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YOU’VE CERTAINLY HEARD ABOUT A RUNNER’S HIGH, OR BEEN TOLD OF A BLISSFUL ENDORPHIN RUSH AS A RESULT OF EXERCISE, BUT IS ALL THE HYPE REALLY TRUE (AND BETTER YET, DOES IT WORK)? TURNS OUT, IT IS AND IT DOES.
ENDORPHINS: WHAT ARE THEY ANYWAY?
The discovery of these feel good receptors wasn’t really well-known until the 70s when researchers were studying the brain and addiction to heroin and morphine patients. Scientist found that there were specific receptors that these drugs were acting on and that lead to the discovery of endorphins. Our bodies naturally produce these chemicals and they have a positive painkilling aspect to them. But those endorphins don’t deserve all the credit. Serotonin and norphenylephrine are two other neurotransmitters released during exercise that give you that boost of feel-good vibes.
While research suggests that any form of exercise for 30-45 minutes will elevate your spirits, the rise is attributed to serotonin and norphenylephrine. Endorphins really don’t fire up until an hour or more of intense exercise. Specifically cardio can lead to an increase in serotonin and norepinephrine, which can turn down feelings of stress and even depression. While you’re getting your heart rate up your mind is firing out an increased production of neurotransmitters which signals to your nervous system that good things are happening.
There’s also science to back up claims that cardio gives your body practice to respond to stress. That means the more you exercise the better equipped your mind and body are to deal with stressors. Just make sure you are mindful and don’t go too hard on the workout. While endorphins are released because they are a response to the stress put on the body, too much stress can make it backfire and have adverse effects.
So get out there, get moving and break a sweat, you’ll (quite literally) be happy you did.
EAT, RELAX, REPEAT
You may be wondering: is a sweaty workout the only way to see the rise? Turns out it’s not. (Which, for many of us is music to our ears.) Other ways to get those endorphins levels up is by massage, meditation and even eating chocolate. The feelings won’t be as intense with what you’d expect after a hard workout, but the boost and natural upper is there. So, really, it’s up to you which sesh you want to do to raise those feel good receipters!
AVOCADO TOAST, ANYONE?
Full disclosure: This next tip is not about getting up and moving, cause we certainly deserve a down day every now and again. Turns out some of our favorite foods can do the trick to increase our feelings of wellness. Avocados contain choline which raises the level of serotonin and dopamine. It also has energy-boosting B5 and N-Acetyl-Cysteine. A food high in selenium and amino acid tyrosine that helps boost serotonin and dopamine are Brazil nuts. And last, but not least, there’s chocolate. Dark chocolate, specifically, may increase serotonin levels due to the serotonin and L-tryptophan it contains. The carbs and forms of sugar also signal to the brain that it should produce serotonin. It should be noted, while pretty much everyone loves chocolate, it’s a short term buzz and the effects last for less than 2 hours, so don’t make it a regular habit.
Meditation and massage can be a form of exercise. Afterall, you’re exercising your mind and giving your muscles some TLC. The act of meditation and massage both cause a release of endorphins and turns those stress hormones off. So simply by the act of relaxing and having some thoughtful “me time” you’re doing your body and mind good.