The crazy popularity of the #100HappyDays challenge just goes to show how much people value happiness. And you should absolutely make happiness a priority! Especially since the positive emotion has been associated with better health in individuals as well as in communities.
Maintaining a sunny outlook is often easier said than done, but fortunately, our bodies produce a natural and scientifically proven mood booster: endorphins. These neurotransmitters reduce our perception of pain and the negative effects of stress. They might even make you feel euphoric, decrease your appetite and improve your immune response.
While it might sound too good to be true, you can make your body release more endorphins by doing healthy and enjoyable activities. So the next time you’re feeling blue, try one of these four ideas to feel happier instantly:
Exercise. The so-called “runner’s high” isn’t a myth! Your body releases endorphins during prolonged, strenuous exercise in response to the physical stress that you start to feel when you’re pushing yourself to the limit. One study found that group exercise might offer even more of these feel-good benefits by driving you to keep going when your energy flags.
Take a deep breath. Certain fragrances such as lavender and vanilla can inspire your body to release endorphins. Vanilla has been shown to help reduce anxiety, while lavender may improve symptoms of depression and insomnia. Use a scented candle or diffuser, add some essential oils to your bathwater or dab the oil on your wrist.
Dig in. Eating spicy food or chocolate – two of our favorite things! – can trigger your body to release endorphins. Capsaicin, the chemical compound that makes chili peppers hot, feels painful when it comes into contact with your nose or mouth, but your body’s natural defense system transforms this feeling into the addictive heat that spicy food lovers crave. Your body also releases endorphins when you eat chocolate, which helps explains why brownies and ice cream sound so comforting after a bad day. We say indulge every once in a while – but everything in moderation!
Treat yourself. You’ve probably heard that laughter is good for your health, and it’s true: Your body releases endorphins when you chuckle. So go enjoy the latest blockbuster comedy or watch some improv. Other “me-time” activities that give you an endorphin boost include acupuncture and massage therapy.
What healthy activities give you an endorphin rush? Let us know in the comments!
Photo credit: @Doug88888