The Easiest Boost for Your Mood and Health
You might remember the heyday of the running craze… back in the 1970’s. The “Complete Book of Running” was a best seller… runners were national heroes… and everyone was talking about the runner’s high.
Long-distance running, supporters said, triggered the release of chemicals called “endorphins” into the brain. And these endorphins created a sense of mild euphoria, the runner’s high.
Well, endorphins really do enhance your sense of wellbeing. And going for a run can trigger their release. But endorphins do a lot more than make you feel good… and you don’t have to run a marathon to get the benefit, either. Here’s the story on these misunderstood molecules – and just what they can do for you.
Endorphins are neurotransmitters – messengers of the nervous system. The word “endorphin” comes from “endo,” meaning inside your body, and “morphine.” Endorphins attach to the same receptors on your cells that morphine does. And your body typically releases them in response to pain and to stress – both good and bad.
Physical activity – not just running – creates positive stress that triggers endorphin release. And I’m not just talking about exercise. You can get an endorphin boost by having fun, too. A brisk walk along the seashore, biking to a favorite picnic spot, golfing, putting in a garden… almost any activity you enjoy can boost your endorphin levels.
Not into working out? Don’t worry. Meditation has also been shown to increase endorphin levels.
Your body releases endorphins in response to other triggers, too. Chili peppers and chocolate are foods that cause your body to pump out more endorphins. That’s one reason so many people feel a sense of comfort after eating chocolate.
Acupuncture and massage therapy also trigger the release of endorphins. And there’s another big trigger… but I’ll reveal that in a moment. First, here are some of the other benefits endorphins offer.
For one thing, endorphins reduce pain.1 it’s one of their primary tasks. Anything you do that releases more endorphins lowers your levels of pain. Release a little, get a little relief… release a lot, and get a lot more relief.
Endorphins also have other positive effects. For example, they…
- Boost your immune system
- Lower appetite
- Increase the release of sex hormones
- Improve overall mood2
So when you pamper yourself with a massage… enjoy your favorite 5-alarm chili… or take a hike in the mountains… you’re supporting your health in several ways.
But there’s another fun way to get your endorphin levels up. And that’s by enjoying sex. Britain’s National Health Service endorses it. In fact, they say the endorphins released during sex may even cut your chances of being sick this winter.3
That’s quite a boost from a simple chemical your body can make for itself. Less pain, better mood, a stronger immune system, lower appetite, and more. And you can get this boost simply by enjoying some of your favorite activities.
Best of all, endorphins are free, non-addictive and have no side effects. Unless, of course, you consider enjoying life more a side effect.
Dr Kenneth Woliner, M.D.
1 A. C. Hartwig Peripheral beta-endorphin and pain modulation. Anesth Prog. v.38(3); May–Jun 1991.
2 See http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=55001.
3 See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4703166.stm.