You may have heard the word “endorphins” mentioned before, usually in reference to positive mood swings. Endorphins can be simply described as hormones produced by the brain that bring about feelings of joy and pleasure. They can also reduce pain once released.
The production of endorphins isn’t some random process beyond our control. To the contrary, there are several things that can prompt the brain to scatter these hormones throughout the body. If you’re in a down mood, the following actions and activities might provide you with an endorphin-fueled boost.
Exercise – Aside from burning off unneeded calories and building muscle, exercise can also have a positive effect on your emotional wellbeing. For some people, relatively low-key workouts are enough to trigger positive feelings. Others need to expend more energy before they notice a change in attitude. Though the effect may differ from person to person, people generally feel better after completing a workout.
Laughing – The old saying “laughter is the best medicine” may have some truth to it after all, at least when it comes to your mood. When laughing at a humorous video, book or film, your body experiences a spike in its level of endorphins. This advice is particularly relevant to adults, who only laugh about four to five times per day. Contrast that figure to the stunning 300 times a day that children laugh (maybe that explains why they seem to be in such a better mood than their parents!).
Have Sex – Research has found that physical intimacy offers a number of health benefits, one of the most obvious being the feelings of elation that accompany it. This is largely attributable to the presence of endorphins, which increase greatly during sex due to intimate physical contact and orgasms.
Eat Chili Peppers – Nope, that’s not a typo. Chili peppers – the same fruit that burns your tongue upon eating it – can actually stimulate endorphin production by the brain (and yes, chili peppers are actually classified as a fruit). The reason for this surprising relationship has to due with the very same substance that gives chili peppers their spicy kick, a chemical compound known as capsaicin.
After entering the body, capsaicin attaches itself to the pain receptors on nerve cells in your nose and mouth. This causes the burning sensation that chili peppers are so famous for. In order to counter the effects of capsaicin, the brain orders the production and release of fresh endorphins.
Eat Dark Chocolate – Chocolate’s gotten a pretty bad rap, and for good reason – milk chocolate products are usually loaded with sugar, fat and calories. The key word in that sentence, however, is “milk.” If eaten in limited amounts, dark chocolate has a much better impact on your health, as it is a good source of antioxidants and certain minerals. As an added bonus, it can also cause the brain to pump out new endorphins. These benefits shouldn’t be taken as a license to eat dark chocolate to your heart’s content; research has found that just under 7 grams daily (6.7g, to be exact) is enough to reap the benefits of this treat.
Perform Music – If you have the time, you might want to consider picking up singing, dancing or drumming as a hobby. A study produced by the University of Oxford found that each of these activities can cause the brain to disperse endorphins. This research was published in the online, peer-reviewed journal Evolutionary Psychology in 2012 (Volume 10, Issue 4).