You’ve probably heard about how great endorphins are and how you should increase them. It’s obvious they’re a great thing to have lots of, but what exactly are they? Endorphins are chemicals that your body produces that help alleviates the feelings and symptoms of pain and stress. They are the natural version of opioid painkiller medication, but minus the harmful addiction and dangerous side effects.
Your body produces them in various circumstances, giving you a rush of positive feelings and brightening your outlook. Without endorphins, life would probably be more dreary and depression would set in. Other issues, like fibromyalgia, also tend to be associated with low endorphins.
Many things cause a release of endorphins, usually related to body movement (like running), specific foods, or activities that bring us joy. Unfortunately, our modern high-paced lives high on stress and low on relaxation leaves us short on endorphins.
So what can you do to release more endorphins to feel more joyful and reduce pain and anxiety? Here are some ideas to get you going toward a life that feels more fulfilled and peaceful.
1. Sunshine and Vitamin D
Have you ever walked outside on a sunny day and stopped to bask in the warmth of all that sunshine? The sun makes us feel great and, in moderate doses, is essential for our health. That warm, fuzzy feeling you get while sunbathing is part of an endorphin release. Sunshine also helps us produce vitamin D, which contributes to the ability to make and release endorphins. So head on outside for a short sunbath every day that you can!
2. Slowing Down
Rushing through life causes stress. The antidote to a fast-paced life is taking the time to slow down for a while. Stress on your body has the opposite effect of endorphins and often can actually prevent you from having endorphin releases. You can slow down more by learning to prioritize and say no, taking things off your to-do list that aren’t essential, and spending more time relaxing with family and friends.
3. Practice Meditation
A regular mindfulness practice is a direct path to endorphin release and that fact may be one of the reasons it works so well. Meditation feels hard to a lot of people, but it doesn’t have to be. Learn to just sit quietly for a specific number of minutes every day, without judging your mental chatter or getting lost in thoughts. If you need a little more help, there are tons of apps out there that can help, such as Headspace. Give it a try and you might find a lot more peace in your life.
Laughter creates a big endorphin release, which is why we all need to do it more! As adults, it can be hard to find things to laugh about. Can you remember the last time you had a really good belly laugh that left you with happy tears running down your face? It’s time to revitalize your laughter. Spend time with friends who make you laugh, read hilarious books and watch funny movies, and learn to focus more on your silly and playful side instead of always being so serious. You’ll rekindle your love of laughter in no time!
Who doesn’t love food? You can actually get endorphin rushes from the antioxidants in food, specifically from dark chocolate and spicy foods. You’ll need to get chocolate with 70% or more cacao in it to get this effect, though. A little goes a long way with chocolate, but feel good about eating a piece or two every day. You can also pile on the spicy foods with all the spices since they also cause an endorphin rush.
6. Exercise and Movement
You’ve probably heard of the runner’s high, even if you’re not a runner. Yes, running is a good way to cause an endorphin release. But you don’t have to pound the pavement to get that effect if it’s not your thing. Find something you love that gets you moving. Maybe that’s dancing, yoga, or swimming. Find some exercise and movement that you love, then do it every day.
If you’ve been thinking about trying acupuncture for pain or other reasons, you’ll be happy to know that it also helps with endorphins. It works by giving some direction and stimulation to the area being worked on. This attention causes an endorphin rush, leading to that oh-so-relaxed feeling you get after an acupuncture session.
We all know and love the benefits of getting out to enjoy nature. But did you also know that being in nature can cause endorphin releases? As long as you’re having fun, feel safe, and are relaxed, nature can help to cause an endorphin rush. If you’re hiking, rowing, or doing some other fun activity, you’ll also get the benefits of movement triggered endorphin releases. Here’s your excuse to get outside more regularly!
Now that you know the benefits of endorphins and all the reasons why you want more of them floating around in your body, start to take on activities that will cause a release. You’ll feel more relaxed, find yourself in the present moment more often, and your pain will fade into the background.
Don’t feel like you need to do it all at once. Pick one thing from this list to incorporate this week, then try another next week. In no time, you’ll start to notice more joy and relaxation in your life!