Endorphins are chemicals (hormones) your body releases when it feels pain or stress. They’re released during pleasurable activities such as exercise, massage, eating and sex too. Endorphins help relieve pain, reduce stress and improve your sense of well-being. Endorphins are created in your pituitary gland and hypothalamus, both located in the brain. Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter, or messenger in your body. They attach to your brain’s reward centres (opioid receptors) and carry signals across your nervous system. Endorphin comes from the words “endogenous,” which means within the body, and “morphine,” an opiate pain reliever. Put together, that means endorphins are natural pain relievers. They are “feel-good” chemicals because they can make you feel better and put you in a positive state of mind.
Endorphins are released when your body feels pain or stress. Your body releases endorphins to help you survive. When you feel pain, nerves in your body send pain signals to your brain. Your brain releases endorphins to block the nerve cells that receive the pain signals. This essentially turns off your pain. It helps you to continue functioning, even in painful or stressful situations. Because you naturally seek to avoid pain, you’re more likely to do something if it makes you feel good. Luckily, you can increase your odds with these seven hacks.
There’s no need to run a marathon every morning to achieve an endorphin boost — any form of exercise will do. Examples include: walking, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), jogging, cycling, and hiking. If at all possible, get your exercise in the great outdoors. This way, your vitamin D levels can get a boost, too. Depending on where you live, though, it may be difficult to get enough vitamin D from the sun. Ask your doctor whether you’d benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement.
Dancing is a form of exercise and a creative way of expressing yourself. And when it’s done with a group, dance is also a great way to bond with others. In fact, a 2016 study suggests that endorphins are associated with social bonding. So grab your partner or roommate, turn on some tunes, and have a quick morning dance party to instantly improve your mood.
Laughter really is a form of medicine. A 2017 study of 12 healthy adult males suggests that social laughter can trigger endorphin release. And a 2011 study found that laughter increased pain tolerance, which the researchers believe was caused by an “endorphin-mediated opiate effect.” As you get ready in the morning, watch a funny YouTube video, read a joke, or enjoy your favourite comedy show. The effects may be even greater if you can laugh alongside a loved one or a friend.
- Create Music
Art and music are both excellent ways to improve your mood. Creating, singing, or playing music in particular has been shown to boost endorphins. One small study published in 2012 found that dancing, singing, or drumming led to an endorphin release; however, listening to music didn’t have the same effect. If you have a little time in the morning, try doing any of the following to make your day happier: Practice a tune on an instrument you’re learning, play your favourite songs and sing or dance to them as you prepare for the day, sing in the shower, As a bonus, the heat of the water may trigger the release of endorphins as well.
Establishing a morning meditation routine is a great way to trigger endorphin release. Meditation can help you relax and boost your mood. Meditation may seem strange or difficult at first. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. The goal of meditation is to train your mind to focus and control or redirect your thoughts.
To start, try the following:
- Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit, inside or outside.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath.
- As thoughts enter your mind, instead of indulging them, just let them rise and pass through. Try not to judge them or push them out. Just acknowledge them and let them pass.
- Do this for 5 minutes at first, then work your way up to longer sessions over time.
- Remember that the goal of this practice isn’t to avoid having any thoughts at all. Instead, it’s to establish control over the thoughts that enter your mind.
Yoga is a form of meditation that ties your body and mind together. So doing some yoga first thing in the morning is another way you can boost endorphins.
- Eat Your Favourite Food
Unsurprisingly, eating something delicious can trigger the release of endorphins. To add some extra happiness to your mornings, eat your favourite foods, try new recipes, and take pride in your breakfast creations. Spicy foods in particular can boost endorphins, as can dark chocolate. If you’re a fan of spicy food, consider adding a bit of hot sauce to an omelette or breakfast burrito for a bigger endorphin release. While a bar of chocolate isn’t really part of a nutritious breakfast, you can sprinkle a few dark chocolate nibs or shavings over a bowl of oatmeal or yogurt. You can also add some cocoa powder to a smoothie or your favourite pancake recipe.
Don’t underestimate the importance of physical touch. Hugs and cuddles can release all sorts of happy hormones but particularly oxytocin. Oxytocin is similar to endorphins because it can also boost your mood and increase pleasure. If you have time, start off your mornings by cuddling your partner or kids in bed, hugging your roommate, or even snuggling with a pet.
While not all the roles that endorphins play in your body are fully understood, it’s generally well known that they’re involved in your natural reward circuits. Endorphins may: decrease depression and anxiety, help you deal with pain, increase your overall sense of well-being. From exercise to meditation, there are many ways to boost endorphins in the morning. This can give your body a burst of happy feelings and set you up for a good day ahead.