Emotions & Endorphins

Endorphins are naturally occurring substances in the body, similar to morphine, that can block pain and also cause strong feelings of pleasure. The word “endorphin” comes from combining “endogenous” (meaning “coming from within”) with “morphine.” The body produces endorphins in response to pain and stress, temporarily reducing pain perception and unpleasant feelings associated with stress. Endorphins are also produced by pleasurable activities and can trigger positive, pleasurable feelings ranging from feeling good to feeling euphoric.

How do emotions and endorphins affect a person’s mental and physical well-being?

Emotions and endorphins profoundly affect and influence the experience of life. Like an artist’s palette, emotions color an event or experience in emotional hues that can result in different people interpreting and experiencing the same event in vastly different ways. Sometimes the body may not make enough endorphins, and unpleasant feelings or sensations may result. For example, people who have chronic pain tend to have lower endorphin levels. As endorphins are associated with the feeling of pleasure and satisfaction, if endorphin levels are low, a person may have difficulty finding joy and pleasure in life.

Emotions are psychophysiological states or feelings represented by changes in the body and thoughts that affect behavior; for example, there are different body-mind responses when meeting someone you’re in love with, suddenly coming face to face with a tiger, or going to the funeral of a loved one. Emotions can be triggered not only by external events, as above, but also from biochemical imbalances within the body, as when one is biologically predisposed to depression or mania, or when there is another medical condition that leads to depression or other emotions. Emotions are also influenced by a person’s thoughts. Several dozen emotions have been identified: the five universal emotions are enjoyment, sadness, anger, disgust, and fear as determined by the Atlas of Emotions project with the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, Ph.D. & Eve Ekman, Ph.D.

EMOTIONS AND ENDORPHINS: What they are and how to increase positive feelings.

by Carlie G. Barbour, Psy.D., LP, Clinical Psychologist

How to feel better, increase endorphin production, improve mood:

  • Schedule a medical/behavioral evaluation to screen for conditions that may be responsible for uncomfortable feelings.

  • Collaborate with a Cognitive-Behavioral Specialist to identify and modify thoughts and behaviors that block your happiness and ability to achieve your goals.

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Talk to a nutritionist to make an individualized diet for your needs.

  • Engage in daily physical activity, a proven strategy that helps manage weight, decrease depression, and improve physical and mental well-being in general. Walk, dance, do yoga, ride a bike, work in a garden or your lawn: all positive movement is good. If you have physical limitations, collaborate with a physical therapist to design an activity program that works for you.

  • Maintain regular social activities of your choosing, which may include being with friends and family members, playing sports or games, taking a class, or volunteering.


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