Know your GABA

When we first meet (and usually within the first 5 minutes) you’ll likely find me talking about the 3 P’s – Positive Activity, Positive Thought and Positive Interaction.

I use these in session to help clients see all the great things that they are already doing and how their solutions will help them in the future by giving them a natural boost of neurotransmitters.

Of course there is a good reason we discuss neurotransmitters, and especially when talking about anxiety – but we often stick to the headline grabbing Serotonin. We know that for example serotonin helps regulate our moods and and makes us feel valued etc. With a slightly deeper look many people have also come across dopamine, oxytocin and of course endorphins – All of which play in important role and are sometimes dubbed ‘happy chemicals’. Less widely know though is GABA,

γ-Aminobutyric acid , also known as Gamma-Aminobutyric acid or GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter helping us mammals to fine tune (inhibit or excite) our chemical responses. Recent studies[1] have shown that people who suffer from depression (low mood) or anxiety have lower levels of GABA. There are also some small studies testing the theory that ‘yoga-based’ practices can increase GABA by stimulating the vagus nerve[2]. Interestingly in hypnotherapy and indeed many meditative practices such as mindfulness we see how actions such as our breathing can help stimulate the para-sympathetic nervous system and help to increase vagal tone[3].

Perhaps it is time to refine a breathing technique that optimises ventilation, gas exchange and arterial oxygenation, maximises vagal tone, maintains parasympathetic–sympathetic balance and optimises the amount of cardiorespiratory reserve that could be called upon in times of intense physical or mental stress or activity.[3]

With practice then we can increase vagal tone. This helps use regulate our responses to ‘stressors’ and in many cases means that rather than rather our ‘fight, flight or freeze’ mechanisms kicking in we are able to negotiate difficulties – Hopefully giving us a more thought out and happier result.

So, next time someone like me brings up neurotransmitters increase your serotonin by surprising us with your knowledge of GABA.



The Footnotes bit –

1. –Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study

2. – Effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and allostasis in epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder –

3. – The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human –


Ben Gaskell  is a Clinical Hypnotherapist working with clients who suffer from anxiety, stress, low mood and phobias. Based at The Remedy Lounge, Central Manchester and the Stretford area of Greater Manchester he serves the local and surrounding areas of Urmston, Didsbury, Sale, Chorlton, Hale, Altrincham and Trafford. Further details can be found on ‘getting here’ or my ‘contact’ page. For more information on how Ben at Greater Manchester Hypnotherapy can help you please call 07756 932 702 or email [email protected].