Tag Archive: endorphins

  1. Can I Have a Sober Summer and Still Have Fun?

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    Summer can be associated with drinking and letting loose. In reality, summer has nothing to do with drinking, any more than the holiday season does. It is possible to have fun in summer without getting drunk.

    However, it often seems like everywhere one goes in summer such as beaches, barbecues, picnics and parties, alcohol is present. People tend to drink during the day and coolers filled with beer are all over the place. There is unspoken pressure to ‘have fun’ and too many times that fun is linked to drinking alcohol.

    So are there ways to have fun in the summer without having a drink? Yes there are.

    Learn Something New

    Summer is the perfect time to try something new. People are always talking about wanting to try something new and different, maybe learn a skill that they have been thinking about, like learning to play an instrument, take a martial arts class, learn to cook. It could be anything. Learning something new is fun and enjoyable and will keep the individual busy and away from idle drinking.

    Get Fit

    What better time to get a beach body than the summer. The hot season would be a great time to start a new fitness routine. This will make the individual not only look good but feel good. The endorphins released with exercising are better than an alcohol high. Simple things like walking everyday, going to yoga classes or swimming are a good start if the individual doesn’t want an intensive routine. Above all, the benefits of getting fit are many, for the body as well as the mind.

    Vitamin D

    Soak up the sunshine! Vibrant, sunny days mean that the individual can get natural Vitamin D from the sun.  Vitamin D helps the brain create positive neural connections that keep the mind sharp and positive

    Stepping Up The Program

    No matter where the individual is in their recovery process, stepping up their program will push them to a new level of success. One way to do so is to check out different support group meetings, apart from the one the individual regularly goes to. They can also participate in program related activities where they can bond with other individuals in recovery on trips, camping, etc.

    Remember to Celebrate

    Getting to recovery is a long, hard process. The individual must remember to celebrate where they are and how many difficulties they had to overcome to get there. Summer is a great time to invite friends and family over. Even new sober friends. Throw a barbecue, host a dinner party, arrange a brunch and have plenty of mocktails and soft drinks around. Share the celebration with loved ones, but be sure to make it a strictly no alcohol affair. There is nothing better than spending time with friends and family who support the individual and will be happy to see their progress.

    It is a blessing to have a few months of warm weather and blue skies to experience without nursing a hangover or feeling terrible about something. In recovery, the individual has started a new life and they should take the opportunity to experience it fully.


    Sustain Recovery provides a safe, structured environment for adolescents to learn about living substance free. To learn more about the elements of transitioning to sober living, contact us about our programs and how it can help you.

  2. What Are the Benefits of Endorphins?

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    Endorphins may play a key role in addiction but evidence is not always specific about how it works or whether it helps much at all. Endorphins are chemicals produced in the body to help diminish pain while triggering positive feelings. Sometimes referred to as the brain’s ‘feel good’ chemicals, it is a natural painkiller. Learn more about potential benefits of endorphins.


    The body will produce endorphins in response to intense physical exercise. Endorphins play a role in ‘runner’s high. The feelings of euphoria long distance runners experience after prolonged bouts of exercise helps to fuel a better run. Release of endorphins varies from each person to another which means the same amount of exercise does not produce the same amount of endorphins for every person. Research suggests exercise helps improve mood and may aid in depression treatment so exercise makes sense to help kick up the ‘feel good’ attributes.


    Endorphins play a role in the brain’s reward system. Some scientists and doctors have suggested ‘feel good’ chemicals play a role in exercise addiction or drug dependence. Exercise addiction may occur in people who exercise excessively. It is characterized by symptoms of withdrawal, feeling depressed, anxious or restless after not exercising. The same is true of other substances as well. Endorphins a play a major role in addiction in fueling the desire to continue drinking, using drugs or having promiscuous sex as the brain chemicals flood the body and create cravings for the substance. Increased levels of endorphins have been linked to vigorous exercise but also to dependence or addiction, with some negative but some positive benefits.

    Pain Relief

    One of endorphins’ main functions is to moderate pain. A part of the brain called the hypothalamus sets off a chain of events which increases production of endorphins. This higher level of endorphins helps individuals deal more effectively with chronic pain management. People with high levels of endorphins following surgery have a better response to the pain.


    Laughter provides an easy way to enjoy life and forget about stress. The body releases endorphins when a person laughs and makes the experience enjoyable. Even expecting to laugh can increase levels of endorphins in the body. During a study published in 2006, endorphins were highest in individuals to expected to laugh than people who did not. Stress can be reduced and mood can become elevated when a person is able to laugh or anticipate laughter as a benefit of the feel good chemicals flooding the system.

    Overall, endorphins provide a gateway to some important health benefits but also come with risks when involved with addictions. The power of the brain’s chemicals in the body should not be underestimated but it is important to realize the benefits are greater often than the challenges, which can be overcome with the right support network and system in place to guide an individual through recovery and thus to enjoy the benefits of the positive side effects of endorphins, and life itself.

    Call Sustain Recovery to find out more about our adolescent care programs. We are here to support your journey to recovery with our individualized programs and services.

  3. Endorphins and the Secret of Runner’s High

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    enorphins and the runner's highSedentary people often have a hard time understanding how intense physical activity can make them feel good. They see runners and other physically active people wincing, gasping for air, and walking slowly and painfully after an exercise session. They cannot answer the question, however, of why those physically active people return time and again to activities that look painful and uncomfortable to the sedentary observer. The answer is that intense physical activity can bring about a euphoric sensation known as “the runner’s high”.

    What are Endorphins?

    For many years, researchers have connected the runner’s high to increased endorphin levels that they saw in the bloodstreams of individuals who participated in high-intensity activities. Endorphins are natural painkillers that are released when a body experiences stress or pain. They are also released to reinforce enjoyable events, such as a good meal or sexual activity. Endorphins share certain chemical structures with morphine, and in some ways they create a similar effect. Yet recent research has revealed that endorphins in themselves are not entirely responsible for the runner’s high.

    Endorphin molecules are large and complex, and as such they do not pass easily between the blood-brain barrier. Individuals who do exercise have been found to have increased levels of another neurotransmitter, anandamide, in their brains, and that anandamide seems to lead to higher endorphin levels in their bloodstreams. Anandamide is a form of a cannabinoid that has a similar structure to the effective compound in marijuana. This does not suggest that exercising creates the same kind of high that can result from smoking a marijuana cigarette, but a body’s natural chemical reaction to exercise and the pleasurable sensations realized as a result of that exercise is such that the same pleasure centers and receptors are involved.

    The Secret of the Runner’s High

    The secret behind a runner’s high may very well involve a number of different factors. In addition to causing the release of endorphins, anandamides, and other feel-good neurotransmitters, exercising floods a person’s body with energy-inducing norepinephrine. Regular exercise helps a person to lose weight and to look and feel better, leading to improved energy levels and higher self-esteem. Individuals who exercise regularly can (at least in the eyes of sedentary individuals) have insufferable levels of energy and is coupled with bragging about various athletic feats. A distance runner can gasp through a race and walk gingerly for several hours or days after a race, but even before the pain subsides he is planning his next run to chase after the runner’s high. Science might not fully understand it, but regular runners vouch for the reality of what they experience.

    People who are dealing with depression or anxiety, or who are trying to break a drug addiction or alcoholism habit, might find that running or other vigorous exercise are the perfect tool to aid in their struggles. Because vigorous physical exercise can put a sudden strain on a sedentary person’s heart, he or she should not jump into a running program or other exercise regime without first consulting with a physician. Weeks or months can elapse before the first inkling of a runner’s high makes its appearance, but once it does appear, a person can get hooked on an active and healthy lifestyle.  


    For suggestions and more information on starting a running or exercise program,, please call Sustain Recovery Services at (949) 407-9052. Our staff can direct you to pursue the best path to start your own quest for the runner’s high.

  4. Science Confirms that Laughter is Good For You

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    Science Confirms that Laughter is Good For YouProfessional comedians have long relied on the release that accompanies laughter when they set up tension in a joke, only to have that tension relieved by the punch line. Almost everyone can relate to the soul-cleansing catharsis of a good belly laugh. Laughter relaxes us, makes us feel happy, and erases bad and negative thoughts from our minds. The positive healthful effects of laughter have now been affirmed by scientific research.

    Laughter is Good for You

    By repeatedly forcing air out of our lungs, laughter is a form of physical exertion. All physical activity releases endorphins into our systems, and those neurotransmitters make us feel good. Scientific research has confirmed that laughter will accomplish this endorphin release. Laughter stretches our muscles and raises our blood pressure and pulse rate. We take in extra oxygen to recover from a good laugh, and that oxygen contributes to an overall sense of well-being. When we are with a group of people who all join together in laughing at something, the effects are even greater. Thus the social aspects of laughter are thought to enhance the physical and psychological benefits that we derive from it.

    It is unlikely that laughter will fully replace traditional therapies for depression and other psychological disorders, but as counselors look for alternative methods to help their patients who suffer from those disorders, laughter can be a valuable adjunct tool. Counselors can encourage patients to look for things that make them laugh and to incorporate those things into their daily routines.

    Laughter and Memory Issues

    Laughter also has potential to help older individuals who are experiencing memory problems. At least one study has suggested that elderly persons have improved memory recall after they watch a 20-minute laugh-inducing video. Those individuals also had noticeable lower levels of stress hormones in their systems. Other studies have examined potential links between laughter and reduced incidents of heart disease, and whether laughter is an effective means to alleviate or control pain.

    The benefits of laughter may well be the result of an improved quality of life. Individuals who exhibit a higher propensity to laugh will generally have stronger social networks and support structures around them. Laughter may well be an effect and not a cause of an improved quality of life. Even with this question, however, no therapist or counselor would recommend that a person reduce the amount of laughter in his life. When an individual is experiencing pain or discomfort, for example, any distraction can reduce his perception of that pain. In this context, laughter is only one of several potential distractions that might work.  As long as connections are seen between laughter and improved mental and physical health, laughter will remain as a recommendation in every therapist’s toolbox.

    If you have a chance to stop and laugh at something during your day, you should grab at that chance while you can. You might be surprised at how much better a good laugh will make you feel.

    For more suggestions on how to incorporate laughter into your life, please call Sustain Recovery Services at (949) 407-9052. We will be happy to enjoy a good laugh with you.

  5. Exercise and Depression

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    Exercise and DepressionMarathon runners and other distance athletes are familiar with the concept of a “runner’s high”. Yoga practitioners strive for a sense of “being in the moment”. Professional athletes achieve high levels of performance when they are “in the zone”. Regardless of how it is characterized, the sense of well-being that accompanies physical exercise is an effective counter-balance to depression. Counselors and therapists are increasingly using exercise programs to treat depression and other similar psychological disorders.

    Exercise and Depression

    The physical benefits of exercise are well-documented. Exercise improves heart health and energy levels. It can lower your blood pressure, reduce your body fat, and improve your muscle tone and bone density. Physical activity also reduces perceived stress, boosts self-esteem, and leads to better sleep. When you feel good, you can better handle the adverse effects of depression.

    Researchers are gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms that create these benefits. Physical activity causes a release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters into your metabolic system that make you feel good. It also bolsters your immune system and reduces immune system stressors that can contribute to bad feelings. Exercising in group settings or classes will put you in a social environment that can improve your sense of well-being. At its most basic level, strenuous exercise can distract you from focusing on any bad feelings that might be holding you back.

    Exercise in Recovery

    This does not suggest that exercise can or should be a total substitute for other treatments, particularly if depression is severe  or is the result of a deep-seated psychological trauma. In these more extreme situations, exercise is an effective adjunct treatment that complements more traditional therapies. Even the smallest amount of physical activity, such as walking outside for ten minutes or doing light housework, can help an individual who is mired in a depressive mindset.

    Starting small and simple is a key to integrating exercise effectively into a therapeutic program to treat an individual’s depression, particularly if that individual has never participated in any exercise programs. An easy ten- to fifteen minute daily walk can provide a good foundation to increase physical activity to 30 minutes or more per day. A therapist who recommends an exercise program will want to remain vigilant to confirm that a person’s failure to follow those recommendations does not contribute to a deeper sense of failure and depression. Exercise should be treated as a reward and not as a mandatory event. It should also be scheduled into a person’s daily routine, rather than being left as something to do if and when an individual has time to exercise after a long day of job and family responsibilities.


    The number of individuals who suffer from mild depression has grown as society has become more sedentary. Physical exercise may not reverse this greater trend, but it can help individuals to regain some sense of well-being that may have gotten lost with the trend toward inactivity.

    For more information and suggestions on how exercise can help alleviate your depression symptoms, please call Sustain Recovery Services at (949) 407-9052.

I first met Sayeh in November of 2013 just after my 15 year old daughter had been admitted to a residential treatment program. As part of the program I was required to attend 2-3 AlAnon meetings a week. Sayeh attended the same AlAnon meetings as well as Alumni events as I. It soon became apparent to me that Sayeh had a heart for recovery, program, and God. When I was encouraged to get a sponsor I didn’t hesitate. Dependable, respectful, kind and generous of spirit, she exudes an inner peace that I hope to achieve with her loving guidance, as I work my own program. She is patient, & full of wisdom that she is always happy to share with her sponsees and fellow parents. I am so grateful our journeys brought us together.

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