Considered a natural pain reliever, endorphins are released within the body while it is experiencing excitement, pain, and believe it or not, sometimes when you consume spicy foods. It is your natural opiate (something that relieves pain or induces sleep) and can help you through stress or enhance a stimulating experience. Marathon runners talk of "hitting the wall," which is experiencing great pain after pushing the body so many miles. As the runner works through this "wall" the body releases endorphins creating the term, "the runner's high," which enables them to sail through the next set of miles. So how can you harness this natural chemical and use it to your advantage?
Fight or Flight
There is no better way to jolt your body with a free, healthy drug than running head first into danger. The weekend warrior knows this all too well. Base jumping into a volcano, sky diving or deep-sea diving in shark-infested waters all have one thing in common--a quick endorphin rush.
Smiling can send endorphins into our bloodstream. Petting an animal raises levels as well. Albeit, the release of endorphins from these activities may be subtle, they could mean the difference between being in a good mood or a bad mood. Staying positive keeps endorphins flowing.
Do It With Food
Certain foods can provide a variety of different endorphin-producing effects. What you fuel your body with can mend a bad feeling in no time.
- Chocolate. Chocolate releases endorphins like anandamide, the chemical that copies the relaxing effects of marijuana. Maybe that's why some people have equated the feeling from eating chocolate to feeling like they are in love.
- Peppers. Spicy foods release endorphins, especially those containing capsaicin, like chilis.
- Protein. Meat, fish and legumes all carry high protein levels that send endorphins to raise dopamine levels which make you focused and alert.
- Carbohydrates. "Comfort foods" actually do comfort those who eat them by increasing serotonin levels which can make you calm and relaxed. Macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and pasta all provide an endorphin-rich comfort zone. Just be careful of the potential pounds these foods may provide as well.
Move, Groove and Get a Massage
Besides doing a marathon or weekend warrior event, simply try taking a walk around the block. Lift some weights at the gym. Go swimming. Go dancing. Most physical activity shakes things up on a cellular level releasing, yup you guessed it, endorphins. Doctors will often advise depressed individuals to get their bodies moving to feel better.
Massages can also help with aches and pains and the physical touch releases endorphins. This is why so many people feel calm and relaxed afterward receiving a massage.