I will probably end up talking about endorphins quite regularly in the fitness section of this blog and it comes up in countless other places around the web so I thought I'd take some time and explain what endorphins are and how they help you!
Endorphins are a chemical in your brain that when released blocks out pain receptors. The word endorphins mean a morphine-like substance coming from within the body. So it acts the same way as morphine only there are no side-effects. It's a natural high! Check out Wikipedia for the ins and outs of the chemistry
Endorphins get released primarily through times of stress. Your body releases them to try and nullify the stressed feeling by blocking out pain receptors. They get released from a number of activities but the most well-known ones are eating certain foods, usually chocolate, sex and exercise.
They get released during exercise because your body is experiencing stress in the form of your muscles and organs being worked hard and begin to hurt so your body releases endorphins to nullify your brains awareness of the pain. I imagine this is hereditary of our ancestors when we may have been running for our lives and needed the ability to keep going.
The reason they get released from eating chocolate is slightly different, however. Eating chocolate is not a stressful experience but chocolate itself has several different chemicals in it that are commonly found in antidepressants which cause endorphins to release. They are in very small doses of course but this is why chocolate is such a comfort food.
Often when people are experiencing stress or they are overwhelmed by other emotions they get a desire to eat chocolate. For me, however, I have been active my entire life whenever I feel an influx of stress I want to run. I get the overwhelming desire to leave the house and start running. It's the desire for the endorphins that makes me do this as my body knows they will lessen the pain receptors in my brain allowing me to deal with the stress.
How To Make The Most of Them
Exercise is the best way to get endorphins. By completing moderate exercise you will get a dose of endorphins but also get all the great benefits of doing exercise.
Here's some example exercises you can do
Walking is one of my favourites because it is open to everyone, you don't have to be shy about it, there are no stigmas about it and people can do it every day! Walk to the shops, park further away and walk to work (Or walk the whole way, even better!)
A lot of people think they are out and about quite a lot, back and forthing from home to work, home, shops, home, but if all of this is done in the car then you have gained no physical benefits. Add in walking to any part of this and reap the benefits! Feel the calorie burning muscle building pump of your legs one in front of the other and live! Sitting in a car doesn't gain you anything so walk my pretties!
Making the transition from stress eating to stress exercise isn't easy, but even if you include regular walking into your routine you will find stress much easier to deal with as a result of the endorphins release and so you wont feel the need to stress eat!
Chocolate does of course have it's place but it is important to be enjoyed in moderation due it's high sugar content. I personally like to keep a bar of fancier dark chocolate so that if I want that quick pick me up I can eat a square and really enjoy it and put the packet back in the cupboard before I get tempted to eat more.
Endorphins are a very powerful tool in out arsenal of well being and should be used to there fullest! So next time you're feeling stressed see what your reaction is, do you want some chocolate? Maybe something else? Whatever it is just be aware of it because awareness is the first step to making change.
Where do you get your endorphins fix?