Endorphins. A buzzword typically associated with a feeling of wellbeing, vigour and pleasure. But what exactly are endorphins? Where do they come from and what do they do?
What are endorphins?
Simply speaking, endorphins are peptides produced by the pituitary gland, and in conjunction with the central nervous system, are released into the body following certain pleasurable events such as eating, laughter, sexual intercourse and so on. However, they are also released when your body experiences difficult situations such as mental or physical pain, emotional stress, strenuous exercise etc. Your body has an amazing ability to realise it is experiencing some form of mild trauma or stress, and in response it releases these naturally occurring compounds to help your body to cope better. These endorphins are often referred to as the “happy hormone” or “feel-good-chemical”.
Surprisingly, in humans there are over 20 types of endorphins. The most well known and most commonly studied are beta-endorphins. These are the ones that aid pain relief, and this power is said to be even stronger than morphine!
How do they work?
Endorphins work by increasing our pleasure sensations and blocking pain signals between the brain and body. For example, when you cry, you often feel better after. This is because your brain knows if it is experiencing emotional distress, and in response to this you react by crying, releasing the stress outwards, and following that a feeling of calm, clarity or relief will follow. This is when the endorphins are released.
The great thing about this magical ability for our own brain to self-improve mood, is that we can manipulate this to happen more often! Below are 4 simple suggestions for triggering the feel good factor (aka endorphins!)
- Exercise! We all know that exercise is great for the body, but it can also do wonders for our mental health. Exercise is often advised by doctors as an effective way to manage mood. Even low level exercise such as going for a brisk walk, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a simple and effective way to get yourself moving and feeling good. Step it up a level and do around 30 minutes or vigorous exercise, and you will reap the benefits of endorphins circulating your body.
- Music and Dance! Find a form of exercise that you love. Moving your body to your favourite music is a sure way to please the senses. Music is well known to be an endorphin inducing trigger, as when the pleasant sounds travels into the brain through our ears, a feeling of joy will wave over you. Choosing music appropriate for the event is also key. For example, listening to calming meditation music would be a fantastic way to wind down after a stressful day, or listening to your favourite dance tracks to pick up your mood before going out to socialise. Music really can have a huge impact on our overall mood.
- Laugh! Laughing is one way to guarantee a surge of endorphins. Watch something you find funny on tv, hang with friends who love to crack a joke or two, or even try laughing yoga! Whatever route you take, take note of how happy you feel after a good belly laugh and be sure to schedule time to get more of these in!
- Create! Doing a creative activity, such as painting, crafts, gardening or even creative writing, can put your mind in a state of “flow”. Feeling focused and free to create whatever your mind gives you is a pleasurable activity and your brain will release the happy hormones - endorphins, dopamine and serotonin.
With the seasons changing, summer on its way out and the colder, darker months imminent, it’s common to experience a dip in mood, that’s why it’s so important to take steps to minimise the impact of seasonal low mood. Including CBD into a healthy balanced diet rich in fibrous fruits and vegetables, and doing any of the tips suggested above to give those endorphins a push will be a sure way to manage mood stability.