natural euphoria

Last week I commented on a blog discussing the topic of banning large sodas to hopefully curb obesity. I mentioned that instead of cutting out soda, or at least in addition to, people should go to the gym to lose weight. They would not only lose weight but feel better about themselves by releasing endorphins. "Endorphins are neurotransmitters produced in the brain that reduce pain," says Alan Hirsch, MD. "They are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates" during certain activities.  

Do you recall the quote from Legally Blonde? "Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy." - Elle Woods. Maybe Ms. Woods isn't an expert, but I do believe endorphins naturally make people happier. Exercise is not the only way to release these good feelings though.  

1.) Eat a chili pepper 
Your body's response to the pain and rush of heat releases endorphins. The endorphin factor, according to a study: 1 to 3. 

2.) Think positive thoughts 
This is similar to the placebo effect. If you think something positive will happen, the more likely it actually will. By thinking happy thoughts, your mentality is a positive one. Endorphin factor 2

3.) Get "moved" 
Experience something magical, something moving. Examples include beautiful art work, a piece of music, an act of kindness. Endorphin factor: 2 

4.) Be guilty, eat chocolate - it's good for you! 
Thumbnail image for chocolate.jpg
Ok, so not good for your health, but for those chocolate lovers out there like me it does release endorphins! "The food closest to a drug is chocolate," says Dr. Hirsch. "It actually has an impact on  your brain that triggers an endorphin release." Maybe that's why girls turn to chocolate after a bad break-up. It's comfort food. Endorphin factor: 1

5.) "You have nothing to fear, but fear itself" 
Fear also releases endorphins. The rush you get from watching a scary movie in theaters or the last minute panic right before you reach the peak of a roller coaster knowing your about to plummet head first into the air are examples of how facing your fears leave you feeling thrilled and accomplished.
Endorphin factor: 3-5 depending on how much of a scaredy cat you are. 

6.) Soak up the sun 
You know how you always feel good after a day in the sun? It's because of endorphins! 
Thumbnail image for dog_laying_out.jpgResearchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center have found that ultraviolet (UV) light can trigger endorphin production. This doesn't mean you should use endorphins as an excuse for getting skin cancer. Tanning bulbs are not as beneficial as natural sunlight. Although, I do think tanning beds can have a similar positive affect on mood. This may be another example of the placebo effect. Even though you're not actually laying under the sun, you feel as if you are, so you get the same result. Endorphin factor: 2  

There are other ways to release endorphins. Heroin, cocaine, and orgasms are just a few, but I did not feel as if those were appropriate to go into detail on.   


I've personally tried eating peppers for endorphin spikes. While my personal experience isn't credible enough evidence to make strong inferences, I'm fairly certain the unpleasant physical discomfort of eating a pepper overwhelmed any effects of endorphins.

I don't think I would release "happy feelings" from eating peppers either. I like hot, spicy food but only to an extent. I will vouch for chocolate releasing endorphins though!

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