The Endorphin Effect is a holistic healthcare strategy which identifies five ways in which people trigger the neuropeptides/hormones of the endorphin family. It also teaches the strategies whereby people can trigger endorphins at will and increase their production.
This is significant for healthcare because endorphins are the neuropeptides responsible for the relaxation of tissue, the anaesthetising of pain and sensations of physical pleasure. It supports both physical and psychological health when people are able to practice a self-management strategy that produces immediate physical sensations of wellbeing.
Endorphins are often described as the body’s natural opiates and the word endorphin is derived from the Greek endo (within) and morphine. ie Morphine produced within the body – endogenous morphine. Endo(mo)rphin(e).
The strategies were first developed by Dr William Bloom, a psychologist and meditation practitioner, in the 1990’s and were made publicly available in the book The Endorphin Effect (Piatkus Books, 2001). Their usage by therapists, coaches and individuals has been gradually building. Some cancer care organisations, such as Bristol (Penny Brohn) Cancer Care, have them integrated into their approach; all senior trainers in the Northern Ireland department of social security deliver them as part of their training package; there is also a growing number of therapists and coaches trained in delivering them.
Scientifically, the Endorphin Effect is part of the growing body of knowledge known as psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), which studies the systemic interdependence of the brain-mind, the nervous system and the endocrine system. Pavlov’s famous experiment in which a dog salivates at the sound of a bell, because the sound of the bell is neurologically associated with food, is perhaps the best known example of how the mind may determine neural and endocrinal states.
PNI is a core feature of contemporary and holistic healthcare, particularly because of the known harmful effects on health caused by psychological tension and other uncomfortable emotions and feelings. In a study at Westminster University’s School of Integrated Health it was shown that the Endorphin Effect strategies had an immediate effect in reducing the levels of cortisol, the major neuropeptide of stress and tension. (“Salivary cortisol, stress and arousal following a 5-week training programme in kinaesthetic guided meditation to undergraduate students”, Journal of Holistic Healthcare, Volume 3, Issue 3, August, 2006. Download this paper as pdf.)
The discovery of endorphins was made in 1975 by two research teams, one in Scotland at St Andrews University and the other in the United States at John Hopkins. The history and implications of the discovery of endorphins is described in a book by one of the researchers – Candace Pert’s Molecules of Emotion.
The Endorphin Effect is based in two abilities of the human mind.
- The first is to imagine and to visualise.
- The second is to notice sensations in the body.
As such, its foundations can be found in classical meditation strategies of mindfulness and internal martial arts. From a more contemporary perspective the Endorphin Effect is part of the growing movement for emotional literacy – the ability to notice and manage feelings to positive effect – and other body sensitive holistic strategies such as Focusing, the Relaxation Response, Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, NLP, Autogenics, HeartMath and so on. It also integrates easily, as does mindfulness meditation, with cognitive behavioural approaches.
The ease with which the Endorphin Effect strategies can be used is based in the fact that each of them is a natural phenomenon that people have already experienced. It is simply a matter of consciously re-visiting or activating these phenomena.
The Five Core Triggers
- Positive Triggers – any enjoyable thought or activity
- Rest – the sensations of sinking into a rest
- Inner Smile – the sensations of giving attentive care to your own body
- Connection/Biophylia – the natural world in many forms
- Exercise – twenty minutes or more of movement
The Four Core Skills
- Notice sensations
- Absorb – allow the sensations to sink in
- Hold/Cradle – give care to any uncomfortable feelings that may arise.
These triggers and skills are fully unpacked in both the book and in all Endorphin Effect classes/workshops.