Neuropeptides – The Molecules of Emotion (Part 3)

In the final part of our exploration of the peptides, or molecules of emotion, Dr van der Merwe looks at endorphins and various ways to feel good.

If we choose to feel good by doing or thinking about things that make us happy, grateful and joyful, even if only for a few minutes every day, we’ll change our informational substances (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.


Endorphins were discovered in 1975 and are a group of hormones, secreted within the brain and nervous system having a number of physiological functions. They are peptides that activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing an analgesic effect.

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. Distress and pain are the two most common triggers for the release of 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.

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 this after prolonged exercise.

• Breathing techniques – changing the rate of your breathing allows the respiratory centre to become flooded with endorphins. This is why 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 outbreath longer than the inbreath; 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 bellow) for every deep inhalation. To prevent dizziness, sit down and do only 5-10 breaths.

• Certain foods, like chocolate (preferably dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids), and  chilli peppers can enhance the secretion of endorphins.

• Through acupuncture, massage therapy and regular meditation practice.

• Making love is a potent trigger for endorphin release. So remember, next time you have a ‘headache’ – there might be a quick fix.

Become aware of your habitual thought patterns; they do create reality!

Where are your thoughts? Anticipation, fear and worry are mostly associated with the future, in which you have no control. Unresolved anger, bitterness, resentment stem from 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 – it is 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 it. This will lead to moments of joy and happiness – our birthright feelings that lie deep within our souls, connecting us to God/source/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!

Written by Dr Arien van der Merwe.