Spring is in the Air - Time to Boost Your Endorphins

Spring is in the air - time to boost your endorphins

Chris Evans on his breakfast show this morning was talking about how the air feels different today, Thursday 7th March. After some discussion with his fellow team members summarised the conversation with “Spring is in the air.” I agree, looking around Hawthorn is showing first leaves, the Blackthorn is in full blossom, Daffodils abound trumpeting the announcement of spring and this week at 6am there is already the first signs of light. Waking up in the darkness was beginning to take its toll. 

Spring and the feelings that spring excites stimulates our endorphins, the chemicals the body releases when it feels some kind of pleasure. These are hormones that are triggered when we feel pain or stress. Endorphins are not just about spring. We can stimulate their release in many ways including through exercise - walking, running, swimming, dancing to name a few, and other pleasurable activities such as eating certain types of food, dark chocolate is a classic example, sex, listening to certain kinds of music, acupuncture and massage.

The word “endorphin” comes from the word “endogenous” meaning within the body, and morphine which is an opiate pain reliever. Endorphins are created in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus and are a type of neurotransmitter that attaches to opioid receptors, commonly known as reward centres, signalling to the nervous system to calm everything down and provide feelings of love, excitement, heartfelt joy, putting you in a positive state of mind. 

As a natural pain reliever, they block pain signals and raise wellbeing. When undergoing some kind of acute emotional and or physical trauma the body will naturally produce endorphins to help with intense physical or emotional pain. There are four feel-good hormones – dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin. Dopamine released due to the trigger of endorphins is a mood enhancer as well as motivation-boosting neurotransmitter that is linked to the reward circuit in your brain. High endorphin levels will boost dopamine production. Serotonin is a body chemical that controls mood. It works with melatonin to help control the sleep-wake cycle as well as how you feel pain, wellbeing and sexual desire. Oxytocin produced in the brain, is often referred to as the “love hormone” because it is involved in sexual arousal, romantic attraction, recognition, trust, as well as mother-child bonding.

With simple lifestyle and dietary changes, you can stimulate these feel-good hormones, making this approach especially useful to:

  • Reduce depression
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Help regulate and modulate appetite – think about being in love?
  • Enhance immune response
  • Reduce pain

On the other hand, if your endorphin levels are too low, you might experience:

  • Increased low mood or depression
  • Increased feelings of anxiety
  • Increased body awareness to aches and pains
  • Sleep issues
  • Craving foods that provide a sugar rush or are “comforting”

What foods can increase endorphin levels?

Keep in mind that a balanced diet, as a general rule will promote a balanced mood. Reaching for comfort foods, especially during times of stress, whether due to feelings of overwork, overwhelm because of financial or family issues often lead to an unpleasant slump or even crash. The taste of starchy, sweet foods might taste good and emotionally feel satisfying in the short term, but later leads to lack of energy, inability to focus and irritability. The reason being that starch and sugar both elevate blood sugar and trigger the same pleasure centres in the brain that addictive drugs would do. Driving a desire for more of the same feelings, but with the same negative physical effects to your body and brain. On the other hand, eating a balanced, healthy diet helps to maintain blood sugar levels, which in turn helps maintain your mood throughout the day despite feelings of pressure and perhaps even moderate amounts of stress.

There are many foods that support feel-good hormones, especially those containing tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that the body cannot produce itself. However, it can be found in whole milk, butter, egg yolks, meat, fish, turkey, various nuts, and bananas. Other useful foods are avocados, beetroot, strawberries and dark chocolate in moderation that contains a minimum of 70% cocoa. Spices added to your cooking can also stimulate the release of endorphins and the comfort feelings craved in sweet and starchy foods..

Activities that support endorphin production include:

  • Sunlight exposure especially in the early morning or mid to late afternoon helps with the production of vitamin D, an essential component that indirectly stimulates the production of serotonin
  • Playing with pets and interacting with animals that are able to show affection, especially cats and dogs
  • Hugging and kissing a loved one will stimulate the release of endorphins, oxytocin and serotonin
  • Exercise as this stimulates endorphins and raises the mood
  • Meditation has also been shown to decrease production of cortisol, a hormone produced during stressful times, replacing it with endorphins

As nature around us is bursting into leaf, flower and tune, we are naturally driven to be a part of this and shake off winter heaviness and blues, spring-clean everywhere and burst into life.

“Spring will come and so will happiness. Hold on life will get warmer.”

--- Anita Krizzan ---

If you feel that you need more that Spring to boost your endorphins, then Green Key Health can offer you support and advice. Specifically, we can help you recover from a wide range of mental and physical issues. To book a face-to-face or online consultation please click here.


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