Endorphins can be called the body’s “feel good” chemicals—because when they are released you get a natural boost in mood (and they can even act as a pain reliever). Some say the natural effect of endorphins can be compared to morphine, and could be even stronger.
However, endorphins unfortunately aren’t just freely flowing throughout you all the time (unless you’re one of those people who are unexplainably happy all the time, and if you are, good for you). So, here are eight ways for the rest of us to get those endorphins flowing…
1. Get a Massage
While exercise can release endorphins, laying still and letting someone else do the work can also release them too. AmericanSpa.com says that “large amounts” of endorphins are released into the bloodstream during a massage, which is why you sometimes come away from a session feeling a bit light-headed.
While the study of endorphins on the human body is fairly new in the bigger picture, the source explains that as far back as 1887 a famed doctor remarked about the mentally calming effects of a massage. So not only can you benefit from a reduction in physical aches and pains, but your worries could melt away too thanks to massage therapy (and endorphins).
2. Exercise in a Group
While working up a sweat is a great way to boost endorphins, Reader’s Digest says group exercise specifically has some “distinct advantages” in this area. “Not only will friends spur you on if you’re flagging, but the shared effort may give your endorphin levels an extra boost,” it explains.
The source backs this up by mentioning a 2009 study that showed that rowers working in synchronization “had an increased rush of these feel-good hormones” compared with those who rowed alone. However, if you don’t have an exercise partner, don’t count out the amazing benefits of solo walking or aerobics.
3. Eat Some Chocolate
Those pleasurable and warm feelings that may cascade through your body after you bite into chocolate are backed up by science. Cosmopolitan magazine explains that chocolate contains “mood-boosting substances” such as phenethylamine, which naturally boosts endorphins.
Aside from feeling instantly better about your workday, eating chocolate also gives you theobromine, a chemical that helps to suppress pain, adds the source. This in turn allows your brain to focus more on pleasure. Just don’t overdo it, or you might regret eating too much chocolate, feel bad, and then need to eat more.
4. Play Music
This can be sitting back and playing your favorite tunes – or as many sources point out, actually playing music can have a bigger benefit when it comes to endorphin production. A post on life-science archive EuropePMC notes that singing, dancing and drumming can release endorphins, whereas in some situations “where merely listening to music and low energy musical activities do not.”
The summary of the study asserts “it is the active performance of music that generates the endorphin high, not the music itself.” The results are measured by pain tolerance in relation to endorphin release. So while listening to your favorite tunes can make you feel a bit better, perhaps consider learning to sing along or ditch the radio altogether and join a band.
5. Fortify Your Beverage
We’re not encouraging you to hit the bottle, but Cosmopolitan magazine notes that it’s called “happy hour for a reason”. Putting a little extra in your drink can trigger those happy feelings thanks to endorphin release, according to the source.
It says a “little bit” of alcohol can give positive effects for mood, but if you have too much your brain will shut off endorphin production, “which kills your natural buzz,” adds the site. There are also the obvious other health reasons not to drink too much, but here are some drinking cautions in case you’ve forgotten.
6. Get Acupuncture
The thought of being poked by little needles probably doesn’t conjure up feelings of happiness, but it turns out acupuncture—which is a worldwide-accepted form of pain management that has been practiced for centuries—can block pain and make you feel better overall.
A post on the U.S. Library of Medicine points out that electroacupuncture, which uses a small amount of electrical current that passes between the needles, can have even bigger benefits. It gets pretty deep into scientific-speak, but the source basically says that this form of acupuncture can result in a “maximal therapeutic effect” thanks to a flood of opioids including endorphins.
7. Sniff Lavender
Sometimes you should stop and smell the flowers—in this case, lavender. But you don’t have to frolic into the forest to find this purple plant; you can just go to the store and buy some lavender essence (oil).
A study published by the Journal of Caring Sciences in 2012 speaks to the pain-numbing effects of this aromatherapy essence. The study explains that the “human brain has an emotional response to every fragrance,” and the pleasant scent is transported from the nose to the brain which causes the release of endorphins as well as other neurotransmitters.