Endorphins are natural opium-like hormones that are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus of your body. Endorphins act on your brain’s opiate receptors to block their ability to receive pain messages from the sensory nerves. This makes you less sensitive to pain. Endorphins also work on your emotions. They create a sense of pleasure, making you feel empowered and good about yourself. They also work for up to 24 hours. Studies have shown that happiness is a key factor in health maintenance. There are a number of things that can help you optimize your endorphin level.
Healthy, Balanced Diet
Endorphins are made from fats and sugars. This is why some people who do not have enough body fat or have eating disorders are highly moody and often depressed. In order to properly maintain endorphins level, there needs to be a moderate level of fats and sugars in your diet. This is not to say that you should focus on chocolates and ice cream to keep you in high spirits. Binging on sweets and fatty foods will actually change the opiate receptors in your brain which can make you feel depleted of endorphins. Good fats, like those from fish, nuts, avocados and fruits, that provide you with natural sugars and essential vitamins are needed for your emotional maintenance and overall well being.
Endorphins are naturally released during exercise. This effect is especially pronounced during prolonged periods of strenuous exercise. Massive amounts of endorphins are released to help you mask any pain and help you push past your normal threshold. This effect is commonly known as the “runner’s high.” After exercise, instead of being tired, you actually may feel more exhilarated and remain invigorated for the next couple of hours. This is due to the high level of endorphins that remain in your system. Studies have shown that exercising regularly for 20 minutes or more can promote endorphin secretion.
Smiling, laughing and thinking about the pleasurable activities, such as friends and happy events in your life, provide psychological triggers for endorphin release. Some studies have shown that 8 to 10 minutes of laughing aloud will create an extended elevation of endorphins that can contribute to a better night's sleep.
Meditation and Relaxation
Mediation acts against your “fight or flight” hormones and lowers your heart rate, creating a calming sensation in your body. This triggers the hypothalamus to produce and secret beta endorphins, which are the key to the lingering calmness you feel after your meditation. Regular practice of meditation can help you lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.
Certain herbs like capsicum, found in chili peppers, can induce the release of endorphins. Studies have shown that regular intake of spicy foods can lead to an elevated level of endorphins. Many arthritic remedies make use of the pain-relieving characteristics of these herbs to relieve joint and muscle pains.