Endorphins are natural pain killing substances found in the human brain. The name comes from endogenous (meaning within) and morphine (morphine being a pain killer).

Natural pain killers

In the mid-1960s scientists proposed theories that the opiate narcotics (opium, heroin, morphine) mimic the actions of naturally occurring chemicals within the brain. They believed that these narcotics act as painkillers by manipulating the brain’s receivers for those naturally occurring substances.


In the late 1970s researchers learned that there are specific areas in the pituitary and hypothalamus of the brain that control pain. It is those areas that opiates attach themselves to, in order to perform their functions. It was only then that researchers were able to identify these naturally occurring pain killers.

Endorphins: the ultimate anti-depressant!

Endorphins are produced during orgasm, exercise, excitement, pain and even when we eat spicy or hot food. They regulate the production of growth and sex hormones. They control cravings and feelings of frustration and stress. Endorphins are the ultimate natural anti-depressant!

What is known as “runner’s high” occurs when the body senses pain from prolonged exertion and releases these natural opiate-like substances to prevent nerve cells from sending more pain signals. This explains how some athletes are able to persist with an event after they’ve been injured.

So here are two ways to start your day to get a good release of endorphins.

Meditation and running

If you don’t fancy a run to get your endorphin release in the morning, why not try some meditation?

A study by the School of Behavioural Sciences at the James Cook University of North Queensland, Australia, compared elite runners and trained meditators. Although running and meditation are obviously different metabolic activities, the researchers predicted that mood changes after running or meditating would be similar. And indeed that is what they found.

natural endorphins_2

Compared to pre-test moods (and those of a control group), both running and meditating elicited a positive mood change. Meditation stimulated the release of endorphins, as well as increasing production of other positive mood hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.

So you can achieve the euphoric “runner’s high” without ever leaving the comfort of your own mind!

And to improve the experience, why not listen to some binaural beats! Studies have shown endorphin release can be achieved from the use of Binaural Beats which broadcast the high beta frequencies.

Have a proper laugh!

It’s been observed that children laugh about 300 times a day, whereas adults laugh, on average, only about five times each day. So what a great way to start your day then watching, listening or doing something that triggers a little ‘inner jogging’!

In India Laughing Clubs, in which participants gather in the early morning for the sole purpose of laughing, are becoming increasingly popular, while in the UK, the psychologist and psychotherapist Robert Holden launched the country’s first laughter clinics in 1991, with funding from the NHS.

A study by researcher Robin Dunbar, of the University of Oxford, found that when we laugh properly, the physical exertion leaves us exhausted and thereby triggers the release of protective endorphins that promote feelings of well-being.

So what a great way to start your day with a little meditation and laughter, to get those endorphins flowing and you in the mood to take on your day!


To read more about Dean Griffiths, visit his Expert Profile.


The effects of running and meditation on beta-endorphin, corticotropin-releasing hormone and cortisol in plasma, and on mood.

Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold.

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