Last update: June 11, 2024

4 minute read

What are Endorphins?

Explore endorphins, your body's natural feel-good chemicals. Understand their role, triggers, and impact on physical and mental well-being.

Stephanie Wright

By Stephanie Wright, RN, BSN

Edited by Dr. Dimitar Marinov, MD, MBA, PhD

Learn more about our editorial standards

Who hasn't heard the term 'endorphins' buzzing around health, wellness, and workout articles? But what are endorphins really, and how do they affect your mood and health? Let's lean into the short and potent answer - Endorphins are your body's homemade feel-good chemical messengers.

Key takeaways

  • Endorphins and enkephalins, your body's natural opioids, are triggered by activities like exercise, music, and positive social interactions
  • Activities that boost endorphin production also enhance your mental well-being
  • Striking a balance in triggering endorphin release is crucial to avoid potential pitfalls like overexertion or dependency

    What are endorphins?

    Endorphins are opioid peptides, produced by your own body, often applauded as natural pain relievers. With roles beyond just numbness, they also pump up your sense of euphoria and well-being.

    Why are endorphins crucial?

    We hear so much about these natural mood boosters, but why do they matter so much, really? Let's consider their effects. They:

    1. Reduce your pain perception
    2. Boost your feelings of pleasure and happiness
    3. Enhance your overall sense of well-being

    How are endorphins produced in your body?

    Endorphins are remarkable little chemical wonders produced internally, thanks to your hypothalamus and pituitary gland. In layman’s terms, these are the brain regions in charge of your body’s hormones, temperature control, hunger, thirst, and more.

    Certain triggers need to be set in motion for the production of endorphins. Some sure-shot endorphin boosters are:

    1. Engaging in moderate intensity exercise
    2. Acupuncture
    3. Playing in music
    4. Laughing (time to dig out those comedy reels!)
    5. Meditation
    6. Sex
    7. Ultraviolet light

    Understanding the enkephalin-endorphin connection

    Remember how we described endorphins as natural opioids? Well, they share quite a family-like equivalence with enkephalins.

    And just like endorphins, enkephalins are also linked to feelings of cheer and euphoria. When you work up a sweat, listen to music, or bite into your favorite burrito, your body responds with a healthy dose of endorphin.

    They are released into your body, especially the brain, to attach to nerve cells packed with waiting opioid receptors. This elaborate process essentially tones down the pain and turns up the pleasure.

    But, as with all good things, it only lasts a short time. Certain enzymes come around to evict the enkephalins from your nerve cells once their party time is over.

    How do endorphins impact physical activity?

    In a unique investigation done with runners, brain scans were taken before and after a good run (we all know the prevalent phenomenon of "runner's high,” right?). What they found was truly intriguing.

    Post-run, there was a marked increase in opioid release within the runner’s brains. The fascinating twist is that those who reported feeling a major surge of post-workout bliss showed the highest levels of opioid release in their brain scans.

    VitaRx Tip

    Now you know why you feel so energetic, cheerful, and ready to conquer the world post-workout (or post any enjoyable activity).

    Dos and don'ts of boosting endorphin production

    Increasing endorphin production is a great way to improve mood, alleviate pain, and enhance overall well-being. However, just like every health aspect, it's crucial to strike a balance. So, here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind:


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      Engage in regular physical exercise

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      Eat a balanced diet

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      Maintain healthy sleep patterns

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      Listen to music that you love

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      Enjoy laughter and social moments


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      Overdo the workout to the point of injury

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      Resort to binge-eating, especially junk food

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      Sacrifice sleep in favor of other activities

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      Listen to loud music that could harm your ears

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      Isolate yourself or suppress positive emotions

    Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

    Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about endorphins.

    Final thoughts

    We've taken a beautiful journey into decoding the awesome power of endorphins and enkephalins, your body's cheerful chemistry. You now understand the potent mix of pleasure, pain tolerance, and mood elevation they brew, transforming your physical and mental well-being.

    Remember, the key to unlocking its potential lies in balance – through moderate, enjoyable exercise, maintaining a wholesome diet, and fostering positive social interactions.

    Sources and references


    Stephanie Wright avatar

    Stephanie brings over 13 years of diverse nursing experience to the table, having honed her expertise in critical care, mental health, and utilization management. Her journey as a registered nurse across these various healthcare sectors underscores her adaptability and deep commitment to patient care.

    Fact checker

    Dr. Dimitar Marinov avatar

    Dr. Marinov has years of experience in scientific research and preventive and clinical medicine. His publications in peer-reviewed journals are on nutritional status, physical activity, and musculoskeletal disorders among adolescents.

    At VitaRx, we're not just passionate about our work — we take immense pride in it. Our dedicated team of writers diligently follows strict editorial standards, ensuring that every piece of content we publish is accurate, current, and highly valuable. We don't just strive for quality; we aim for excellence.

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