Meditation is an important medication for bipolar disease for some simple reasons. Since it is a disease of the mind, efforts at calming the mind and mastering it will produce results that are quite impressive. Meditation is an art. There are many definitions for it but the most basic definition is that it is a process of training the mind to induce a mode of consciousness, with the purpose to achieve a particular mental or physical effect or to get the mind to simply acknowledge its content. Meditational practices can be very broad, depending on the purpose of the meditation, but the results are almost always similar. The techniques and practices are designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy and promote physical well-being.
Even though meditation is mostly associated with mysticism, physicians have found that it can be just as effective, if not more, against the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and can provide a calming effect without the use of drugs.
Natural serotonin boost
The brain is made of billions of cells, and most of these cells are directly affected by the chemical serotonin. In fact, it is regarded as the most important brain chemical for bipolar disorder sufferers. This is because of its function. Serotonin deficiencies in the brain result in unchecked stress levels, which is the prime cause of depression. The depression comes because as a result of the stress, the brain is unable to create new brain cells. The second leading reason for the non-creation of new brain cells in old age. Meditation directly boosts serotonin to high levels in the brain, and this is backed up by a number of studies. The bipolar community is unanimous on the potency of meditation to produce serotonin for the brain. More importantly, it is a natural process, and therefore there are absolutely no side effects to the patient. Meditation’s powerful neuron bathing effect makes the brain incredibly resilient to the effects of stress, installing a permanently effective bipolar shield that smoothens out the mania and deactivates the depression at the same time.
Endorphin and Dopamine management
A bipolar brain has serious trouble managing the flow and ebb of feel-good chemicals in the brain like endorphine and dopamine. It is not able to handle the fluctuating effects of these. The best way to treat this problem is meditation. In endorphin and dopamine management, meditation has been found by several studies to be even more effective than regular medication and running. So in the same way that a generally sedentary person would not be able to simply get up and run a marathon, the bipolar brain is not able to properly manage these feel-good chemical fluctuations. What meditation does is to provide a way for these chemicals to be introduced to the brain in much gentler portions, such that the brain is more resilient because of it, and is able to then withstand these flows and ebbs without a manic breakdown, hyperactivity or depression.
A calming effect on the Amygdala
There is a structure in the human brain called the amygdala. It is our oldest brain and is responsible for the most primal of reactions. It has no ability to process things logically, and will instantaneously act in self-defense before other parts of the brain have had a chance to analyze a situation for being a danger or just a prank for instance.
The amygdala is our primary fight or flight responder, and in order for it to be effective in saving us from danger, it has to be lightning fast – no time to think. The amygdala was most valuable for the caveman, in the days when man lived in the wild, and a millisecond delay could mean the difference between death and life. The amygdala was finely developed then.
In the present day, we don’t live in fear of being chased down by a lion or a bear, and so the amygdala, the brain’s most developed danger sensing structure, now perceives things like relationship problems, financial issues or university deadlines as real life or death situations. The result of that our brains become stressed over long periods because of the defective response of the amygdala to non-threating scenarios. The body, in response, produces a harmful chemical cocktail of stress hormones that expose us to a variety of mental and physical health risks, chief of which is bipolar disorder.
What then can quiet the endlessly agitated amygdala and slow down the production of these stress hormones, especially in bipolar brains? Meditation.
Dr. Sara Lazar, a Harvard neuroscientist studied bipolar disorder patients before and after an 8-week meditation and mindfulness exercise. At the end of the period, not only had they managed to drastically reduce the activity of the amygdala, they had also caused it to physically shrink, and reported all the signs of a calmer brain in only 8 weeks. The consequences of this study are definitely important. It has shown that meditation effectively provides a formidable shield against bipolar disease.
These few examples of the potency of meditation against bipolar disorder are only a few out of many. Meditation is one process that is widely agreed upon by physicians and practitioners in mental health as a very effective practice against bipolar disorder.