Your body produces its own pain-relieving substance called endorphins to help you cope with pain and stress. Endorphins also make you feel happier and more relaxed when their levels increase. Understanding the different ways to increase your endorphin levels may help you find effective ways of dealing with stress.
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Your body regulates the way you feel with chemicals called neurotransmitters. Your body contains different types of neurotransmitters, each with its own role. Endorphins are one such neurotransmitter. When your body releases endorphins, they bind to specialized receptors that trigger two actions. This process blocks the neurotransmitters that cause you to experience pain. It also makes your brain release more of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which causes you to feel pleasure.
It's important to note the difference between endorphins, which are endogenous opoids, and such exogenous opoids as morphine or Vicodin, which bind to the same receptors as endorphins. Endogenous describes something that originates from within your body, whereas exogenous indicates a substance originating outside your body. So, endorphins are part of your body's natural way of moderating pain, whereas pain medications are not.
You're likely familiar with the euphoria and relaxation you may feel after a good workout. People often call this a "runner's high." It occurs because your body releases higher amounts of endorphins when you perform sustained exercise. This is one of the reasons exercise can help you overcome stress. Exercise instead of spending more time worrying about what stresses you out. The endorphin boost from a good workout will help you feel better.
One of endorphins' main functions likely is to moderate your pain. A part of your brain called the hypothalamus sets off a chain of events that increases your production of endorphins, according to a March 2010 article in the "Hawai'i Medical Journal." These higher levels of endorphins help you more effectively manage chronic pain. For example, people often have higher levels of endorphins after surgery as part of the body's response to the pain.
Laughter provides one of the easiest ways to enjoy life and forget about stress. Your body releases endorphins when you laugh, which makes it an enjoyable experience. Even expecting to laugh increases the levels of endorphins in your body, according to a 2006 study published by the "The FASEB Journal." During the study, participants who expected to laugh soon had higher levels of endorphins in their blood than people who did not. The study suggests these higher endorphin levels may help reduce your stress and improve your mood.