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ENDORPHINS: The Key to Effort and Focus in Children

As I said in an earlier post, I have been doing a lot of reading about teaching children lately. I hope you find this information about endorphins as interesting as I did.

Endorphins are natural chemicals produced in the body to reduce pain and boost happiness. They are most often associated with exercise since the release of these “feel-good” chemicals cause a state of euphoria and is usually known as a “runner’s high.” However, most any exercise will cause this state of happiness and it is also boosted through laughter and excitement.

Recently, studies involving endorphins have focused on how this chemical contributes to learning. Physical activity is essential to brain development. Basically, when we feel good, we learn better. Stimulating the brain when endorphins have been released, helps even more. For the last five years, neuroscientists have been encouraging parents and teachers to work on stimulating the good feeling chemicals in the brain. The mind-body connection is a powerful thing.

When working with children, it’s important to remember this and help develop the whole self. By stimulating the positive neurotransmitters in the body, we will combat the cortisol and, therefore, have more happy children. Physical activity leads to happiness, happiness leads to better learning, better learning leads to increased knowledge, increased knowledge leads to more confidence and so on.

Now that we understand the neuroscience surrounding endorphins, how can we, as parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone who works with children, use this information? We must create a learning environment that releases endorphins so that students apply more effort and are better able to focus.

I try to do this in our classes by teaching with the brain in mind and utilizing game-based learning. By doing this, the endorphins in the students’ brains increase, and then they feel better and, therefore, learn better. The combination of having more energy and being cognitively stimulated leads to more effort and focus in class!

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