Our generation is practically glued to our gadgets, so it's hard to blame anyone for not finding time to exercise. Even while you're reading this article, you're probably not moving very much. For those of us dealing with the "cloudiness" which comes with depression or stressful days, endorphins are the ultimate hormone to improve your mood and alleviate these symptoms naturally.
Secreted in your brain and nervous system, endorphins activate the exact same receptors as many powerful, but illegal drugs do without the negative side-effects. Although the brain mostly releases these peptides naturally through physical exercise, other methods such as meditation, yoga and even eating hot peppers can also trigger it. When endorphins lock into opiod receptors (opiates work also), they block the transmission of pain signals and also produce a euphoric feeling researchers are often trying to duplicate in the lab.
Scientists studied the effects in the 1970s when working with opiates such as morphine and heroin, which have a very pleasurable, but addictive effect with the brain. They found the receptors located primarily in the spinal cord and brain.
During intense physical or mental states, the fight or flight response in the brain is triggered and pain receptors are blocked for enhanced mood and negativity tolerance. Copying the euphoric effects of drugs, the experience of this potent cocktail may not be as intense as opiates can stimulate, but can still have a powerful boost to our mental states and alleviate depression.
When exposed to stimuli such as food or pain, the hypothalamus orders cells in the body to create these peptides. As they lock onto the receptors, it acts as a pain-killer and reward system for the body.
Humans can really experience a euphoric "high" from endorphins through intense physical exercise, but light or moderate training has been shown in studies to not release this hormone enough for the strong effect. As the body crosses over from an aerobic state to an anaerobic state, it's suddenly operating without enough oxygen to satisfy the muscles and cells start forcing it, creating a "runner's high" many gym-addicts thrive on.
Chocolate also contains the endorphin anandamide, which mimics the effects of marijuana, but the effect is much more subtle.
Laughing, smiling, social interactions and even sex can lead to sudden releases; in addition to thrilling activities such as sky-diving or your typical roller-coaster. In the end, as long as we keep our mind and body stimulated, our bodies will continue churning out this amazing chemical for years to come.