In 2016 there was a teenage girl in the States who lifted a burning car off the ground to save her father, to prevent him from getting burned.
You’ve heard of a mother who’s ran into a burning house to save a child and suffered second or third degree burns.
Endorphins are at play
When you are stressed or in pain, your brain releases endorphins to mask you from this pain or stress. These endorphins together with opiate receptors in the brain reduce our perception of the pain/stress.
It doesn’t have to be that extreme, we use endorphins every day to mask the stress and pain we feel, and to reduce the cortisol (stress) hormones that cause stress in our bodies. Endorphins give us a sense of well-being.
In times of fear, anger or pain, your brain is automated to fight or fly. At these moments, our bodies produce hormones to help us feel better. Endorphin is a very convenient hormone, it’s easily triggered and produced when you walk, run, swim, or engage your body in activity.
Sometimes we are stressed or angered in situations where we just cannot fight the person or run away from them. In response, the cortisol hormone (the stress hormone) builds up in our brains and has no way of being released.
Stress must be released from the body. Some people shout at the shop attendant because the paying machine is not accepting their cards, this is all pent-up stress that needs to be released. This is an attempt to use serotonin hormone (the feeling of I’m better than you) to mask the pain.
Others will get their ‘flirt’ on, and try their best to score a man or woman for the night or watch a series, using the dopamine effect (good feeling) to feel better.
Most of us will snack, heavily. We’ll have chips, crisps, chocolates, sweets, a bit of soda, and all the sugary energy-dense foods we can get our hands on; very bad option. Some of us will gamble.
When you are feeling very down, you tend to have a never ending conversation with yourself. You will insult everyone who’s featured in that internal conversation.
It starts with cursing yourself out, cursing the bus attendant, the shop attendant, your colleague who thinks he’s smart and yet he smells of sweat, your boss who could do with a wardrobe change. Then you’ll remember how stupid and useless you are, and justify being worthless.
This is how most people talk to themselves when they are down. No one can be more ruthless and insulting to you than yourself. At this point what you need is endorphins, to save yourself from yourself (literally).
How to feel better, endorphins from exercise
The one way you can help a depressed person, be it yourself or someone else, is to go on a 30-minute walk, at least 3 days a week.
We tend to think that exercise only works when you get to the gym. That’s not true. Physical exercise requires you to schedule 90-120 minutes in a week of your leisure time to walking with an intention of breathing and letting go of your thoughts.
Most of us think that walking to and from work is enough, it really is not. Most of us are stressed as we head to work, or at least feel miserable. Take time out and have a walk, it can be the first thing you do in the morning, during your lunch-break or in the evening.
There are several open spaces, parks and neighbourhoods around you. At 1 pm, wear your running (sports) shoes and head to Uhuru Park, Aboretum, and walk for 30-40 minutes.
Your stress related to making no progress in the report or anger evoked by your boss who just asked whether you have a brain will dissipate.
The anger you have inside boils so hot because our brains expect us to fight or fly. Your brain expects you to release the cortisol. Sometimes we can’t fight or fly, and can only stand and watch as a half-wit boss insults the hell out of us.
The hormone Cortisol wells up inside of your brain and body muscles, waiting for you to run or fight, and it can go nowhere because you, on the other hand, must stand and not react to the authoritative figure. That’s why you feel so lit up with emotion, so angry you can hit the wall with your bare fist.
Wear your running shoes, go on a walk, jog or run; see how quick your cortisol hormone will burn out, and your endorphins will be up again.
Physical and mental exercises (brain games like puzzles) have a powerful effect in connecting your brain neurons; they increase your memory and improve your ability to find solutions. They make you smarter. Regular exercise makes you feel good and happy.
Making love, good sex, also increases your endorphin levels, and so does being excited or having an orgasm.
Endorphins are feel-good hormones, not a source of happiness. They help to mask the pain one might be feeling, they make us feel better when we are low. Once you feel better, work towards finding a long term solution to your problem.