Getting uncomfortable, to get really comfortable.

Discomfort. You know the feeling. It’s part of being human. Whether it comes from exercising hard, getting too hot, or even eating really spicy food, when you’re uncomfortable you know it. But did you know that there’s a benefit to getting uncomfortable?

That feeling of discomfort is caused by the release of dynorphins, which are opioid peptides that bind to certain proteins in the brain. This can cause dysphoria (the opposite of euphoria), which is defined as a profound state of unease or dissatisfaction. Sounds fun, right? Yet lots of people push themselves to the point of discomfort, typically via hard exercise.

So why would anyone purposefully want to release dynorphins? As it turns out, our body is constantly working to keep us in homeostasis, balanced out so things are working smoothly. When dynorphins are released, in order to balance the chemicals back out, endorphins are released to counter the dynorphins. You know the term “runner’s high”? That intensely good feeling comes from endorphins.

Endorphins are your bodies own morphine, blocking pain and causing pleasurable feelings. In response to dynorphins, the protein receptors that bind endorphins become more sensitive, thus creating a euphoric feeling to counteract the discomfort. (Interestingly, the opposite can occur, and the brain can put the kibosh on too much feel-good endorphin by releasing dynorphin. This can actually be therapeutic in drug addiction.)

So the next time you experience discomfort but need motivation to push through (like with tough exercise), just remember, relief is on the way!


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