When on the subject of sports and psychology the role of endorphins is probably the most intriguing one. Endorphins get an awful lot of attention and an awful lot of good press! Rightly so too!
Endorphins are natures natural high, they allow you to enjoy enhanced moods, feelings of euphoria and even eliminate pain. How much do you really understand about endorphins though?
We are going to give you the lowdown on endorphins! The complete 101! Leaving no stone unturned it’s time for you to understand exactly what they are, how they work and why they are so incredibly useful to your wellbeing!
What are endorphins?
Endorphin is a word that you are probably very familiar with. When it comes to sports and psychology it’s probably the most used word of them all in fact.
‘Get some exercise and get those endorphins going’! This is usually the most common phrase! So what actually are endorphins and how do they work?
The word ‘endorphin’ is a combination of the two words ‘endogenou’ (produced within the body) and ‘morphine’.
Endorphins are in fact neurotransmitters, chemicals that pass along signals from one neuron to the next.
They are produced as a response to certain stimuli, especially stress, fear or pain – the most common stimuli we all know and love them for is exercise.
How do they work?
Most of the emotions you experience on a daily basis are processed by your brains limbic system. When endorphins reach the opioid receptors of the highly emotional limbic system, and you experience that lovely feeling of pleasure and a sense of satisfaction.
Endorphins are released from the pituitary gland located in your brain during periods of strenuous exercise.
Endorphins can help to relieve pain and induce feelings of pleasure or euphoria.
If you have ever noticed that great feeling you have after completing some tough exercise you will notice how you feel motivated, energized and probably ready to tackle the world!
It has also been suggested that a lack of endorphins or the ability to release or produce them can be linked to certain mental and mood disorders such as anxiety, depression and OCD.
Sports and psychology: Exercise for anxiety & mood disorders
Baring in mind the wonderful effect that endorphin release has on your body it’s also important to point out why therapists, doctors and psychologists alike all prescribe exercise to assist in the recovery of mood disorders.
OCD, depression and anxiety are all disorders, which fail to achieve a sense of mental pleasure.
Instead of feeling happy at cleaning your hands, someone with OCD will keep repeating it and will lose the sense of pleasure. A sufferer of depression and anxiety can experience continuous fear and low moods.
Exercising to relieve the symptoms of these disorders works.
The release of endorphins can help to eliminate the pain of these disorders and help the sufferers to experience enhanced feelings of happiness and pleasure. Kept up over the long term can have a profound effect on a number of different disorders.
Exercise & mindfulness
Mindfulness is described as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
You are probably thinking ‘but how does this relate to exercise?’
Exercise and mindfulness can go hand in hand, as well as meditation. There are some exercises, which are absolutely fantastic for developing your mindfulness skills. Not all exercise has to be gym-based or track and field based.
Some exercise can be gentle and mainly for the purpose of clearing your mind. Hiking and walking in the great outdoors are two wonderful examples of this.
Getting out into nature is excellent for stimulating your senses making it great for some active, on-the-go mindfulness. Empty your thoughts and take in the beautiful sights.
Listen to the snaps and cracks of twigs and leaves under your feet if you are walking through woodland, listen to the birds singing.
Emptying your thoughts and being mindful like this while performing some gentle cardio activity not only releases those beneficial endorphins but also helps to eliminate the stress hormone cortisol, so if you’ve had a stressful day a mindful walk or hike is a really excellent choice.
If you cant get outdoors or you aren’t located anywhere with some nature then you can perform some cardio activity on a machine with some headphones and play some nature sounds.
Focus on beautiful noises like the sound of the ocean and you can still rid your body of cortisol.
To wrap things up…
Exercise and endorphins play a crucial role in an individual’s wellbeing and happiness.
After exploring the above it’s easier to understand why those with mood disorders, especially depression can get stuck in a rut.
The worse you feel the less you will want to do which is why it’s imperative those individuals push themselves to get some exercise done.
Endorphins are nature’s way of keeping you feeling happy, motivated and even pain free. Use them to your advantage!