If your body feels out of balance and you need a good pick-me-up, here are eight ways to naturally boost your endorphin levels.
Without them, your central nervous system would be completely dysfunctional. But the good news is that endorphins, also known as the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain, are naturally produced and regulated by the body, that is when the body is functioning in proper balance. If your body feels out of balance and you need a good pick-me-up, here are eight ways to naturally boost your endorphin levels:
1) Look for ways to laugh every day. They say laughter is the best medicine, and studies have confirmed that people who laugh more tend to feel less stressed and anxious. Some have described laughter as a type of “inner jogging,” as it can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, boost immune function and of course trigger the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers.
2) Sniff some lavender or vanilla. A recent study out of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York discovered that patients who took whiffs of vanilla- or lavender-scented air experienced a 63 percent reduction in anxiety. Another study involving college students found that essential oil of lavender helps reduce symptoms of insomnia and depression.
3) Exercise with other people. It seems to pop up on almost every list of ways to improve health, but nothing gets those endorphins flowing like exercise, and particularly group exercise. A 2009 study found that college crews who rowed together had a significantly increased rush of endorphins compared to those rowing alone. The same is true for other activities, like weight-lifting, dancing, aerobics and swimming.
4) Touch and be touched. In a romantic sense, sexual intimacy is probably one of the most obvious ways, but platonic expressions of touch are also important for maintaining healthy endorphin levels. These may include things like giving someone a warm hug, kissing a friend on the cheek, offering or receiving a friendly back rub or massage and horsing around with friends.
5) Eat chocolate. This one shows up a lot in modern-day health studies, but chocolate actually does contain beneficial antioxidants and other chemical compounds that studies have shown can help improve mood and relieve pain. The purer the better, of course, as a Hershey’s bar is not exactly the same as an organic dark chocolate bar made from real cacao.
6) Supplement with ginseng. A popular herb in traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng helps regulate the production of stress hormones by supporting the health and vitality of the organs that produce them. In this case, ginseng can help support proper brain function, which in turn can help modulate the normal production of endorphins, not to mention boost energy levels and mitigate chronic fatigue.
7) Perform, listen to music. Whether it involves jamming out to your favorite tunes on a portable music player, attending a local symphony performance or playing in a band, listening to and performing music is one of the simplest and most pleasurable ways to normalize your brain chemistry and boost production of feel-good chemicals in the brain. A 2012 study out of Oxford University found that music performance in particular induces an endorphin high and can actually help boost one’s tolerance for pain.
8) Eat spicy foods. Believe it or not, there is a legitimate scientific explanation as to why eating spicy foods is incredibly pleasurable for many people. Spicy peppers contain a chemical compound known as capsaicin that binds to the pain receptors of nerve cells in both the nose and mouth, sending special nerve signals to the brain that trigger the release of endorphins. This would explain the “high” that many people feel when eating spicy foods, and what keeps them continually coming back for more.