Increasing happiness levels naturally is possible through the release of endorphins, which have a host of mood-enhancing benefits.
Endorphins are natural hormones that give you the classic “runner’s high” feeling and block pain and stress, according to Dr. Elizabeth C. Gardner, a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at Yale Medicine.
According to the Huffpost review, studies even show that they decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety and help you feel more optimistic and fulfilled.
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One of the best ways to release endorphins is through exercise , particularly high-intensity interval training, continuous moderate exercise, group fitness classes, and running.
Other activities can also increase endorphin levels.
massage and acupuncture
Both massage and acupuncture have been shown to stimulate the release of endorphins, particularly when targeting specific trigger points, Gardner said.
When pain trigger points are hit, it “induces the sensation of pain [and] can lead to the release of endorphins” because “endorphins are your natural pain reliever,” he said.
Those endorphins then lead to a feeling of relaxation during and after a massage or acupuncture.
“There have been some studies that have shown that constant meditation can help release endorphins,” Gardner said, but the exact reason why this happens is unknown.
“There’s a bit of a cause-and-effect dilemma here, but the constant meditations seem to [cause] higher endorphin levels,” he said.
Studies also show that meditation can be an effective stress management tool and that people who meditate have higher levels of serotonin, a substance that helps improve mood.
According to Sharon Collison, registered dietitian and clinical nutrition instructor at the University of Delaware, many studies have shown that “laughter physiologically stimulates the production of beta-endorphins.”
Gardner noted that many people think the release of endorphins comes from the deep breathing and full-body movement associated with laughter. “He’s almost simulating a workout for me,” she said, which could be the reason behind the endorphin release.
“Being outside on a good day has associated relaxing feelings,” Gardner said. “And part of it is that UV light helps stimulate the release of beta-endorphins.”
Also, the brain releases serotonin when the body is exposed to sunlight, which increases the hormones of happiness.
Sex is often mentioned as a way to increase endorphins, Gardner noted. This could be due to the physical nature of the act and the accompanying exercise, as exercise also increases endorphins.
In addition, studies also show that having sex can lower levels of cortisol, which is the body’s stress hormone.