If you’ve ever felt a rush of fear on a roller coaster or while watching a scary movie, you’ve probably experienced the release of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals produced by the brain and pituitary gland primarily as a response to stress or pain. Dubbed “natural opiates,” endorphins interact with the same nerve cells as morphine, helping to relax muscles, dull pain, and produce a sense of well-being. Fortunately, you don’t have to put yourself in danger to activate endorphins. Try one of these feel-good activities to stimulate endorphins.
1. Exercise for endorphins
Ever wonder why you always feel better after a workout, even if you were tired beforehand? It’s those mood-elevating endorphins your body secretes as a result of exercise.
2. Give in to chocolate cravings
Eating chocolate triggers the release of endorphins. You don’t need much to produce the effect – the equivalent of a few chocolate kisses does the trick. Choose dark chocolate to get more mood-enhancing antioxidants.
3. Pop a pepper
Chili peppers can also spark an endorphin release. Capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers hot, is used in pain relievers due to its endorphin-producing qualities.
4. Lend a hand
Get a “helper’s high” from volunteering or helping others. Scientists at the NIH used brain imaging to find the same areas of the brain activated by receiving a reward become even more active when you are the giver.
5. Laugh out loud
Laughter may really be good medicine. Simply anticipating something funny can increase endorphin production.
So go for a brisk walk, then come home, pop in a funny movie and munch on dark chocolate – and watch your mood drastically improve!