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(Neuro)peptides: The Molecules of Emotions [Part 3]

Written by Dr Arien van der Merwe MBChB NHA FRSPH MISMA

In this, the final part of our exploration of the peptides, or molecules of emotion, we’ll consider the endorphins and some ways to feel good. If we choose to feel good, doing or thinking about things that make us feel happy, grateful and joyful, even if only for a few minutes every day, we’ll change our informational substances (the molecules of emotion) to send better feeling frequencies through binding to specific receptors on our cell membranes, right into the core of every cell, the nucleus that contain our DNA.


The brain produces its own peptides, the endogenous opiates (e.g. beta-endorphin). These chemicals are produced in the brain in response to a variety of stimuli. Endorphins were discovered in 1975. Distress and pain are the two most common triggers for release of the endorphins. Activation of the opiate receptors in the brain by the body’s own endorphins do not cause addiction or dependence, whereas exogenous opiates, such as morphine and codeine, do lead to addiction and dependence. 

The effect of endorphins on the body-mind:

  • decrease in pain sensation
  • feelings of euphoria
  • appetite modulation
  • release of sex hormones
  • enhanced immune response
  • fewer negative effects of stress

Enhance your own endorphins:

  • Regular exercise where you push yourself a little. This is the runner’s high, or being in the zone, athletes experience after prolonged exercise.
  • Breathing techniques. Changing the rate of your breathing, allows the respiratory centre to become flooded with endorphins. This is why the yoga breathing techniques are so effective. Examples include complete breath, inhaling through the nose, into the lower, mid and upper chest area, filling the lungs completely (belly-chest-collarbone); diaphragmatic breathing where you breathe in slowly and deeply, holding the breath, then releasing it, making the out breath longer than the in breath; or breathing in deeply, holding it and breathing out fast and forcefully through the mouth – a few forceful exhalations (pushing the tummy in and out like a bellows) for every deep inhalation. Sit down if you do this to prevent dizziness, and do only 5-10 breaths.
  • Certain foods, like chocolate (preferably dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids), and chili peppers can enhance the secretion of endorphins.
  • Through acupuncture, massage therapy and regular meditation practice
  • Last but not least: making love is a potent trigger for endorphin release! So remember next time you have the ‘headache’ – there might be a quick fix!

Become aware of your habitual thought patterns – thoughts do create reality!

Where are your thoughts? Anticipation, fear and worry are mostly in the future over which you have no control. Unresolved anger, bitterness, resentment are in the past. You can only learn from, grow and let go of the past. You can never change it. So why waste your precious life force energy there? These thoughts prevent you from being in the present, the NOW, which is all you have. Thoughts lead to emotions or feelings that often manifest as physical reality, symptoms, disease and habitual behaviour. Try journal writing as a very effective thought management tool that can help you release unpleasant thoughts and feelings.

How to feel good!

Experience gratitude, tune into what you do have and appreciate in your life. This will lead to moments of joy and happiness: our birth right feelings that lie deep within our souls, connecting us to Source/God/Higher Self. When we’re joyful we feel connected to our deepest truth, our authentic selves; in flow, in the stream of wellbeing – yield to your higher mind, trust, let go! Experience the shift from left brain to right mind!

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