Image by: Carbon NYC
By Jake Bradshaw
Nothing beats the feeling of happiness, especially in a world with so much anger and sadness. Endorphins are a friend we always want in our heads. Not only do they set the bar high for other emotions to follow, but they have the power to change our entire life experience.
Endorphins are our own private narcotic, if you will. They’re neurotransmitters that pass signals from one neuron to another, blocking or hindering the transmission of pain and sadness, leaving a happy opiate-like high. So how do we get these magic chemicals? Here are a few ideas:
#1) Aerobic Workouts
A study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that heart-pumping workouts promote happiness, reduce stress, and help you sleep better. By stimulating the release of many of the brain chemicals thought to be in low supply, depression and even anxiety can be kept at bay. Here are a few exercises to keep in mind:
- Bouncing – Believe it or not, bouncing is an easy way to oxygenate your brain and get some endorphins flowing. Whether it’s on a trampoline, jump rope or in place, bend your knees and bounce as quickly as you can for a few minutes. It’ll be worth it in the end.
- Running – The “runner’s high” is no joke. Most athletes experience it while crossing a certain threshold of exertion while running. That euphoria is due to the release of endorphins in the brain in response to the sustained physical activity. A good 20 – 30 minutes of nonstop running will always do the trick.
- Power Walking – Moving in general will stimulate the oxygen in your brain. Doing something is always better than nothing. One way to get more steps in your life is to choose a few days out of the week to walk to work, even if it means taking a half hour subway ride. You’re more than likely to get a mile a day out of that so use it to your advantage.
*Tip: Do a ten-minute cool down for full effect. Since your body will be stressed from the exercise, giving it time to cool off while still being mobile will balance the endorphin rush.
#2) Get It From Your Food!
There are certain foods you can get at any supermarket that will boost the neurochemicals in your brain. The best part is whenever you workout the ingredients will be secreted to the rest of your body, giving you a bigger effect. Here are some to look at:
- Walnuts – Packed full of Omega-3 fatty acids will help you feel get to a euphoric state post-workout, not to mention the vitamin B6, tryptophan and folate (vitamin B9) will fight depression by releasing dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Plus, since they’ve proven to be good for your bones and teeth, you’ll look while doing it. It’s a win-win.
- Bananas – Not only is handy, it’s packed with potassium, tryptophan, B vitamins, phosphorous, fiber, iron and magnesium, which all are great for energy, digestion, the nervous system and mood balance.
- Salmon – Eating salmon once a week is great for brain development and the nervous system. The nutrients it contains increase the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Whether it’s bakes, boiled or grilled, it’s always going to add a boost of serotonin.
#3) Stretching Exercises
Traditions such as yoga or tai chi have a unique effect in raising serotonin. It improves flexibility while increasing strength which will make you more aware of your breathing and balance which will help oxygen enter your brain. Plus it involves mindfulness which helps to break negative thoughts.
If you want to get the most out of your sessions, bring a buddy. When you partner up, you’re more willing to stick it out, plus it will help you to be more social which boosts your mood.
#4) Strength Training
Strength training is all about mastery and control. It requires full attention and concentration, but more importantly it allows for you to see a visual result. That will always bring satisfaction and mood-boosting energy which will eventually venture off into other areas of the brain while you’re working out for long lasting effect.
To take it up a notch, add some cardio to your routine to keep your heart rate elevated throughout the entire session. This will keep your brain in need of oxygen which will up the release of your endorphins towards the end.
#5) Get Some Sunshine
According to a 2010 study from the University of Essex, sunlight will stimulate your serotonin levels. Even a simple act as washing your car on the driveway, throwing the ball with your buddies or going for a hike will always enhance your chemical release.
If you perform the same workout at the same intensity, indoors or out, the perceived rate of exertion will be lower outside. Meaning, your workout will feel much easier. This is because sunlight also gives your body energy. Nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction after a hard workout.