Endorphins are neurotransmitters or hormones responsible for relieving pain and providing the “feel good” feeling you experience whenever you’re engaged in pleasurable activities such as exercise, sex, massage, or laughing. Endorphins can relieve stress and anxiety as well.
There are a lot of benefits Endorphins have to offer, and it’s a necessity for our body to function well. A deficiency of these hormones can trigger symptoms and health conditions that you surely don’t want to experience. Want to learn more about what Endorphins can do and how to avoid deficiency of such? Read further to know more.
How Endorphins Work
Endorphins are produced by the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, both of which are located in our brains. Every time we experience pain or pleasure, these parts of the brain will release endorphins.
Why does this happen? It’s because Endorphins work as neurotransmitters that attach themselves to the reward centers of the brain called the opioid receptors. These receptors act similarly to opioid drugs (e.g., morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc.).
For a better understanding, Endorphins are coined by blending two words which are “endogenous” meaning “from the body” and “morphine” which refers to a common pain reliever drug. With these two meanings combined, it means something close to a “natural pain reliever produced by our body”.
What’s The Difference Between Endorphin and Dopamine
To better understand the difference between Endorphins and Dopamine, first, let’s know the definitions of the two.
Endorphins are like natural pain relievers produced by our pituitary glands and hypothalamus and are usually released immediately during exercise, massage sessions, and other physical activities.
Dopamine acts the same as Endorphins, however, compared to Endorphins, Dopamine is released slower and we usually feel its effects after pleasurable activities like sex, laughing out loud, or eating chocolates and spicy foods.
Benefits of Endorphins
If you think Endorphins are just mere compounds in our body, think again, in fact, you can get a lot of benefits from them such as:
- Alleviate depression
- Alleviate pain and discomfort
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Enhances confidence and self-esteem
- Helps in weight loss
- Reduces inflammation
- Helps memory and cognitive function
- Helps promote a strong immune system
What Happens When Our Body Has Low Endorphin Levels
Endorphins are necessary hormones that help alleviate pain and provide a “feel-good feeling” whenever you do pleasurable activities, without them, you’ll experience symptoms such as:
- Increased depression
- Increased stress and anxiety levels
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
- Addiction to alcohol or drugs
Aside from the aforementioned symptoms, low endorphin levels can also trigger health conditions such as:
- Fibromyalgia - This is a chronic condition wherein the patient experiences pain throughout the body. Though it’s still not clear as to how it happens, several studies concluded that Fibromyalgia is caused by a lack of Endorphins. Additionally, this condition is also believed to be one triggering factor of troubled sleeping.
- Addiction to exercise - Exercise is a major example of an activity that activates Endorphins, people with Endorphin deficiency might get addicted to exercise as they struggle to achieve that “feel-good” effect of these hormones.
- Self-harm - Due to low levels of Endorphins, your body cannot deal with stress and depression, thus, may lead to self-harm. This is only the time when they feel the effect of endorphins, known as the “Endorphin rush”.
- Chronic Headaches - Chronic headaches are also believed to be one cause of low endorphin levels. According to recent research published in the National Library of Medicine, People who have episodic and chronic migraines have significantly lower Endorphin levels than those who rarely experience migraine. This implies how important it is to regulate Endorphine levels and treat deficiencies of such.
How To Increase Endorphin Levels
If you experience symptoms of low endorphin levels, here are some things you should do:
- Exercise - Many studies revealed how exercise contributes to increased endorphin levels. Aerobic exercises like brisk walking, jogging, or running are just examples of Endorphine-inducing activities. Additionally, since exercise boosts the release of these hormones, it will help ease depression, stress, and anxiety. Experts even encourage older adults to practice exercises fit for seniors such as stretching exercises, jogging, walking, or gardening.
- Meditation - Meditation exercises like Yoga are just another perfect remedy to boost Endorphins as these are known to provide relaxation effects. In a recently published study, the researchers revealed how laughter yoga significantly decreased pain and anxiety levels among respondents because of the increased levels of Endorphin.
- Acupuncture - This refers to the medicinal process of pricking the skin with needles, which is believed to treat certain conditions and relieve pain. This process is also proven to increase the release of Endorphins.
- Playing/listening to music - Listening to your favorite music has the same pleasurable effects as exercise and yoga. In some hospitals, there is a term called “music therapy” where nurses/caregivers let their patients listen to calming music. This is because music is proven to alleviate stress, loneliness, and frustration specifically among seniors. Certain music genres are also helpful in keeping up with exercise and workouts, allowing for the continuous release of Endorphins.
- Eating chocolate - Eating chocolates, specifically dark ones is believed to increase Endorphin levels. This is the reason why oftentimes, we feel ecstatic and happy whenever we take even just a bite of chocolate. Dark chocolates contain flavonoids, a compound that triggers Endorphin release in the brain. And since it contains a bit of caffeine, dark chocolate helps in improving mood and energy as well.
- Eating spicy foods - There is a belief that eating spicy foods can also trigger the brain to release Endorphins. This is due to the minor pain in the mouth when we eat spicy foods. In this way, our brains allow Endorphins to relieve the pain.
- Laughing with friends or loved ones - As the saying goes, laughter is always the best medicine. To support this quote, a study revealed that laughter with loved ones and friends can indeed increase the body’s natural endogenous Opioid (Endorphins), thus making you feel good. This also helps establish a stronger relationship/bond with these people.
- Dancing - Just like exercise, dancing is another Endorphin-releasing activity. Not only does dancing keep you active, but it also helps boost your mood and energy. Thanks to the Endorphins released by our brain during and after this activity. Even if you’re not a good dancer, dancing to the music alone or with friends is enough to promote your inner liveliness. Additionally, dancing with loved ones and friends can also improve your bond with them.
- Sex - Engaging in sex will trigger your brain to release Endorphins together with Dopamine, Oxytocin, and Serotonin. All these hormones are responsible for sexual desire and pleasure. That’s the reason why most people believe that sex is a good stress reliever too, aside from others listed in this article.
- Healthy sun exposure - According to Harvard Health Publishing, healthy sun exposure in the mornings can trigger the release of the so-called “beta-endorphins” found in your skin. That’s probably the reason why we feel enthusiastic and calm whenever we see or feel the first sunlight in the morning touching our skin.
Endorphins play a vital role in our well-being. Not only does it relieve pain, depression, and anxiety, but it also helps us become more energized and enthusiastic. If you want to boost your body’s release of Endorphins, now’s the time to do the activities mentioned above.