You can increase your endorphins without working out.  Here's how.

You can increase your endorphins without working out. Here’s how.

Cold winter days and long winter nights mean that many people probably hope to increase their levels of happiness naturally, and one of the ways to do this is by releasing endorphins, which have many benefits to improve mood.

Endorphins are natural hormones in your body that give you that classic “runner’s high,” said Dr. Elizabeth C. Gardner, orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at Yale Medicine. “They block pain, they block stress.”

She added that studies even show they decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety and help you feel more upbeat and satisfied. In other words, what’s not to love about endorphins?

We all know that exercise releases endorphins – especially high-intensity interval training, continuous moderate exercise, group fitness classes, and running – but other activities can also increase your endorphin levels.

Here, experts explain how to boost your happy hormones without lacing up your running shoes.

Massage And Acupuncture

Massage and acupuncture have been shown to stimulate the release of endorphins, especially when specific trigger points are targeted, Gardner said.

When pain trigger points are touched, it “induces the sensation of pain [and] can cause the release of endorphins,” she said, because “endorphins are your natural pain reliever.

These endorphins then lead to a feeling of relaxation during and after a massage or acupuncture.

Meditation

“Some studies have shown that consistent meditation can help release endorphins,” Gardner said, but the exact reason why this happens is unknown.

“There is a bit of cause and effect dilemma here, but consistent meditations seem [cause] higher levels of endorphins,” she said.

Studies also show that meditation can be an effective tool for stress management and that people who meditate have higher levels of serotonin – a natural chemical the body makes that helps improve mood.

In other words, if you practice consistent meditation, you’re likely to experience uplifting effects on your mood.

Laugh

The peal of laughter that occurs during a funny TV show or when you’re cracking jokes with friends may actually have more benefits than you think.

According to Sharon Collison, registered dietitian and professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Delaware, numerous studies have shown that “laughing physiologically stimulates the production of beta-endorphins”.

Again, the exact reason behind this is up for debate, but Gardner noted that many people believe the endorphin release comes from the deep breathing and whole-body movement associated with laughter. “To me, it almost simulates exercise,” she said, which could be the reason for the endorphin release.

UV light

“Being outside on a nice day is associated with relaxing feelings,” Gardner said. “And part of that is that UV light helps stimulate the release of beta-endorphins.”

In addition, the brain releases serotonin when the body is exposed to the sun, which contributes to the increase in happiness hormones.

Klaus Vedfelt via Getty Images

Playing music can increase your endorphin levels.

Sex

Sex is often cited as a way to increase endorphins, Gardner noted. This could be due to the physical nature of the act and the exercise that comes with it, since exercise is also an endorphin booster.

Additionally, studies also show that having sex can lower levels of cortisol, which is the body’s stress hormone.

Yoga

Yoga is technically efficient, but it’s probably not an exercise you associate with the release of endorphins, which is usually supposed to accompany long-distance runs and intense spin classes.

But this notion is false. According to Collison, yoga also boosts your endorphins as well as other feel-good hormones and lowers cortisol levels.

Music

Playing music is another known way to release endorphins, Gardner said. In fact, a 2012 study measured pain tolerance (since endorphins are a pain reliever) in performers and found that singing, dancing, and drumming all trigger the release of endorphins.

When it comes to listening to music, the data is more mixed. Some experts like Gardner say listening to music can also release endorphins, while others say more research is needed. One thing the studies agree on though? Listening to music can cause the release of dopamine, which is another chemical that improves your mood.

So even though listening to music doesn’t cause the release of endorphins, it does cause the release of another happiness hormone – and ultimately you won’t even know the difference; you’ll just know that you feel a little better.

As for food, experts have differing opinions.

While many people assume that spicy foods and dark chocolate can cause an endorphin release, Collison isn’t so sure.

She noted that some studies vaguely mention that foods can increase endorphin levels, but don’t go into detail about how they do it or even which foods are best for increasing endorphins.

“To date, there is [are] no randomized controlled trials show that foods increase endorphins in the body,” Collison said. So, at this point, it’s probably best to get your endorphin boost elsewhere.


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