By John Tamiazzo, PhD
(September 14, 2018)
Endorphins are among the brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. They are found in various parts of the brain, the pituitary gland and the spinal cord, but their release is primarily through the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a pea-sized structure located at the base of the brain, just below the hypothalamus and attached to it by nerve fibers. Because of the brain’s remarkable design and miraculous inner workings, the hypothalamus brilliantly controls the pituitary glands activity. In 1977 Roger Guillemin and Andrew W. Schally won a Noble prize for their amazing research and findings on how endorphins work and under what circumstances they are released. One of the things they discovered is that endorphins have the same chemical structure as morphine.
We have typically come to understand that endorphins are released when we participate in enjoyable activities like prolonged exercise, sexual activity, and the physical act of laughing out loud. But, what research has also shown is that when we are stressed and in pain, endorphins are also released. Endorphins help to reduce the stress that we experience as a part of daily living including headache pain and other bodily pain. Endorphins are our own built-in natural pharmaceutical responses to stress, pain and participating in thoroughly enjoyable activities.
Endorphin release varies among individuals. This means that two people who exercise at the same level or two people who laugh while watching a very funny film will not produce the same levels of endorphins. Endorphins are also released during meditation and self-hypnosis. This is exciting to know because what it means is that we have the power to stimulate the release of endorphins and to create feelings of euphoria every day. Those of you who meditate know from personal experience that it brings about a feeling of deep relaxation and well-being. Self-hypnosis can have a similar effect. Through self-hypnosis, using your imagination you can take yourself to a deeply relaxing place like the beach or along a creek and use your imagination’s capability to see the beauty which surrounds you, feel the peacefulness there, hear the natural sounds of the environment, and smell the natural aromas. Meditation and self-hypnosis are resources we have at our disposal to use every day, as many times during the day as we choose to use them.
Eating chocolate also leads to the secretion and release of endorphins which explains the well-being that many people have come to associate with the pleasure of eating it. If you are very suggestible, your pituitary gland will release endorphins just by seeing the chocolate in the display case. You might even find yourself going into a light trance as you smell the delightful and intoxicating aroma of chocolate or imagine its delicious taste in your mouth.
Like I mentioned above, there are lots of ways of getting an endorphin rush: meditation, self-hypnosis, massage, facials, walking, running, hiking, laughing, noticing and being mesmerized by beauty, delicious sex, and taking delight in thinking pleasant and entertaining thoughts. And then there is chocolate. Dark chocolate is both scrumptious and nutritious, especially chocolate with 80% or more cocoa that is low in sugar. I have developed a love and appreciation for dark chocolate because just a little goes a long way in creating so much pleasure. Author and artist Linda Grayson might have said it best when she wrote, “There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”
John Tamiazzo, PhD is the former Executive Director of the Sedona Community Center. He is the author of Love & be Loved: 8 Steps to Creating Intimacy and Finding the Love You Want; Returning to the Land of Oz: Finding Hope, Love, and Courage on Your Yellow Brick Road. His Counseling Services and Workshops integrate Solution Focused Counseling, Transpersonal Psychology, Neuroscience, Imagery and Self-Hypnosis Processes, and Dreamwork. Visit his website www.johntamiazzo.com to learn more about his counseling work, consulting, public speaking, endorsements, and his upcoming workshops and classes at OLLI Sedona beginning this fall.