THE MAGIC OF ENDORPHINS
Endorphins are considered the body’s natural feel-good hormones and are similar in structure to opiates like morphine. The word endorphin is a mix of two words, endogenous and morphine, which together means morphine from within (the body). We release endorphins during stress and as a response to pain. We also release endorphins during pleasurable activities like sex and exercise. The well-known ‘runner’s high’ is a result of endorphins.
When endorphins are produced, they can have a variety of effects on the body. Some of these include:
- Blocking pain
- Boosting mood
- Relieving stress
- Moderating appetite
- Enhancing the immune system
- Releasing sex hormones
If you’re low in endorphins you may have an appetite for fat and fatty foods, such as chips, cheese, creamy sauces, margarine, butter, fried chicken, crisps, and chocolate. Upon eating fat, you may tend to notice a change in mood, feeling more pleasure related to a higher concentration of endorphin.
You can experiment with different activities to increase your body’s endorphin levels:
- Certain foods, such as chilli peppers can lead to enhanced secretion of endorphins.
- Certain aromas can lift your mood by influencing the production of endorphins. For example, the endorphin-boosting benefits of vanilla. Light some vanilla-scented candles, or add vanilla essential oil to your bathwater.
- Ginseng may enhance the production of endorphins. Many long-distance runners and bodybuilders take ginseng to heighten physical endurance.
- Phenylethylamine, the same endorphin-boosting compound found in chocolate, is also produced by our brains when we fall in love.
- Listening to music that makes you feel joyful increases endorphins. Interestingly, one study found that country music was the best for endorphin boosting while heavy metal rock was the worst since it tended to leave listeners anxious.
- The best-known benefit of sun exposure is essential vitamin D formation, but the sun’s ultraviolet radiation also boosts endorphin production.
- Make time to play as it can reduce stress, exercise your brain, boost creativity, strengthen relationships, and make you feel younger. Spend time with a child or pet or get out your old board games, a deck of cards, or arts and crafts supplies.
- Taking a sauna is a traditional way to relax, detox, and socialize and now you can add increasing endorphins to the list. It’s believed that the heat from a sauna is responsible for this effect, so if you don’t have access to a sauna, taking a hot shower can also do the trick.
- A regular meditation practice reduces the stress hormone cortisol while increasing endorphins. Moving meditations like tai chi, Pilates and yoga can also trigger endorphin release.
- Emotional tears shed stress hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress and studies now suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins.
- When you breathe at the rate of six breaths per minute your heart and breath become synchronized. Breathe in from your belly for 5 seconds and then exhale out for 5 seconds. Do this for one minute. This sends a signal to the brain to release endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine.
- The healing touch of massage can reduce stress hormone levels while increasing levels of endorphins and serotonin.
- Acupuncture causes the brain to release endorphins.
- The rhythm of continuous exercise releases endorphins and encourages reflective thought. Workouts that are most likely to bring an endorphin release are weightlifting, biking, running, aerobics, football, soccer, or bicycling.