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Harness Your Endorphins

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, touch, or even an injury. Endorphins do much more than keep us calm and happy. They can 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 is very 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 an addiction. Much of this addiction relies on a flood of endorphins as we eat foods that are rich in carbohydrates, taste sweet, and contain a large amount of fats and salt. These highs from rich foods are short lived because these foods have been stripped of the nutrients that would control the release of energy or rebuild the endorphins that are used.

Eat complex carbohydrates. Comfort foods have earned that name for good reason. Your body still needs a good source of carbs in order to function. The brain runs almost completely on carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates from healthy sources that include fiber, like whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds, will release energy slowly. This keeps the brain calm, happy, and relaxed while increasing serotonin and stockpiling endorphins.

Get good protein. Healthy protein is important in the creation of many endorphins. Too much animal protein can stress the kidneys, so reach for nuts, seeds, legumes, lentils, and beans as much as possible.

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.

Enjoy dark chocolate. Chocolate stimulates a release of endorphins, resulting in the sense of euphoria many experience when eating this sweet. Choose dark over milk chocolate to get less saturated fat and more antioxidants.

Supplement. St John’s wort is an herb that helps maintain a healthy mood and fight depression. Ginseng may also be helpful. This herb is an adaptogen that helps against fatigue and stress. It may also boost endorphin production too.

Exercise. 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 help you push past the pain of exercise.

Get a massage. Human touch releases endorphins. Massage, acupressure, and acupuncture are all great ways to get endorphins flowing, release stress, and raise your spirits. Sexual contact also lets loose endorphins.

Use scents. 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.

Meditate. Meditation releases stress and allows the body the rest it needs to produce and release endorphins.

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 music you love will let endorphins flow too.

Get some sun. Safe, healthy, moderate exposure to sunlight creates vitamin D and endorphins.

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. Don’t hold it in, let those endorphins do their job.

Learn more about Charlie Pulsipher(originally published Dec. 19, 2012)rn"

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