You may have heard about endorphins one way or another and you may be asking yourself, “what are endorphins?“. They are commonly associated with the feeling you get when running called a “runners high” or a “second wind”. However, what exactly are endorphins? Endorphins are natural peptide chemicals in your brain to help you feel more focused and pleasured, less impacted by pain, and put you in a better mood. They have a lot in common with opiate painkillers or prescription anti-anxiety drugs. But not to worry, endorphins don’t have any of the negative benefits that are common side effects of these prescription medications!
Our bodies release endorphins in response to pain or stress. There are both short-term and long-term benefits to endorphins which we will discuss in this article.
What are endorphins?
To define endorphins, they are any of a group of hormones secreted by the brain and nervous system and having a number of physiological functions. They are peptides that activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing an analgesic effect.
These hormones include enkephalins and dynorphins, which are associated with feelings of pleasure, pain relief, sensuality, and euphoria.
What do endorphins do and what are their benefits?
Endorphins have many benefits, and we’ll discuss which are the most important ones to your wellbeing in-depth:
- Overcome addiction
- Relief of stress, depression, or anxiety
- Feel alert and sleepy
- Manage and overcome pain
Endorphins help you overcome addiction
Addiction is a serious challenge today. Many people are addicted to negatively impacting habits such as smoking cigarettes, eating poorly, and overconsumption. These negative behaviors are directly correlated with low levels of endorphins.
This is exactly why healthy habits like exercise can be the antidote to help you overcome these addictions and help you boost a healthy lifestyle.
Endorphins help with relief of stress, depression or anxiety
Endorphins are created as a result of exercise, being outside, eating well, and other healthy habits. Typically, the result of these healthy behaviors is higher self-esteem and more positive feelings in your body. These positive feelings and emotional uplift help you feel better and less anxious.
Endorphins help you feel alert and sleepy
Endorphins help regulate your circadian rhythm (frequently referred to as your “internal clock”). Your circadian rhythm helps your body know the appropriate cycles of day and night – impacting your alertness to be awake or to begin to get sleepy.
Endorphins help you deal with the pain
Endorphins are very involved in your body’s pain management. An increase in endorphins, much like the effects of morphine, leads to a decrease in your brain’s perception of pain.
How to increase endorphins
There are many ways to increase the levels of endorphins your body produces. Here are some of the easiest ways you can increase endorphins:
- Eat healthily
- Laugh and smile
- Connect with other humans
- Learn something new
- Spend time outside
- Incorporate specific smells and oils
- Have sex
- Try new, daring adventures or activities
Endorphins and exercise
An exercise of any type is a quick, effective, and long-lasting way to increase your body’s production of endorphins.
Endorphins and eating healthy
Here is a list of foods that help increase endorphins:
- Hot peppers
- Seeds, nuts, lentils, peas, and sprouts
- Strawberries, Grapes, and Oranges
- Sesame seeds
How laughing and smiling increase endorphins
Endorphins are released when you smile. The movements of your facial muscles trigger your brain to create endorphins which helps lower your stress levels.
Connecting with other humans releases endorphins
Having great relationships with people that you’re compassionate to is an essential thing to life. Not surprisingly, when you spend time with people you love and enjoy your brain releases endorphins.
Learning something new and endorphins
Learning new things (like a language for example) stimulates the same brain center as such long-proven means of deriving pleasure, as having sex, gambling or eating chocolate.
Spending time outside increases endorphins
Getting outside and doing fun activities like running, biking, or even walking through a new surrounding helps create endorphins.
Incorporate specific smells and oils create endorphins
The smell of vanilla and lavender has been linked to the production of endorphins.
Having sex creates endorphins
Not only does sexual intercourse create the love hormone, serotonin, but it also releases a serious rush of endorphins.
Try new, daring adventures or activities produce endorphins
Have you ever been skydiving, skiing, hiking, or another adventurous activity? Your body, during these types of activities, releases endorphins which give you that state of euphoria and satisfaction.