Endorphins are naturally produced chemicals that help to alleviate pain, discomfort, and stress. They are produced by the nervous system and are often referred to as feel-good chemicals because of their ability to relieve stress and incite euphoria.
There are at least 20 different types of endorphins and each has a different function. Some help to ease the pain, some help to boost motivation, and others act as natural sedatives. The most commonly known ones are dopamine and serotonin.
Endorphins also have an effect on our general well-being as studies have found that having low levels can actually increase the risk for depression, fibromyalgia, and chronic headaches (1, 2, 3).
Opioids and endorphins
While endorphins can help relieve pain and create feelings of euphoria, a lot of individuals have looked to prescription drugs to do just that, particularly opioids.
Opioids are usually prescribed for short-term pain-relief yet their use has become an increasing area of concern. With 130 people dying each day in the United States from an opioid overdose, the National Institutes of Health has declared it a crisis (4).
With opioid abuse being such a crisis, it is important to look at alternative ways to which to trigger endorphins. Especially without the threat of addiction and overdose. That being said, the methods listed below are sure to make your happy juices flow.
Enjoy spicy foods
If you’re a fan of spicy foods, you could be regularly experiencing a boost of endorphins.
Capsaicin is the compound, found in chilies, that is responsible for their hot and spicy taste. When eating chilies, capsaicin makes your brain believe that you are in pain by alerting the pain receptors in your nose and mouth. This then activates the release of endorphins.
Touch can help to alleviate stress thus intimate touching is sure to help release endorphins.
Oxytocin is the love hormone that is released when people engage in safe, sexual activity that results in an orgasm.
Get a massage
As mentioned, touch can help to activate the release of endorphins.
Aside from intimate touching, getting a massage can also do the same. At the end of a massage, we’re left feeling relaxed, relieved, and much, much happier.
Indulge in dark chocolate
It seems that the need to eat chocolate when you’re in a sour mood is scientifically backed.
Antioxidants found in dark chocolate help to boost heart health and reduce levels of inflammation. Interestingly, studies have also revealed that said antioxidants can also help to raise endorphin levels. When indulging in chocolate, it is important to avoid chocolates that contain added sugar and small amounts of cocoa. Rather, go for chocolates that contain at least 70% cocoa and be sure to only enjoy it in moderation.
Laughter truly is the best medicine.
PsychologyToday revealed that the average child laughs about 300 times a day whereas the average adult only laughs about 17 times a day, which explains why we’re often so grumpy at the end of the day (5). Thus, try not to take life too seriously and enjoy a good joke now and then.
Listen to music
The joyous feeling you get from listening to your favorite song is actually activated endorphins in action.
Not only can listening to your favorite song boost endorphins but playing an instrument, singing along and dancing can also do the same.
Meditation is a powerful experience that can have a profound impact on your health.
The art of meditation has been known to alleviate stress and some studies believe that this is due to the release of endorphins. If you’re new to meditation, click here for tips on how you can start meditating.
The term runner’s high is anything but an exaggeration.
Aside from boosted health, the effects of exercise include its ability to improve one’s mood, thanks to the endorphins it releases. During a vigorous workout session, the heart’s extra pumping actually helps to stimulate the release of endorphins into the bloodstream. According to one study from the University of Bonn, athletes that participated in a two-hour jog had higher levels of endorphins in their brains than they did before the run.
If you’re not fond of exercising alone, you’re more than welcome to have someone join you. Group exercises or exercising with a partner won’t only boost endorphin levels, but they can also boost both stamina and endurance.
Smell something pretty
Certain scents can help to trigger the release of endorphins as they help to induce a calm state.
Scents like lavender and vanilla have been linked to activating the production of endorphins. Don’t shy away from decorating your home with vanilla scented candles or from adding lavender essential oils to your bathwater.
Forming a connection or bond with someone can actually help to release endorphins.
A study from the National Institutes of Health found that by giving away money, participants activated pleasure centers in their brains (6).
A diet for endorphins
In your quest to trigger the release of endorphins, it’s important to ensure that your diet is tailored to this goal.
Brain foods that can help boost endorphin levels include foods rich in protein, dark leafy vegetables, healthy fats, and antioxidant-rich foods. Such foods include salmon, spinach, broccoli, blueberries, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
While there continues to research into the activation and full effects of endorphins, learning how to naturally activate them lowers the risk of dependency on alcohol and narcotics – a dependency that could lead to addiction and death.