Endorphins: Feel Good Hormones

Endorphins: Feel Good Hormones

Endorphins (medically known as neurotransmitters) are chemical substances in the brain; such as, dopamine, serotonin, and opiate peptides that cause emotions. They are associated with feelings of pleasure, sexuality, euphoria, and pain relief. They promote a sense of happiness and provide a sense of well-being.  When these neurotransmitters are produced through activities, like exercise, the pituitary gland releases particular endorphins used for euphoria and bliss. Oppositely, when inflammation levels in the body raise, the immune system releases certain endorphins that dull pain. High endorphin levels are associated with contentment and euphoria, better m00d, less pain, focus and concentration, and pleasure. Low endorphin levels are associated with chronic pain, emotional pain, fibromyalgia, and risk-taking behaviors.

The four endorphins that are in charge of our perception of happiness are: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and opiate endorphins.

The Quartet: Our Perception of Happiness

Dopamine is one of the strongest “feel-good” hormones. It makes us feel more energized, motivated, and in control. It is associated with pleasure, motivation, alertness, concentration, and euphoria. Dopamine rises during a state of stress- both positive and negative stress. Positive stress states include sex, being in love, laughing, exercising, listening to music and dancing. Low levels of dopamine are associated with depression, poor motivation, brain fog, and the ability to initiate or finish tasks.

Serotonin is referred to as the “happy hormone” because it improves mood and decreases depression. It is necessary for mood stabilization, getting good sleep, dreaming, and visualization. We also have serotonin receptors in our gut so adequate levels is necessary for digestion. Low serotonin levels are associated with depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, obsessive thinking, and addiction to alcohol or drugs.

Oxytocin is referred to as the “cuddle hormone.” It protects the heart from stress and improves immune function. It is released during highly emotional moments like sex, childbirth, being in love, hugging someone, or while getting a massage. Oxytocin strengthens relationships, helps us feel connected to others, and allows us to feel compassionate and empathetic towards others.

Opiate endorphins bind to neuron receptors the same way that same way that prescription pain killers bind to them; thus, causing a pain killing effect. Endorphins control pain enough to help us keep going when we are injured or ill. Our immune system also releases own endorphins in a response to increase levels of inflammation to dull pain.

Naturally Increase Endorphins

Exercise is crucial for boosting endorphins. It has similar mind-body benefits to meditation. “Runner’s high” is linked to increased endorphin production. Exercise increases self-esteem, gives us a sense of accomplishment, boosts energy levels, keeps us motivated, and leaves us with an overall positive outlook on life.

Eating a healthy diet is also crucial to increase “feel good” hormones. Adequate amounts of protein is essential for serotonin production. Eat amino-rich foods like seeds, nuts, beans, and sprouted grains; veggies like broccoli, spinach and cauliflower; and antioxidant-rich foods like leafy greens, citrus, berries, sweet potato and squash to prevent free radical damage.

Laughing releases endorphins and linked to an elevated pain threshold. Connecting with others by touch, volunteering, and coming together for a common good increases endorphins. Acupuncture and massage releases feel good chemicals. A sense of purpose is linked to increased happy chemicals.

Learning something new and challenging ourselves regularly increases dopamine, which is involved in stimulus reward learning. Obtaining a new hobby, traveling, and making new progress at work increase endorphins and creates a sense of confidence and accomplishment. Taking on difficult tasks can be very rewarding in the long term.

Aromatherapy is linked to endorphin release. Essential oils like vanilla, rose, lavender, orange, and chamomile induce calm feelings and feel good chemicals. Baking cookies or something that reminds us of comforting times release endorphins. Sunshine and nature regulate the release of serotonin and melatonin which regulates our circadian rhythm. Taking in 20 minutes of sunlight in nature is crucial for our mood and allows our skin to absorb UV rays to produce vitamin D.

Final Thoughts

Endorphins are feel good hormones. One of the most efficient ways to boost and balance endorphin levels is through exercise and movement. It's free and can be done at anytime, anywhere. All you need is you and Mother Earth. Get up and move.

Thank you for reading this post.