Chasing Endorphins: Understanding our body's feel-good chemicals

BBrandon December 4, 2023 7:01 AM

Endorphins. They're often called our body's feel-good chemicals — but what exactly are they? How do they work? And how can we get more of them? Let's dive in.

What are endorphins?

Endorphins are chemicals produced by the nervous system to cope with stress and pain. They interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce discomfort and deliver pleasure. Increased levels of this hormone are often found after periods of strenuous physical activity, leading to what's known as the 'runner's high'.

The benefits of endorphins

Endorphins offer a multitude of benefits, including:

  1. Pain relief: Endorphins can help to reduce pain, acting as natural painkillers.
  2. Enhanced mood: They can also help to boost mood, delivering feelings of happiness.
  3. Stress relief: Endorphins play a role in relieving stress and anxiety.
  4. Improved immune response: They're believed to play a role in the immune system.

How to increase endorphins

Want to ramp up your endorphin levels? Here are a few tips:

Exercise

Exercise is one of the most common ways to boost endorphin levels. This includes not just running, but any kind of physical activity — yoga, boxing, dance, even brisk walking.

Eat spicy foods

Spicy foods can stimulate endorphin production. That's because the capsaicin in chili peppers can trigger the release of endorphins.

Laugh

Laughter is great medicine for many reasons, and one of them is that it can help to spark an endorphin rush.

Enjoy dark chocolate

Dark chocolate can also help to increase endorphins. Remember, the darker the chocolate (and the higher the cocoa content), the better!

Endorphins vs dopamine, serotonin

It's worth noting that endorphins aren't the only feel-good hormones. Dopamine and serotonin also play key roles. Here's a quick comparison:

Hormone Primary function
Endorphin Alleviates pain, promotes feeling of comfort
Dopamine Rewards system, motivation, satisfaction
Serotonin Regulates mood, sleep, appetite, digestion

Ultimately, endorphins contribute to a general sense of well-being, known as 'euphoria'. So whether it's hitting the gym, enjoying a spicy meal, getting some good laughs, or savoring dark chocolate — there are plenty ways to chase and boost those endorphins.

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