Meditate... and Get Happy!
It's always amazing to me to watch a yoga class come in stressed and harried... and then watch them leave an hour later, relaxed, lighter, and happier.
It's also amazing that recent studies have shown that the happiness bump you get from yoga and meditation lasts days... or even week!
And why does it have such a lasting effect?
Because it literally changes the structure of your brain!
In a study by Harvard Psychology professor Sara Lazar, researchers scanned the brains of people practicing yoga over the stretch of a few months.
What they found was this: Yoga actually shrinks the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that handles worry and stress.
So when the amygdala shrinks, your stress shrinks too. And when you're less stressed, you're happier.
A study done at UC Davis called the Shamatha Project found that yoga and meditation drastically reduced the amount of cortisol in the participants' systems. Cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone.”
Lower cortisol equals lower stress equals (you guessed it!) more "happy."
The Calm Side of the Brain
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin ran two groups of highly stressed people through an 8-week meditation program. Some of the group completed it, while the other portion did not.
At the end of the study, they scanned each person's brain. They were surprised to find that those who'd completed the program had much more activity in the left prefrontal cortex. Among other things, the prefrontal cortex is where calmness and happiness are generated.
Better than Pills
A study done at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that in people with high levels of anxiety, meditation produced results that were akin—and sometimes better than—prescription antidepressants.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. Whereas drinking a sugary drink gives you a short boost in mood—it's not only terrible for you, the crash afterward leaves you feeling worse than before.
Meditation and yoga, though, produce a lasting happiness that's not just emotional. No, it's also physical.
So, if you're feeling down, go do some yoga. Or find someplace peaceful to meditate.
And if you're already pretty happy today, then go do some yoga or meditate, and ride that wave of happiness for months into the future!