challenging; even the most upbeat, high-energy game changers, who let nothing get in their way, are finding it tough. With all that’s happening in the world right now, it’s taking some serious focus & effort to keep even the most motivated on track.
Factor into that the winter months, here in the northern hemisphere, with their long, dark evenings and grey winter skies, coupled with the volatile, unsettling political news coming in from around the world and the picture doesn’t look too pretty at all.
However, I’m not going to let this piece head into a pit of despair; Lord knows there’s enough of that around at the moment. There is good news and I’m heading straight there.
So let’s talk about dopamine and serotonin; two best friends that we’re about to get up close n’ personal with.
Essentially dopamine & serotonin are neuro-transmitters, chemical messengers, used by the nervous system to regulate countless functions and processes in your body; from sleep, to mood, to metabolism, to sex drive.
For this piece, I’m going to focus on depression and how these two vital chemicals can affect and boost your mood.
Now while both serotonin and dopamine will affect many of the same things, they will do so in slightly different ways. The key takeaway here is that they are both involved in depression, though to what extent, we are not yet sure.
Before we get started, let me be clear; depression is a complex issue with many layers to consider. I am not in any way underestimating the horrendous conditions that sufferers live with each day. What I am doing is offering an insight as to how you can begin to flip things around and move towards a better place.
Ok, let’s dive in and start with dopamine. I like to think of dopamine as the feel-good bliss chemical. It's the rush that kicks in when your team wins the Premiership. It’s the feeling you get when you nail that pitch that you’ve been working on for weeks. It’s the reward. The pat on the back. The "you've nailed it mate" chemical. It plays a huge part in motivation and reward.
In times like this, however, feel good, celebratory moments can be few and far between. Over a prolonged length of time, if you’re not getting that rush of dopamine, you’re going to start feeling the negative effects; even the most positive of you.
If levels of dopamine are too low, you will struggle with your mood. If left unchecked for too long, then you'll almost certainly start looking into the eye of a pretty gloomy tunnel.
The link between serotonin levels and depression is slightly more complicated.
Whilst low serotonin levels don't necessarily cause depression, increasing serotonin in conjunction with other treatments can help. Serotonin essentially is a mood stabiliser.
The main difference between the two, is that dopamine system dysfunction is linked to certain symptoms of depression, such as low motivation & sex drive. Serotonin affects how you process your emotions, which can affect your overall mood.
Some of the main symptoms of depression to look out for are:
loss of sex drive
loss of appetite
Considering the trauma & pain we’ve all faced this year, in some form or another, to steer clear of the path of depression, we all, and no-one is immune, need to put our mental health at the top of our to-do list. It has to be a priority.
The bottom line is that an imbalance in your levels of either dopamine or serotonin can have enormous effects on your mental health, digestion, and sleep cycle, among other areas. And whilst there are currently no clear ways to measure serotonin and dopamine levels, if they’re too low, you'll soon know about it.
So where does meditation come into all of this?
The good news is that science knows for certain, that within just a few minutes of meditating, we see an increased concentration of both serotonin and dopamine in the cortex region of the brain; this creates a rush of ‘happy’ chemicals that flood our system. This is one of the reasons we feel so good after our daily practice.
In just a few short minutes of meditation, we can flip the script on our day, improve our mood, and thereby affect every single encounter we have for the rest of that day.
And that’s just in the short term. Imagine what the knock-on effect of a daily practice is. If you’re priming your system to create a natural sense of feeling good; if you’re not relying on others to make you feel good or looking for it in ways that you possibly shouldn’t, you’re taking back control and literally changing your life and the way you make others feel around you.
Don’t get me wrong; not every day will be without its challenges; some more so than others. But it’s your mood and state of mind that will dictate how you respond to those challenges & thereby the quality of your day.
And so in conclusion, I say to find small ways every day to feel good. Meditate. Celebrate the small gains. Be grateful. Connect with loved ones. Make time to do something you love.
But whatever you do, do not wait. Do not play the “I’ll be happy when” game. Do not wait for something to celebrate or to get excited about. Instead find the good in every day, celebrate that and get those chemicals flowing.
You have the power. You always did.
To dive a little deeper and make some real, lasting, changes, Meditation - The Game Changer, our 10 modules online course, is ready for you now.