Lift your mood with these proven positive pointers
A group of hormones that have a number of physiological functions, endorphins are responsible for triggering positive feelings in the body, as well as being the body’s natural painkillers.
There are many ways that we can trigger the release of endorphins, and we’ve rounded up five science-backed tips:
When we laugh, we take in a load of oxygen-rich air, which stimulates our hearts, lungs, and muscles, and, in turn, triggers the release of endorphins into the body. So, this is your sign to put on a comedy, or spend some time with that person who tickles your funny bone. But remember, our brain can’t tell the difference between fake and real laughter, which is why ‘laughter yoga’ is a popular option. Head to laughteryoga.org for free sessions.
Rationally, we shouldn’t really enjoy eating spicy food, should we? The burning sensation isn’t objectively pleasant, but scientists think they understand why we persevere, and it’s all to do with endorphins. Scientists believe that, when we eat spicy food, our body is fooled into thinking that we are hurting ourselves. Cue the endorphins.
During sex, the pituitury glad is activated, leading to the release of endorphins, as well as fellow hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which come together to reduce pain, and boost intimacy and bonding. What’s more, several areas of the brain that are responsible for pain are also active during orgasm. Why? We’re not quite sure, but the endorphin effect can help to explain why some sexual activities that might not be so appealing usually – such as hair-pulling and bites – have a whole different effect during sex.
Acupuncture is the traditional Chinese practice where the therapist inserts fine needles into the skin at certain points on the body (called ‘acupoints’). Acupuncture is often said to help with pain relief and relaxation, and can you guess which brain chemical is involved with that feeling? You got it, endorphins. Most studies into the long-lasting effect of acupuncture have been relatively small, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence only recommends it for specific complaints – but it is sometimes available on the NHS.
Most forms of exercise are a reliable way to boost your endorphin levels, but there’s something special about dancing. In a study, researchers from the University of York and Sheffield had participants choose to either sit and listen to music, exercise on a stationary bike, or dance for five minutes. What they found was that dance releases more endorphins than typical aerobic movement – plus, it also comes with a whole host of other emotional releases that other forms of exercise don’t. Is it time to turn up the tunes?