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Finding that inner smile, Endorphins and stuff!

Have you ever spent a moment to just think about what makes you smile? Not just a broad grin but that inner smile, an inner lift of the heart, or something that just reaches the corners of your mouth? Try thinking now of that something that touches your heart. Was it a place, a time, people, sounds, tastes or an activity? If you did sense a slight shift in yourself, a brightening; this is your own ability to sense, feel and experience and is due to the biochemical reactions inside your body. In fact it is all about your own body's ability to produce endorphins, your body's happiness system.

Just recently I have spent some time pondering about how to find a way of living that reduces stress levels through finding pleasure and happiness in small moments. I found myself reading a book called ‘The Endorphin Effect' by William Boom (Piatkus,2001) and it is the essence of this book I am using for this article.

So what about the science bit? You have probably heard about Endorphins, the so called happiness chemical. Endorphins are part of a group of chemicals called neuropeptides. Neuropeptides carry information around the body and are part of a sequence that occurs in our bodies; the body produces neuropeptides, these change how the body feels, this feeling affects our emotions and this new in turn affects our behaviour. Endorphins in fact are involved in a whole range of physiological functions such as breathing and food consumption as well as influencing psychological functions such as motivation and stress. Endorphins therefore are intrinsically tied up in our own ability to remove stress and to create a feeling of pleasure.

So how can we activate our feel good endorphins? Clearly this is all about a complex relationship between our body chemistry, minds and environment, each one influences the other. Thinking back to the opening question, it can be a very personal question; for example you may get pleasure from stroking your cat (an external stimuli) or thinking about someone you adore (an internal stimuli). Bloom believes that there is a loop that induces wellbeing; that between physical, psychological and environmental wellbeing; all influencing the production of endorphins. A pleasurable thought can therefore trigger the production of endorphins leading to relaxation and melting away tension.

So what brings you pleasure? This is always a tricky question and it may be worth your time just noting down under some headings such as people, places, tastes and smells. Just what really lifts your mood when you either think about them or directly experience them?

This is an entirely personal process but it is also about becoming conscious of the things that really bring you pleasure. It is about taking a moment to (as Bloom recommends) Notice - Pause – Absorb. Just try that now with something you love……it is about you getting into a habit of noticing and not taking for granted the things that make you happy. Noticing that this thought, activity or view is helping you to feel relaxed, and that there is a change in your body; a smile, a tingle, a lightening of your mood. By absorbing these sensations and allowing yourself to slow your breathing you can let the pleasurable experience wash through you.

Notice – Pause – Absorb.

I truly believe that this simple little activity is one way to help you reduce your stress levels, helping you to focus in a conscious and mindful way on the things that bring you pleasure, but also being a helpful tool in the production of those essential happiness chemicals endorphins.

If you are interested in the things I have to say just send me a comment or better still if you think I can help you achieve a life with less stress then contact me, I would love to hear from you.

Reference: Bloom, William. The Endorphin Effect. Piatkus, 2001 .

Michelle Krethlow Shaw

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© 2012 Michelle Krethlow Shaw