Endorphins are a group of peptide hormones that occur naturally in the brain that, when released, increase your body’s threshold for pain and affect the way you feel emotionally. Endorphins are chemically very much like morphine. There are a few things you can do to possibly release endorphins and increase your mood.
Benefits of Endorphins
Endorphins are neurotransmitters that assist the body in handling pain, stress and emotional ordeals. They are responsible for the ability to feel pleasure. Physical activity produces endorphins, which help to feel better during the activity and after the exercise is stopped. This can have a benefit for patients suffering from mental disorders.
According to Kate Hartzell, a family nurse practitioner with Cabrillo College Health Services, Laughing and exercising releases beta-endorphins, which have a beneficial effect when under stress. Stress and anxiety cause health problems such as high blood pressure and suppress the immune system. The release of endorphins through exercise and laughter help remove that risk. Hartzell further recommends finding something that will encourage laughter during times of stress.
The causes of mood disorders such as depression are not always known, but according to the Ohio State University Medical Center, endorphins regulate mood in a very positive way. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin control the production of endorphins, which are the brain chemicals increased by antidepressants. Doctors recommend exercise as part of a treatment program for depression because exercise helps release endorphins, according to the Mayo Clinic. Both exercise and laughter release endorphins, which can improve mood and help individuals with mild to moderate depression.
Encourage Physical Activity
The positive feelings that come from endorphins may actually help encourage you to keep on exercising. Endorphins are not addictive, but it may be difficult to ignore the positive way exercise makes you feel. Physical activity and exercise are important facets of good health. Endorphins are a natural way to feel good and get healthy at the same time.
How long do you need to Exercise to Feel the Benefit?
Even if you only exercise for a short period of time, your mood will be improved. Just ten minutes of moderate exercise is enough to improve your mood, your vigour and also decrease fatigue. However, to obtain all the benefits from exercise, not just the mood improving aspects, you should do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day.
Research from the Columbia Encyclopedia shows that endorphins and morphine have similar properties for relieving pain. Patients dealing with chronic pain produce more endorphins; and morphine affects the opiate neuron receptors in the brain to reduce pain in the same manner that endorphins affect these pain receptors.
Endorphins may also have a positive effect on food cravings, especially carbohydrates. According to The Diet Channel, exercise that releases endorphins may satisfy the brain’s need to create balance during times of stress. Such stressful times encourage overeating or cravings for unhealthy foods, which also release endorphins. Substituting exercise or other activities that release the same endorphins may help eliminate cravings for sugary or fatty foods.