Have you tried standing on a slackline? It takes just the right amount of micro-movements to keep you from falling over.
If your leg is too high, you may need to balance it with your arm, and each body movement has a corresponding action that keeps you balanced and upright.
Our bodies are kind of like that, too. Our cells are constantly regenerating, and the systems in our body are continually adapting to the surrounding circumstances. Mother Nature wisely designed our bodies to strive for balance at all times and to provide us with all the energy, vitality, and stamina we need.
For example, think of what happens when you go into a sauna. Our natural cooling system (sweating) kicks in to lower the body's temperature and keep it cool. If it didn't, we would quickly pass out.
But what happens when our systems get out of whack? What happens when we've been putting in too many long at the office or grabbing too many meals on the run?
Well, we get stressed! And over time, this chronic stress wreaks havoc on our health—especially when it comes to our hormones.
Here are six ways meditation can help balance your hormones and keep you feeling and operating at your optimal level:
1. Meditation keeps cortisol and adrenaline in check.
Thousands of years ago, if we were being chased by a saber-toothed tiger, our bodies would release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to give us an extra dose of strength and speed. This fight-or-flight reaction is hard-wired into our bodies so that we can defend ourselves or get away from danger. Once the danger has passed, our levels return to normal.
But today, this same hormonal reaction can be triggered by several different (and less severe) circumstances, such as a car alarm, our boss dropping a last-minute assignment on our desk, or screaming kids in the kitchen.
There may not be any man-eating beasts in the area, but there are countless situations in today's world that are going to keep you stimulated and dump those stress hormones into your system.
When this happens, adrenaline works to increase your heart rate and blood pressure, while cortisol increases the sugar in your bloodstream, lowers your immune system, and suppresses your digestion. This all stresses your body out and undermines your health.
But when you meditate, you lower cortisol and adrenaline levels in your body and normalize your blood pressure and your heart rate. It's like the antidote to the stresses of the modern world!
2. Meditation improves your mood with serotonin and oxytocin.
Meditation releases those "feel good" hormones like serotonin and oxytocin. Serotonin is responsible for maintaining mood balance and is commonly used in many of the antidepressants available. But our bodies actually manufacture this hormone on their own when we meditate.
Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, increases our bonding, romantic attachments, and levels of empathy. Therefore, meditation allows you to feel more love and relate better to the people in your life!
3. Meditation increases your melatonin levels, helping you sleep better.
Melatonin is a hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycles, and your body has its own internal clock that controls how much is produced.
When we are stressed out, our melatonin levels decrease. This is why it's harder to sleep when we're stressed out. Fortunately, we can increase our melatonin production with meditation and get that badly needed shut-eye.
4. Meditation improves focus and concentration by increasing dopamine.
Dopamine is a hormone that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. It acts like an information filter that can help our brains get ready for peak performance. Dopamine also improves our memory, our attention, and our ability to solve problems—all pretty important stuff!
If you want to improve this area of your life, you can help your body increase its dopamine levels by meditating regularly.
5. Meditation keeps you young by increasing DHEA and insulinlike growth factor.
Whoa, that's a mouthful! Simply put, these hormones play an important role in stress and aging, and—you guessed it—when we get stressed out, they decrease.
Not only can these hormones help reduce inflammation and restore the body, but they also help reduce cellular aging. When we meditate, we release hormones that help us counter the effects of stress and help you reduce your risk of early mortality.
6. Meditation balances your sex hormones.
Ever notice how your libido becomes nonexistent when you are stressed out? The last thing on your mind is an intimate evening for two. That's because your body thinks it's in danger (remember that saber-toothed tiger?) and has shifted from procreation to survival mode. It revs up the cortisol and changes your sex hormone production. Meditation lowers your cortisol levels and gets you back in the mood!
Ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.