People call it a runner’s high for a reason. When you’re flying through the air, your endorphins soar too.
Exercise is commonly associated with these feel-good chemical messengers, but it isn’t the only way to promote the release of endorphins. If you’re more of a channel surfer than a surfer-surfer, don’t worry. We’re bringing you all the best ways to get those happy feelings flowing.
How do you release endorphins?
Your central nervous system and your pituitary gland both release endorphins. The pros are still figuring out exactly *how* these molecules function, but they seem to be key to both managing pain and experiencing pleasure.
Scientists think you’ll typically release endorphins when you:
- power up your neural reward system with things like exercise, food, music, and sex
- endure an injury or another trauma
- experience stress or anxiety
Euphoria is the feeling you get when endorphins soar. This euphoric feeling can help relieve pain, reduce stress, and get you “feelin’ good as hell,” Lizzo-style.
Whether you practice Pilates, play tennis, or chase your kids around the yard, any type of exercise could give your bod an endorphin boost.
According to a 2011 research review, after about 30 minutes of exercise, your body may begin to release endorphins.
And that boost *just* might be better when you’re among friends. In a small 2010 study, 12 participants seemed to release more endorphins when rowing in a group than when they did similar exercise solo.
Does it matter how hard you go? Probably. A small 2017 study of 22 healthy males found that a more intense workout helped release more endorphins than a less intense one.
There’s not a lot of research on exercise and endorphins yet, but there is plenty of evidence that exercise has other benefits for your physical and mental health. So, it’s worth a try!
Does it seem like everyone says meditation can solve all your problems? From straightening out your sleep schedule to combating anxiety, it might seem like magic, but science suggests there are some legit benefits.
You might be able to add one more benefit to the list: encouraging your endorphins. According to a 2011 review, meditation might be another way to trigger endorphin release.
A small 2016 study of 31 adults also suggests that meditation training increases pain tolerance, which may be related to the endorphin response.
But there’s not yet enough research to understand the link for sure.
If you’ve never tried acupuncture, it might come as a surprise that getting pricked by lots of thin needles can be relaxing.
According to research from 2004, it also might give you a serious endorphin boost. While that research is pretty dated, a bunch of more recent studies support acupuncture’s use in managing:
Turning into a pincushion for a little while just might be worth a shot.
When you can’t roll around in a field of lavender, get yourself the next best thing: essential oil.
In a pretty small 2012 study, lavender aromatherapy reportedly relieved anxiety associated with IUD insertion.
Another small study from 2017 supports this outcome — it found that inhaling “euphoric” essential oil aromas (like lavender) can help release endorphins.
Other euphoric oils include:
- citrus fragrances (orange, grapefruit, lemon, bergamot, etc.)
- ylang ylang
Massages and relaxation go together like Netflix and chill. Turns out, releasing those knots in your back might also release endorphins.
Whether you opt to hop into a massage chair, pay a pro, or get your boo to do it, some older research (from way back in 2005) suggests that massages may boost a bunch of hormones, including:
Research suggests that getting down with your lover (or yourself) releases pretty much the same array of feel-good hormones as getting a massage, including:
Pro tip: Why not double up on these bennies? Try starting off your sexy time with a little self- or partner massage.
Next time someone calls you out for spending too much time watching funny cat videos, you can say you were just trying to release some endorphins.
According to some research, laughing it up gets these happy feelings flowing. It also seems to suppress the stress hormone, cortisol, and boost your serotonin and dopamine levels.
According to a 2016 review, all that makes laughter a pretty legit form of DIY therapy.
It’s not just funny things that get your endorphins flowing — a dramatic episode of “You” or “Goliath” might also do the trick.
According to a 2016 study, the emotional arousal that happens when people watch dramas increases pain threshold and social bonding. This has led scientists to believe that your Netflix marathon could actually boost endorphins.
So, bring on the drama!
Selfless acts may be a way to serve others, but they could come with some benefits for you own well-being too.
According to a 2016 review on the science of kindness, benevolent acts release endorphins and oxytocin (the “bonding hormone”). They can also create new neural connections in your noggin.
So whether you buy someone a coffee, volunteer with an organization you care about, or simply smile at a stranger, why not give it a go?
Need another reason to belt it out with your besties on the dance floor? Research suggests that making or listening to music can boost social bonding and release endorphins.
Upbeat music may be especially helpful, according to a 2017 review of several studies.
In a 2016 study of a few hundred subjects, group singing appeared to boost feelings of social bonding and lower pain thresholds. The researchers concluded that social musical performance can boost endorphins.
Also, a small 2019 study of 40 participants found that people with fibromyalgia reported less pain after listening to music. That improvement may be related to the endorphin response.
The impact of rhythm and sound on emotions might also be the reason many people look to music therapy to reduce stress and live their best lives.
If you want to boost your endorphins, channel your inner Sheryl Crow: It’s time to soak up the sun.
Research suggests that ultraviolet (UV) radiation can increase blood levels of endorphins. Just make sure to slather on some SPF before your sunbathing sesh to protect your skin from sunburn and UV damage.
Pro tip: Live in a place so gray that you almost forget what the sun looks like? While *any* amount of outdoor exposure, rain or shine, should help, you can also consider getting yourself a sun lamp.
Sudsing up in the tub may soothe your sore muscles, relieve stress, and — you guessed it — give you an endorphin boost.
There isn’t much research on the link between bathing and endorphins, but it’s prob worth a shot. A bath can help you feel relaxed and restored. Self-care FTW.
Time to eat some spaghetti like you’re Julia Roberts in “Eat, Pray, Love,” because eating and pleasure really do go together.
According to a small 2017 study, eating food (but not drinking a beverage with the same # of cals) releases endorphins in the brain.
Some people think spicy foods in particular give your noggin an endorphin rush, and there’s some limited animal research from 2012 to back it up.
In case you needed another excuse to pick up that sweet piece of dark chocolate, here’s a good one. According to a 2017 review, along with satisfying your sweet tooth and raising feel-good dopamine levels, that dark chocolate can also boost your endorphins.
Experts think that the polyphenols in dark chocolate trigger that blissed-out feeling and have an anti-inflammatory effect.
When you need a little endorphin release, it may be time to dance like no one’s watching.
Though all types of dance, from twerking to Renegading, might release endorphins, research from 2015 suggests it’s even better if you find a partner. The study found that dancing in synchrony with others led to higher pain thresholds and feelings of social bonding.
Endorphins are feel-good chemical messengers key to both managing pain and experiencing pleasure.
Activities like eating, exercising, laughing, listening to music, and sunbathing may boost endorphins. Spreading kindness, getting a massage, or having sex can also help.