Many people who vigorously exercise on a regular basis know about that feeling after their workout. The one where you feel as if you’ve just conquered the world. The most commonly used phrase to describe the sensation was coined by avid runners and is known as the “runner’s high.”
While many people are not quite sure why this sensation happens, as it turns out, that overall feeling of euphoria after a satisfying exercise session comes down to biological science. It is caused by neurochemicals known as endorphins, which are made primarily in the hypothalamus and pituitary glands of the brain. The pituitary gland is a vital component to brain health because it influences all other parts of the body. But what exactly are endorphins? And how do they affect you?
We’ll examine this below, as well as delving into how to use diet and exercise to achieve an endorphin rush and feel like you’re on top of the world.
As mentioned above, endorphins are neurochemicals. More specifically, they are a large group of peptides that act on the opiate receptors in the brains. Opiate receptors are designed to act as a switch in the brain that triggers reward systems as well as addictive behaviors. When endorphins are released within the brain and stimulate the opiate receptors, it leads to feelings of pleasure, wellbeing, and even a reduction in pain.
The most common time endorphins are released into the body naturally is in stressful situations or if you are experiencing pain. The body naturally releases these endorphins to help cope with the experiences, with the aim being to combat the negative outcomes that accompany high levels of stress or pain by maximizing pleasure.
It’s not only stress or pain that can lead to the release of these neurochemicals, though. Other activities such as eating, sex, and exercise can all play a role in endorphin release. Because of the body’s ability to create endorphins during those times, it is said that their release can help modulate appetite, trigger the release of sex hormones, and increase the efficacy of the immune response.
Aside from being able to help you deal with painful injuries or stressful situations, endorphins have been shown to promote overall wellness, especially when it comes to mental health. Studies have shown that participating in activities that boost endorphins can lead to the reduction of symptoms in those with depression and anxiety. Endorphins can also help to boost self-esteem because they lead can lead to a more positive and optimistic demeanor.
Other studies have shown that an endorphins have a role in weight gain or loss. This is because of their appetite regulation abilities. It’s also possible to be deficient in endorphins, leading to a range of potential symptoms, such as:
Any type of physical movement will cause the body to produce endorphins. This is because exercise stimulates the body’s stress response. When you increase your heart rate or start to move your body in an active way, the body can see this as a sign of stress and begin to release stress hormones. When that stress hormone activation occurs, your brain counteracts it by releasing endorphins. This counteraction is why people can feel euphoric or a general sense of happiness after a good exercise session.
You don’t have to wait for a stressful situation or injury to occur to take advantage of the happy chemicals in your brain! There are many activities you can partake in that will lead to a rush of endorphins. Running is perhaps the most common activity when it comes to endorphin release, but any type of exercise will do the job. Workouts with a higher intensity are more likely to give a rush, because they put more stress on the body and thus elicit a higher response to combat that stress. Wild swimming, for example, is another physical activity that sends stress signals throughout the body that will induce endorphin production and release.
Aside from exercise, some activities that will drive the release of endorphins include:
Since appetite regulation is an important part of food consumption and endorphins play a role in appetite, it’s no surprise that eating and endorphin release are connected. Eating good foods have been shown to trigger the release of the feel-good chemical that leads to those satisfied feelings of fullness and happiness after eating something you truly enjoy.
So which types of foods can trigger the release? Well, some are better than others. The best foods to eat if you want to give yourself an endorphin rush include:
Although these foods have been studied and shown to help boost overall feelings of happiness, simply eating your favorite food can also do the trick.
The endorphin rush is a natural high that everyone can benefit from – it’s great for the body, the mind, and overall levels of health.