Endorphins are chemicals naturally produced in the body by the nervous system to manage pain or stress. The main function of these chemical messengers is to stop the transmission of pain signals in the body.
Importantly, endorphins can also produce the feeling of euphoria very similar to that produced by opioids. The “high” produced by endorphins is both healthy and safe, since these are the body’s natural “feel-good” molecules. These chemical messengers are involved in activating the brain’s natural reward circuits and in addition to regulating pain, can also reduce stress and anxiety.
Here are some ways to naturally boost your body’s endorphin production:
1. Get some aerobic exercise
Have you ever heard of the “runner’s high”? When you exercise, your body releases more endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling of euphoria and happiness, while blocking pain signals. Recently, medical researchers have suggested that the amount of endorphins released varies by exercise intensity.
According to the results of one study, adults who participated in an hour of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) experienced a significantly larger increase in endorphin release compared to individuals who participated in an hour-long session of less demanding physical activity.
In addition, moderate-intensity aerobic activity also resulted in endorphin release and feelings of pleasure and euphoria in study participants.
2. Try acupuncture
Acupuncture is an ancient medical practice based on traditional Chinese medicine. This branch of complementary medicine is widely used around the world to successfully treat a variety of medical conditions.
Acupuncture therapy can promote the body’s healing response and has positive effects on the nervous, endocrine, immune, cardiovascular and digestive systems. Acupuncture is aimed to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue, increasing blood flow to the stimulated area and triggering the release of endorphins and enkephalins, which act as the body’s natural painkillers.
Scientific studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can significantly reduce chronic pain and inhibit pain perception for conditions including low back pain and diabetic neuropathic pain.
3. Get a massage
Massage therapy involves hands-on manipulation of the body’s muscles, connective tissue, tendons and ligaments to relieve pain and promote relaxation. This type of manual therapy has many benefits, including reducing stress, muscle tension and pain.
Massage has many other health benefits, including improving blood circulation and reducing depression. Research studies have shown that massage therapy also increases the release of endorphins and decreases the release of stress hormones in the body.
In addition to triggering endorphin secretion, massage therapy has been demonstrated to induce the release of other important chemical messengers, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. Together with endorphins, these molecules are important in mood regulation and can make us feel happy.
4. Eat some dark chocolate
Good news for chocolate lovers – dark chocolate is not a guilty pleasure after all! Natural compounds called cocoa flavanols found in dark chocolate trigger the release of endorphins. Although other types of chocolate also contain flavanols, their concentration in dark chocolate is highest.
In addition, dark chocolate also contains serotonin, the chemical messenger that can act as an antidepressant to elevate mood.
This superfood also has a wide variety of powerful antioxidants, molecules which protect cells from oxidation and damage by free radicals. Some studies have even shown that consuming cocoa and dark chocolate can enhance blood flow and reduce blood pressure.
5. Spice up your food
Chili peppers are world-famous for adding that special burning hot flavour to our food, but not everyone knows that they also offer many important health benefits.
Capsaicin is the molecule in chili peppers responsible for producing the burning sensation by stimulating pain receptors of the skin and its mucous membranes when we eat them. Research studies show that capsaicin stimulates the production of endorphins and dopamine, creating a “chili pepper high.”
In addition, chili peppers have numerous other benefits, including potent anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
6. Visit a sauna
If you are looking for another way to get a natural “high,” consider booking yourself a sauna session. The heat from the sauna offers many health benefits, relaxing the body’s muscles, and improving circulation.
Moreover, spending time in a hot sauna can stimulate the release of endorphins and dopamine, helping to create that “after sauna glow.” Regular sauna sessions can also help to relieve stress and help you recover from intense physical activity, relaxing strained muscles and soothing aches and pains.
Through inducing the sweating response, the heat from the sauna can help our bodies flush out the toxins and clear our skin. Finally, sauna use also promotes better and deeper sleep.
There is now some solid scientific evidence to back up the adage “Laughter is the best medicine.” New studies have shown that laughter triggers the release of endorphins and can even increase our pain tolerance, and this is especially true for social and spontaneous laughter.
Not surprisingly, laughter also helps to keep the cardiovascular system healthy and even has therapeutic benefits for treating mental illness such as depression. Interestingly, even the expectation of laughter can significantly boost endorphin levels in our bodies.
In one study, participants who were anticipating watching a funny hour-long video had boosted endorphin levels in their blood compared to study participants that did not know what type of video they would be watching.