Everyone has bad days where you don't want to move off the couch, but here are some natural ways to keep the endorphins flowing and for you to feel better!
Endorphins are chemicals similar to opiates that the body creates naturally to promote calm, induce euphoria, and overcome pain. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, shares some similar effects with endorphins and is linked to mood, appetite, and our sleep patterns. Endorphins are often released by an exterior stimulus such as an exciting situation, a welcome touch, or even an injury.
This isn’t an article about overcoming depression as there is so much more to defeating that illness than can be covered here. This is about improving your health through endorphins. This is because endorphins do much more than keep us calm and happy. They also boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, and even slow down much of the aging process. Since endorphins are released in response to outside influences, it’s actually fairly easy to harness the mood elevating and healthful benefits of these natural chemicals.
Avoid processed foods.
Unfortunately, we aren’t the only ones to discover how endorphins can be harnessed and put to use. Many processed foods are designed to create addiction. This addictive property relies on the natural flood of endorphins that appear when we eat foods that are rich in carbohydrates, taste sweet, and contain a large amount of fats and salt. These nutrients were hard to find for most of our evolution, so the body rewards us for finding them. They are no longer rare, and they are no longer natural. The highs from these rich, processed foods are short lived because these foods have been stripped of the nutrients that would normally control the release of the sugars and help rebuild the endorphins that are used up.
Eat complex carbohydrates.
Comfort foods have earned that name for good reason. Your body likes them and needs a good source of carbs in order to function. The brain runs almost completely on carbohydrates, but the simple sugars in processed foods may feel good for a moment, but they do damage by spiking your blood glucose levels up and down over and over again. Complex carbohydrates from healthy sources, like whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds, will release energy slowly thanks to the fiber and phytonutrients within them. This keeps the brain calm, happy, and relaxed while increasing serotonin and stockpiling endorphins.
Supply good protein.
Healthy protein is important in the creation of many endorphins and hormones. Too much animal protein can stress the kidneys, so reach for nuts, seeds, legumes, lentils, and beans more often. Soaking or sprouting seeds and nuts makes the nutrients even more accessible.
Take supplements.St John’s wort is an herb that helps maintain a healthy mood. Ginseng may also be helpful as an adaptogen that staves off fatigue and stress. It may also boost endorphin production too. Endorphins rely on many other nutrients, so make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals too.
Enjoy dark chocolate.
There’s a reason so many people love chocolate. Chocolate stimulates a release of endorphins, resulting in a sense of euphoria. Choose dark over milk chocolate to get less saturated fat and more antioxidants out of your treat. Go easy on it too. You only need about a square a day to unlock all the benefits while avoiding the downside of too many calories.
You don’t have to run a marathon to experience a runner’s high. Any prolonged exercise that gets your heart rate up will result in a decent release of endorphins. Running, biking, jump rope, rebounding, and much more will send euphoric endorphins into your system as the body responds to the modest pain of exercise. Even a short walk outside releases some of the body’s feel good chemicals.
Get a massage.
Human touch releases endorphins. Massage, acupressure, and acupuncture are all great ways to get endorphins flowing, release stress, raise your spirits, and improve your overall health.
Once again, human touch releases endorphins, especially if we are attracted to and love the person doing the touching. Sex relaxes us, helps us let go of stress, burns calories, and can bolster the immune system.
Scents are tied to memories and can also have major impacts on what the brain does. Rosemary boosts memory and mental clarity. Vanilla and lavender encourage endorphins. You can calm or invigorate yourself with key scents. Experiment with essential oils to find what you like and what helps you feel better.
Kick up the spice.
Hot peppers contain capsaicin, a compound that triggers a flood of endorphins as the body responds to the sting of this spicy food. Many other herbs and spices may help too, like rosemary, thyme, sage, citrus, and vanilla can affect mood with their scent alone. Imagine what they can do in your food.
Meditation releases stress and allows the body the rest it needs to produce and release endorphins. Our modern world is too stressful and we really should take more moments to ourselves. Prayer, deep breathing, reading for enjoyment, yoga, tai chi, and other relaxing endeavors help too.
Listen to music.
Classical or instrumental music can calm nerves, improve brain function, and release endorphins. Even if you don’t like instrumental, there is still happiness to be found in music. Listening to any type of music you love will let the endorphins flow. That is how the brain works. It responds to what you love.
Get some sun.
Safe, healthy, moderate exposure to sunlight creates vitamin D and endorphins. This doesn’t mean you forgo protection when you are out for hours, but about ten to twenty minutes of sun exposure does you a world of good and avoids the skin damage most of us fear.
Laugh, smile, and cry more.
Smiling is enough to get some endorphins flowing. Laughter lets loose even more. Allowing yourself to cry can also give you a boost, that’s why so many people feel better afterward. That commercial strike a note inside you, that movie making you sniffle, or that book make you want to sob? Don’t hold it in, let those endorphins do their job.
Bond with a friend.
Social connection releases endorphins. We are social creatures that crave interactions. Take a day to hang with your friends in a relaxed, low-key way. Give in to a little gossip. Gossip actually releases endorphins too; just try not to be mean with your gossiping. And don’t forget to give your friends and loved ones a hug before you go. That contact helps.