Endorphins – The Natural Opioid
When dogs are lacking proper stimulation (are bored) they often adopt unhealthy behaviors like becoming antsy or restless, being destructive or eating and sleeping excessively. People take on these behaviors too, but unlike dogs, we can relieve our boredom by doing something other than chewing our foot or digging a hole in the couch cushion. We are so intellectually evolved that we can expel our boredom by obsessively playing video games, compulsively checking social media or binge-watching anything and everything on Netflix. To top it off, we can do all of these things while indulging in synthetic, fried and nutritionless foods. I think we’ve got this superior species thing down . . . no, not really. Dominating Fortnite, engaging in endless political Twitter wars, completing an entire season of Breaking Bad in a sitting and downing a huge plastic barrel of cheese puffs can be very gratifying, but it’s not a good idea. Although these activities are sufficient at providing a reprieve from tedium in the short term, the big picture tells us that they are not healthy solutions, especially in excess.
But what makes them so satisfying? . . .”Feel good” hormones, known as endorphins, are released when we are stimulated by things such as food, stress (good and bad) and social connectivity (even if it’s over the internet). According to WebMD, these endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. The medical community refers to these brain-created hormones as naturally occurring opioids. And like plant-based or synthetic opioids, they can also produce a sense of pleasure or euphoria.
Drugs and alcohol are catalysts for these “feel good” hormones and enhance our body’s ability to create them.
Okay! What could be bad about that? Well, it’s not the endorphins, but the means of releasing them. Staring at a screen for hours on end, becoming sedentary, not eating well, and substance abuse can all have long-term negative effects on all the systems of the body.
The great news is you can kill two birds with one stone. (Not really, those birds never did anything to you.) Guess my point is you can achieve two goals with one effort. The thing is, there are beneficial ways to defeat boredom by releasing natural opioids in your body and making yourself healthier at the same time. And there is a particularly effective one.
Exercise is one of the very best ways to encourage the release of those “happy hormones” in your brain! Not only do you get a rush of endorphins, but over time, you increase lung capacity and create more efficient oxygenation throughout your body, strengthen muscles (very importantly, the heart), tone your body, increase your immune system and lots of other good stuff!!! The trick to exercising is making sure the exercise suits you. I’m not good in a gym (wouldn’t last a week), but I love a good nature walk. Maybe you would be better-suited swimming laps, playing basketball, kayaking or dancing in your living room . . . It’s just about getting up and moving.
AND if you’re a dog owner you could get your pooch involved. PetMD suggests that, depending on the dog’s size and breed, they should have 30 minutes (that’s all YOU need) to two hours of activity every day. So if you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your couch cushions, I mean dog.
If you have a problem with substance abuse, exercise will help, but professional support is also necessary. We are here to help! Freedom Healthcare Services offers compassionate, individualized treatment for addiction while seeking to encourage, educate, and empower.
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