Skin cancer is indeed on the rise in the United States. Between 1992 and 2006, the number of treatment procedures for slow-growing nonmelanoma skin cancers increased by almost 77%. Society’s obsession with good looks and beach-bronze skin may be one factor, but prior research has shown that something else could be going on. Frequent tanners experience withdrawal symptoms when given a drug that overrides the effects of opioids, chemicals that can be naturally produced by the body and generate feelings of euphoria. Tanners can also tell the difference between beds emitting UV radiation and non-UV light, saying that they prefer UV beds, which make them feel more relaxed.
Those factors led David Fisher, a physician and skin researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, to wonder, “Could there be something deeper that’s driving people—despite their knowledge and intent to be safe—to put themselves in harm’s way?”
To find out, he and his colleagues gave mice a daily dose of UV light for 6 weeks; it was equivalent to what a light-skinned person would receive while lounging in the midday Florida sun for 20 to 30 minutes. The team then measured levels of β-endorphin, an opioid produced by the brain that’s responsible for feelings of pleasure, and analyzed the rodents’ tail positions and sensitivity to pain and temperature. The idea is that opioids cause animals to become less aware of discomfort. For instance, if they’re being poked with a pin or are sitting on a warm plate, they won’t quickly notice. Their tails, which are normally floppy, can also straighten out if they’re on opioid drugs, like morphine.
The team’s findings, published online in Cell, reveal significant elevations in endorphin levels—ranging from 30% to 50%—after mice got their daily hit of rays. The animals also demonstrated decreased touch and temperature sensitivity and walked with rigid, erect tails—all signs that the endorphins were producing opioidlike effects. On the other hand, control mice with no exposure to UV exhibited normal behavior, and a genetically engineered group that was unable to produce β-endorphins remained unaffected in the presence of UV rays.
The world is moving through challenging times. Sometimes events and circumstances can get heavy. Whilst processing our stuff is positive, wallowing for too long in negativity can be counterproductive. It can create a downward spiral. So how might we keep our heads above water? How might we balance the ‘playing field’ when we’re processing density? Well one answer is ‘The Endorphin Effect’. Endorphins are chemicals we can produce in our bodies to block negative energy and make us feel positively uplifted and joyful inside. So how do you activate endorphins when needed?…
It’s all a question of choice
Is the glass half full or half empty? In actual fact the glass is always full – its half full of air! Its just an example of choice – how we choose to see things in life and to experience them. We can choose either to attune to the darkness all around us or the light through it.
When we see only the darkness and allow ourselves to become identified with that, here’s when our internal trouble begins – although processing our inner attachments and releasing the pain is good, wallowing in it certainly doesn’t help us move through. If we allow negativity to dominate our experience then internally we reproduce chemicals in the brain which flood our bloodstream, invade our bodily cells and create the feeling of internal stress – yes we’re actually changing our very cell structure to become stress!
But we can prevent this from happening with practice and perseverance. When we process out our attachment and identification with the negative by confronting it ‘head on’, then we can actively soften into the lightness of life, which exists everywhere even in the midst of darkness. Then we begin to release other chemicals from the brain – endorphins – which prevent the invasion of negative energies into our cells. Our cells are pumped full of the sense of joy and love which helps balance the playing field.
(NB: It’s important to note: I’m not encouraging people to avoid processing density and darkness, I’m suggesting ways which can help find the light through it.)
Recall fond experiences
I remember fondly a holiday I once took a few years back. It was on the island of Majorca, on the northern coast, away from the hubbub, in the picturesque and ancient tiny village called Deia. I didn’t have much money, so I was camping in a beautiful orange grove overlooking the sea…
In the centre of the village is a ‘well-heeled’ hotel, owned by the famous entrepreneur Richard Branson, which I knew had an amazing open air jacuzzi nestled into the mountain side. On this particular morning, I’d walked up to the village just before dawn and as I passed the hotel, I wondered if anyone would notice if I sneaked in and had a nifty dip in the jacuzzi. Surely Sir Richard wouldn’t mind?
So I did. Fortunately no one noticed me. And as I sank into the warming waters, I quickly began to feel joy and infinite peace as all tension dissolved away from my body. Around the pool were the soft colours of sandstone and as the sun came up over the mountains in front of me, the darkness of the sky began to lighten into a wonderful indigo and then golden orange.
My favoured almond aroma wafted in on the gentle ocean breeze and in the trees all around me, the birds began their morning song, piercing the quietness with their fragile beauty. I was quickly losing any sense of separation; the healing effects of the water, the vibration of the birds song and the joy of the sun were becoming me and I was becoming them. All tightness quickly disappeared.
As I reflect on it now, I’m looking upwards to the surface of the water and as the golden sunlight shines through, I can see my body becoming increasingly translucent, like a wafer thin film through which the water is gently rippling.
It was at some point after that, it could have been an eternity because all sense of time had stopped, I felt what I can only describe as ‘liquid gold’ begin to flow downwards from the crown of my head and into my chakras. The sense of joy, love and upliftment was beyond words. Tears welled up in my eyes and flowed ceaselessly down my cheeks.
Needless to say its a fond memory that will always remain in my awareness. And now, if I find myself surrounded too much by the darkness of the world and I need some respite, all I have to do is bring my attention to similar experiences and very quickly, warming, enlightening sensations begin to flood my system. They have a deeply uplifting, beneficial and healing effect.
Putting your mind to it
The mind can lead you into all kinds of difficulty but it can be your best friend too. I’m sure, with a little attention and focus, we can all put our minds to it and each recall an experience of similar joy and beauty that deeply moved you. Maybe it was also a favoured holiday? Perhaps it’s the first time you fell in love? or even your earliest, carefree childhood memories? Why not just stop for a moment and reflect…………….
Its all around us
There are many things in our daily lives that can generate such a positive endorphin effect. Exercise for example, deep breathing and making the choice to notice the simple beauty in life: the fragile innocence of a small child; the twinkle in an old lady’s eye; an autumn leaf wafting on the breeze. If we keep applying ourselves in this way, even the seemingly insignificant can help generate uplifting joy.
This is a form of meditation of course (who said it has to be about just sitting in silence?!). The experiences I had in the magical Deia inspired me to record this one as a gift to you all. Its called the “Liquid Gold Meditation” which you can play or download freely from our website. Go on, take a couple of moments, generate some endorphins, enjoy…