“Happiness comes from within” – is just one way to explain the wonder that is endorphins. But first, let’s clear the air about these happy chemicals in our bodies. What are they and how do they make our lives jolly?
Let’s get the science out of the way – endorphins (full name: endogenous opioid neuropeptides) are peptide hormones produced by both humans and animals. The term was coined from endogenous (from within) and morphine (a painkiller). These happy go healthy hormones interact with the receptors in the brain and help create a sense of euphoria, focus and strength. Endorphins can also reduce the impact of pain on the body and have great benefits on your mental state.
Where do they come from? Endorphins are produced by the central nervous system and the pituitary gland. The gland produces endorphins based on signals from the brain, which then bind with neuron receptors creating that feeling of bliss and well-being. Is this the science behind happiness? You betcha!
Endorphins are the embodiment of protection and self-care. In times of stress or pain, the body automatically starts to produce endorphins to help us cope with the situation. Situations like exercise and eating spicy food can trigger the release of these happy hormones. It’s our body’s way of taking care of us and it benefits us in many ways:
- Pain: As mentioned previously, endorphins reduce pain (they’re named after morphine.). They block the pain receptors in the brain allowing you a certain amount of relief.
- Mental Health: Depression has many causes – one of them has to do with chemicals in the brain. Many therapists advocate exercise to release the endorphins that patients suffering from depression need.
- Sleep: The term endorphin has many layers – the second half is inspired by the word morphine, which was inspired by Morpheus, the Greek God of Sleep. That’s right; endorphins even help you sleep better.
- Exercise: Endorphins are the main reason why we have gym freaks. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of satisfaction after a grueling workout. As we push our bodies into exercise routines, endorphins are released to reduce the stress of this situation. This is known as the “Runner’s high”.
- Blood Pressure: Stress and blood pressure go hand in hand. Our daily lives can sometimes feel like they are governed by stress. In this sense, the release of happy chemicals help ameliorate a stressful situation and in turn have an effect on blood pressure.
- Laughter: Although scientists are yet to determine a direct link between laughter and endorphins, laughing certainly releases those feel-good chemicals, boosting your mood and your day.
These are just a few advantages of endorphins. But how can we incorporate more endorphins in our lives? Fortunately, exercise is just one way to do this. There are simple things you can do to release them – eating dark chocolate, listening or dancing to music, soaking up some warm rays of sunshine, meditation and breathing, acupuncture, and more. There is so much room in our lives for happiness.
Currently, scientists are still trying to understand this little spring of happiness and joy within us. And while they do, all the rest of us have to do is sit back and enjoy.