What do gym bunnies, runners, health nuts and fitness junkies all have in common? They’re all endorphin addicts. The ‘E’ in DOSE, these feel good hormones are responsible for that euphoric post-workout high. A natural pain reliever, endorphins act as an incentive to keep us pushing through that final set of back breaking burpees. But workouts aren’t the only way to release endorphins. We can stimulate them through other activities like laughing, having sex or even eating spicy foods – all the more reason to spice things up in the kitchen;).
But how do endorphins work? How intense do our workouts need to be to generate the feel good high? And how long should we be belly laughing to reap the benefits? We consulted the experts to explain everything endorphins…
What do endorphins do?
Natural pain killer
A fairly recent discovery, scientists came to understand endorphins in the early 70’s when undertaking research surrounding heroin and morphine addiction. They were left wondering why we have specific receptors that opioids are able to act upon. In doing so they discovered our bodies own natural narcotic: endorphins. These neurochemicals are produced by the pituitary gland in response to stress or pain. Indeed, the name endorphins stemmed from this – joining together the words “endogenous,” meaning from within the body, and “morphine”- the opiate pain reliever.
While the high isn’t as dramatic as opioid pain relievers, endorphins are able to produce a feel good sensation that is both healthy and safe.
We release endorphins when we:
- Experience an injury
- Experience stress
- Activate our natural reward system with activities like eating, exercising, or sex
As psychologist Kimberely Wilson explains on our podcast, “Endorphins are really beautiful in terms of evolution. Your body says, if you go through this stressful thing, it’s important and valuable for you. Exercise is not comfortable when you’re doing it, but to take the pain away, the body gives you a runner’s high, as an incentive for you to do it again, because overall it’s really valuable for the health of the system”.
Symptoms of endorphin deficiency
When endorphin levels are deficient, it can wreck havoc on our health. Symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Muscle aches and pains
- Chronic headaches
- Addictive behaviours
The best ways to release endorphins
When we release endorphins we are rewarded with decreased levels of stress and anxiety, improved sleep and a boost to our self esteem. Here are some amazing ways to get this feel good hormone flowing…
Release endorphins through exercise
Did you know that exercising for just 15 minutes a day is enough to stimulate your endorphins? Lucy Gornall, fitness instructor at DIGME explains how “working out first thing is the ultimate kick start to my day. It releases those feel-good endorphins and helps to wake me up”. Why not set aside twenty minutes before work for an added energy boost? Try and find an activity that you enjoy so you’ll be more likely to stick to it. The possibilities are endless, from pilates to boxing, you don’t need to be running a marathon to get that runner’s high.
Wellness visionary, former track athlete and founder of the Get Loved Up community, Koya Webb, shares her “1 mile a day” programme on our hacking happiness podcast, where followers are encouraged to get out (into nature if possible) and simply move to release endorphins. Indeed, Andrea Thompson editor in chief of Marie Claire, likes to climb trees with her kids in Hampstead Heath to get her happy hormones pumping.
Thanks to Eva Longoria, Rebounding is expected to reach new heights of popularity in 2021. Grab a mini trampoline and jump start your day! And if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, why not put on some feel good tunes and dance like no one’s watching. Vincent Merouze tells us why we should all be having a solo dance party on the daily. Why be moody when you can shake your booty.
Let’s talk about sex….
Release endorphins through sex, with the added benefits of reduced stress, increased mood and better sleep. With the rise of employees working from home, why not use the time that you would’ve spent commuting with your partner?
Sex therapist Dr Juliana Morris explains how the key to a fulfilled sex life requires “being clear with what you want and need. Pay attention to your motives. Surround yourself with people who make you feel seen, wanted and appreciated. And be that person to others too. Do the work on yourself and have a healthy skill set of communication”.
Not feeling so sexy? Health expert Dr Julia Moltke gives her tips on how to increase your sex drive naturally. It may help to set the mood; keep the Netflix out of the bedroom and turn the tv off to get turned on. Dr. Anna Hushlak and Billie Quinlan, founders of mindful sex app Ferly advise on creating a sexual self care routine to get you into the zone.
Spice up your life to release endorphins. Capsaicin is responsible for the blow your head off heat within chillies. When eaten the capsaicin triggers our body to defend itself, stimulating the release of endorphins. The tongue searing, eye watering, chilli high leaves spice addicts seeking more. Here are the best Indian food deliveries in London according to Deliveroo.
Release endorphins through aromatherapy
Studies have found that certain essential oils such as lavender can help to relieve anxiety and release endorphins. A miracle in a bottle, essential oils are the perfect pick-me-up for when you’re wanting to manipulate your mood throughout the day. Whether you need a pre-workout spray of strength to spike your stamina, or a spritz of serenity to destress post work, aromatherapy is a whimsical wellness weapon.
DOSE has created a range of essential oil-based Mood Mists inspired by happy hormones. HIIT Me Up is comprised of energising essential oils – eucalyptus, citrus and bergamot – inspired by the “yang” energies of dopamine and endorphins. Spray and inhale to get in the mood to workout, bringing you one step closer to an endorphin rush. Smells Like Yoga with calming essential oils lavender and ylang ylang will help you unwind and recover.
Laughter is the best medicine
Having a giggle may be your go to for getting your daily dose of endorphins. Try adding a deep core belly burner to the end of your workout by laughing till your abdominals hurt. You’ll be able to chuckle away the pain with the endorphin boosting benefits.
Fake it till you make it – research shows that faking a smile or laugh works just as well as the real thing. Say cheese!
Enjoyed this article on ‘How to release endorphins and get high on your own supply’? We think you’ll also enjoy ‘How to exercise when you’re not in the mood’
By guest contributor Helena Holdsworth
Main image – Boom Cycle
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Born and bred in Yorkshire, English Literature student Helena divides her time between the dance floors of her university town of Exeter and her Northern home. And also a fitness and wellness author at WYD. She likes her steak as rare as a Sunday morning gym session and woe betide anyone who tries talking to her before she’s had an oat milk cortado upon waking.