Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Release the Dolphins!

My youngest son used to like to tell people all about the dolphins that lived in his brain.  It wasn't until he fell and hurt himself and instructed me to cuddle him so his brain would release the dolphins from the hippopotamus, to swim to his hurt knee, to eat the pain that I realised what he was on about.  


Endorphins, not dolphins, produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, not the hippopotamus! 

Endorphins are a morphine-like substance, produced by our own bodies during times of stress or pain or during sex and physical activity and they disinhibit dopamine pathways in the brain.  Dopamine is the reward system used by our brains.  It makes us feel not only content and happy but also powerful and in control.

As dopamine is a reward doled out to us by our brains, it can also be used as motivation.  Therefore, thinking about dopamine triggers can in fact release dopamine as an incentive to go and get said trigger.

If you are addicted to heroin, for example, dopamine is released in your brain when you think about it, in order to motivate you to go and get it and when you look at it in anticipation of taking it, which releases the most.  Your body becomes used to a new level of dopamine that it cannot get naturally and so it relies on regular doses of heroin to remain feeling normal.

If you have had a deep relationship with food for a number of years, in a similar way to a heroin addict, your brain relies heavily on thinking about food, planning what to cook and prepare, looking at food and eating food in order to deliver enough dopamine to remain feeling normal.

In order to break this reliance on food to remain feeling normal, you need to replace your source of dopamine and gradually reduce the amount you need to feel normal.

Sounds simple?  It is!

Lots of things trigger a release of dopamine.

A release of endorphins through pain, for example.  I'm not suggesting you replace food with self flagellation.  But stretching exercises, where you stretch your muscles to a point of mild discomfort can be enough to trigger endorphins and release dopamine. Clearly a more positive way to get a mild high that hitting yourself with a thorny twig.

Social interaction (gossip, to us girls) can release dopamine.

Exercise, lifting weights, going for a walk or a run can also release endorphins and dopamine.  Clearly healthier than a cream bun.

Heroin we have covered...not so healthy.  A cup of coffee, better!

The more you can take control of your body by replacing negative highs with positive highs, the easier it will become to live a fit and healthy life.

So take control of that hippopotamus and feel the power of your inner dolphins!

Krish x

1 comment:

  1. Everything you have said is oh so true! Speaking as someone who has been on anti depressants for a good few years.... The best medicine is exercise!