Endorphins are natural pain killers and they are active in different parts of the body, not just the brain. When you are injured or you are in pain (either physically or emotionally) your body releases these chemicals in order to help block the pain. Endorphins are actually morphine like substances and they originate in the brain itself. Endorphins are released during times of stress, strenuous exercise, and also when you are eating spicy food.
We have something throughout our body called Mu-Opioid receptors. These are located throughout our body; in the brain, in the spinal column, and also in the gut. This is our bodies natural morphine, indigenous brain chemicals called indigenous opioids. There are three major types, the dynorphins, the enkephalins, and the endorphins.
When chronically reliant on any substance, dynorphins are released in order to inhibit ventral segmental area (VTA) neurones to prevent them from exciting the nucleus accumbens, attributing to tolerance of the pleasurable effects of the substance. If you overstimulate the brains reward circuit this triggers a release of dopamine. So, for example, because today is Fathers Day, we are having a chocolate ice cream cake. This overload to the brains reward circuit will release a large amount of dopamine, my brain is going to interpret that release of dopamine as a reward prediction error, which in turn will back-up the environmental cues associated, Fathers Day. So chances are, when I encounter this cue in the future, the next holiday for example, I will experience a very strong craving for another ice cream cake treat.
Environmental cues play a central role in regards to the release of dopamine, strengthening the connection between my need to eat, not because I am hungry, but just because I have been cued to do so. Working on creating redirection strategies is extremely important to counter this compulsive need and those strategies are based in opportunities to increase my endorphins, my feel good hormones instead of allowing environmental cues to rule what I do.
Here are some re-direction strategies to increase endorphins instead of being a slave to environmental cues;
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