“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t just shoot their husbands…they just don’t!” Elle Woods from Legally Blonde gets the power of endorphins. Tap into that power in your own life.
What Are Endorphins?
Have you ever felt that rush of pleasure when you bite into luscious chocolate? That’s endorphins at work.
Endorphins are chemicals made by the brain and pituitary gland to help your body cope with pain or stress. They work by blocking pain receptors so you don’t feel pain, and they boost the production of pleasure chemicals like dopamine.
Basically, endorphins relieve pain and boost happiness.
Endorphins get their name from the words “endogenous” (from the body) and “morphine.” Unlike morphine, endorphins are all-natural and produced and regulated by the body. They are entirely healthy. They are the reward for pleasurable activities such as eating, laughing, meditation, exercise, and sex.
Endorphins make you happy.
They are also produced to block pain; women in the late stages of pregnancy produce endorphins to help them cope with the pain of childbirth. Do you remember that feeling of euphoria when you gave that final push and saw your baby? That was due in part to endorphins.
Endorphins may help boost your self esteem, alleviate depression, control your weight, and reduce stress and anxiety. Sounds great, right? So…how can we get more endorphins?
Best Exercises to Release Endorphins
Like the immortal Elle Woods stated, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” But not all exercises are created equal in the endorphin department.
Endorphins are released during meditation, so any exercise that requires mindfulness can be beneficial. Yoga and pilates are two examples.
A recent study suggests aromatherapy may increase endorphin levels as well, so try diffusing lavender, rosemary, citrus, ylang ylang, or frankincense oils during meditation to maximize your feeling of happiness and well-being.
Have you heard of a “runner’s high”? That is the happiness that sets in after prolonged exercise–and it comes directly from endorphins. Studies show you need at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise to produce endorphins.
The best exercises to release endorphins are:
- Brisk walking
- Using the elliptical
- Rowing (on a row machine or in real life)
- Jumping rope
- High-impact aerobics (including step aerobics)
You may think more is better, right? Not necessarily. Your body may release endorphins after 30 minutes of exercise, but if you keep going for 60 minutes, you will definitely feel them kick in. So engage in moderate-level intensity exercise to make it possible to go the distance.
How can you tell the difference between moderate and high intensity exercise? At moderate intensity, you feel your heart pumping and your breathing is affected, but you can still talk. Exercising at a high intensity makes conversation impossible–you need to breathe!
To get even more happiness hormones in the mix, move your workouts outside to boost serotonin, and exercise with friends to bring on some oxytocin. The happy hormone cocktail will surely bring a smile to your face.
Sure, you could eat chocolate all day and be awash in endorphins, but with exercise, you get all sorts of cardiovascular and muscular benefits as well. Add some physical activity to your day and turn your body into a happiness-making machine. An added benefit? It will ensure you won’t shoot your husband. You just won’t.