- 10 Natural Ways to Boost Endorphins Instantly
- Take a group exercise class
- Clue as to why alcohol is addicting: Scientists show that drinking releases brain endorphins
- Exercise and Depression
- 10 Ways to Boost Dopamine and Serotonin Naturally
- Find a Therapist
- 1. Exercise
- 2. Spend Time in Nature
- 3. Nutrition
- 4. Meditation
- 5. Gratitude
- 6. Essential Oils
- 7. Goal Achievement
- 8. Happy Memories
- 9. Novelty
- 10. Therapy
- How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs
10 Natural Ways to Boost Endorphins Instantly
RD.COM Health Everyday Wellness
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Certain aromas can lift your mood by influencing the production of endorphins—the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals. For example, the scent of vanilla can help release endorphins and reduce anxiety, which is often associated with depression.
According to a study at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, patients undergoing MRIs who breathed vanilla-scented air reported 63 percent less anxiety than those who breathed unscented air.
To get the endorphin-boosting benefits of vanilla, add a drop or two of vanilla extract to the pot before the coffee brews, light some vanilla-scented candles, or add vanilla essential oil to your bathwater.
In another study, conducted on college students, inhaling the aroma of lavender essential oil improved symptoms of depression and insomnia. You can dab lavender oil on your wrists and temples or diffuse it in the air with an inexpensive device you can pick up at the health food store.
Ginseng may benefit people who are feeling fatigued and over-stressed and those recovering from a long illness. The herb has been shown to balance the release of stress hormones in the body and support the organs that produce these hormones. It may also help release endorphins.
There is some scientific evidence that ginseng improves mental performance, including memory and concentration, and is useful in reducing blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Other benefits may include treating some cardiovascular conditions (including high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema, chronic bronchitis) and bothersome menopausal symptoms.
Animal studies suggest it helps protect nerves from damage (including damage due to diabetes), helps the liver restore itself after damage, aids digestion and protects the stomach against ulcers caused by too much acid or aspirin. Learn the 10 things happy people do every day.
Take a group exercise class
Group exercise has some distinct advantages, according to a recent study. Not only will friends spur you on if you’re flagging, but the shared effort may give your endorphin levels an extra boost.
Researchers in 2009 found that college crews who rowed in synchronization had an increased rush of these feel-good hormones compared with those who rowed alone. But all exercise is good, whether solitary or with others.
Try walking, dancing, aerobics and running to transport yourself into a trance- state. The rhythm of continuous exercise releases endorphins and encourages reflective thought.
It’s been observed that children laugh about 300 times a day, whereas adults laugh, on average, only about five times each day. The more we laugh, the better our perspective. Problems also seem to shrink, bringing an increased sense of energy. Laughter is sometimes described as “inner jogging.
” Research has shown that it can help to lower blood pressure; reduce stress hormones; boost immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting cells; release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers; and produce a general sense of wellbeing.
Don’t miss these other 12 ways to wake up happier every day.
We are programmed to enjoy sex, but we often give it a low priority, so it simply doesn’t happen. But this is to ignore one of nature’s great relaxants and a joyful de-stressing activity which burns calories, too.
As mentioned earlier, however, when we are anxious or stressed our desire may be switched off, and we may need to give it a helping hand. Try to create a romantic atmosphere.
Buy an oil burner, to produce a sensuous fragrance, and try giving each other a relaxing massage in a candlelit room, using aromatic oils such as jasmine, rose or bergamot. Put on soothing music, and take time to slow down. Enjoy being together with your partner in a relaxed and fun way.
Give as high a priority to this activity as you do to anything else in your life that you consider important.
Research shows that being touched reduces stress—as well as alleviating pain and helping to heal injuries, according to Stanford University.
Taking time for those intimate moments also soothes us, uplifts us (due to the release of those mood-enhancing endorphins), and gives a sense of belonging and security.
Chocolate-lovers will be delighted to hear that dark chocolate provides protection against heart attacks and strokes.
Thanks to its high content of polyphenols and other antioxidants, dark chocolate reduces inflammation, lowers blood pressure, reduces ιbad᾿ LDL cholesterol, boosts ιgood᾿ HDL cholesterol and protects the health of your arteries.
It also contains chemicals that release endorphins, the body’s pain-relieving and pleasure-promoting hormones. A sense of wellbeing is vitally important to keeping your cardiovascular system in top condition.
In one major review of 139 studies conducted over nearly 40 years, researchers concluded that chocolate consumption could lower the risk of cardiovascular death by around 19 percent. That’s the good news. The bad news, for some, is that all you need to eat to improve your health is 6.7g per day.
That’s equivalent to one small square two or three times a week—the heart benefits tend to disappear with consumption of larger amounts. The key to eating chocolate is to know when to stop and when not to indulge. If you are a chocoholic—and a craving for chocolate is the most common of all food cravings in both men and women—try taking a brisk 15-minute walk. Researchers at the University of Exeter found that a walk allayed cravings in chocoholics, even in tempting situations.
Listening to music you love triggers joy by unleashing feel-good brain chemicals. Turn on this song that’s been shown to reduce anxiety by up to 65 percent.
The hot, spicy taste of foods is not, in fact, a taste sensation but a feeling of pain. Capsaicin—the chemical compound that makes chili peppers hot—binds to proteins, or pain receptors, of nerve cells in the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth.
The nerve impulses produced in this way pass via the trigeminal nerve into the brain, creating a painful burning feeling. The same receptors also react to heat, so that when heavily spiced food is eaten hot, the effect is even more intense.
However, the pain is offset by the body’s reaction, which is to release endorphins—naturally occurring opioids that produce a feeling of wellbeing—which could explain the popularity of hot, spicy food.
Another positive effect of hot spices is that they kill pathogens and promote sweating—the latter effect being especially useful for cooling the body in hot climates.
There really is something to the saying “It’s better to give than to receive.” A National Institute of Health study had 19 women lie in fMRI scanners while choosing or being told to give away portions of the $100 researchers gave them.
Even though volunteers could have kept the money at the end of the session, the pleasure centers in their brains lit up when they gave money away, whether it was voluntary or not. What’s more, “people experience even more brain activation when they give voluntarily,” lead study author and University of Oregon economics professor Bill Harbaugh said in a statement.
Donate to your favorite cause, or treat a friend next time you meet up for coffee. Find out more about how giving money away can make you happier and release endorphins.
Turns out your friends weren’t kidding when they gushed about a “runner’s high.” A small German study found that after a two-hour jog, athletes had higher levels of endorphins in their brains than they did before the run.
They could feel the results, too; the volunteers reported a boost in euphoria and happiness ratings after exercise. Plus, a Canadian mouse study found a link between running and dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s pleasure centers.
Don’t miss these other 50 little changes that will make you happier.
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Clue as to why alcohol is addicting: Scientists show that drinking releases brain endorphins
Drinking alcohol leads to the release of endorphins in areas of the brain that produce feelings of pleasure and reward, according to a study led by researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
The finding marks the first time that endorphin release in the nucleus accumbens and orbitofrontal cortex in response to alcohol consumption has been directly observed in humans.
Endorphins are small proteins with opiate- effects that are produced naturally in the brain.
“This is something that we've speculated about for 30 years, animal studies, but haven't observed in humans until now,” said lead author Jennifer Mitchell, PhD, clinical project director at the Gallo Center and an adjunct assistant professor of neurology at UCSF. “It provides the first direct evidence of how alcohol makes people feel good.”
The discovery of the precise locations in the brain where endorphins are released provides a possible target for the development of more effective drugs for the treatment of alcohol abuse, said senior author Howard L. Fields, MD, PhD, a professor of neurology and Endowed Chair in Pharmacology of Addiction in Neurology at UCSF and director of human clinical research at the Gallo Center.
The study appears on January 11, 2012, in Science Translational Medicine.
The researchers used positron emission tomography, or PET imaging, to observe the immediate effects of alcohol in the brains of 13 heavy drinkers and 12 matched “control” subjects who were not heavy drinkers.
In all of the subjects, alcohol intake led to a release of endorphins. And, in all of the subjects, the more endorphins released in the nucleus accumbens, the greater the feelings of pleasure reported by each drinker.
In addition, the more endorphins released in the orbitofrontal cortex, the greater the feelings of intoxication in the heavy drinkers, but not in the control subjects.
“This indicates that the brains of heavy or problem drinkers are changed in a way that makes them more ly to find alcohol pleasant, and may be a clue to how problem drinking develops in the first place,” said Mitchell. “That greater feeling of reward might cause them to drink too much.”
Results Suggest Possible Approach to Treat Alcohol Abuse
Before drinking, the subjects were given injections of radioactively carfentanil, an opiate- drug that selectively binds to sites in the brain called opioid receptors, where endorphins also bind. As the radioactive carfentanil was bound and emitted radiation, the receptor sites “lit up” on PET imaging, allowing the researchers to map their exact locations.
The subjects were then each given a drink of alcohol, followed by a second injection of radioactive carfentanil, and scanned again with PET imaging.
As the natural endorphins released by drinking were bound to the opioid receptor sites, they prevented the carfentanil from being bound.
By comparing areas of radioactivity in the first and second PET images, the researchers were able to map the exact locations — areas of lower radioactivity — where endorphins were released in response to drinking.
The researchers found that endorphins released in response to drinking bind to a specific type of opioid receptor, the Mu receptor.
This result suggests a possible approach to improving the efficacy of treatment for alcohol abuse through the design of better medications than naltrexone, said Fields, who collaborated with Mitchell in the design and analysis of the study.
Fields explained that naltrexone, which prevents binding at opioid receptor sites, is not widely accepted as a treatment for alcohol dependence — “not because it isn't effective at reducing drinking, but because some people stop taking it because they don't the way it makes them feel,” he said.
“Naltrexone blocks more than one opioid receptor, and we need to know which blocking action reduces drinking and which causes the unwanted side effects,” he said.
“If we better understand how endorphins control drinking, we will have a better chance of creating more targeted therapies for substance addiction.
This paper is a significant step in that direction because it specifically implicates the Mu opioid receptor in alcohol reward in humans.”
Co-authors of the study are James P. O'Neill and Mustafa Janabi of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and Shawn M. Marks and William J. Jagust, MD, of LBL and the University of California, Berkeley.
The study was supported by funds from the Department of Defense and by State of California Funds for Research on Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
Materials provided by University of California, San Francisco. Original written by Jennifer O'Brien. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Exercise and Depression
Want to learn more about exercise and depression? Many studies show that people who exercise regularly benefit with a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression.
Improved self-esteem is a key psychological benefit of regular physical activity. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.
Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner's high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.
Endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as sedatives.
They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neuron receptors endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some pain medicines.
However, un with morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body's endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.
Regular exercise has been proven to:
Exercise also has these added health benefits:
- It strengthens your heart.
- It increases energy levels.
- It lowers blood pressure.
- It improves muscle tone and strength.
- It strengthens and builds bones.
- It helps reduce body fat.
- It makes you look fit and healthy.
Research has shown that exercise is an effective but often underused treatment for mild to moderate depression. In addition, exercise outside (with the appropriate sun protection) can help boost levels of vitamin D and your mood.
It appears that any form of exercise can help depression. Some examples of moderate exercise include:
- Golf (walking instead of using the cart)
- Housework, especially sweeping, mopping, or vacuuming
- Jogging at a moderate pace
- Low-impact aerobics
- Playing tennis
- Yard work, especially mowing or raking
Because strong social support is important for those with depression, joining a group exercise class may be beneficial. Or you can exercise with a close friend or your partner. In doing so, you will benefit from the physical activity and emotional comfort, knowing that others are supportive of you.
For most people, it is OK to start an exercise program without checking with a health care provider. However, if you have not exercised in a while, are over age 50, or have a medical condition such as diabetes or heart disease, contact your health care provider before starting an exercise program.
Before you begin an exercise program for depression, here are some questions you should consider:
- What physical activities do I enjoy?
- Do I prefer group or individual activities?
- What programs best fit my schedule?
- Do I have physical conditions that limit my choice of exercise?
- What goals do I have in mind? (For example: weight loss, strengthening muscles, improving flexibility, or mood enhancement)
Try to exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week. Studies indicate that exercising four or five times a week is even better. Take it easy if you are just beginning. Start exercising for 20 minutes. Then you can build up to 30 minutes.
When you first start your exercise program, you should plan a routine that is easy to follow and maintain. When you start feeling comfortable with your routine, then you can start varying your exercise times and activities.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Choose an activity you enjoy. Exercising should be fun.
- Put your exercise routine into your schedule. If you need reminding, put it on your calendar.
- Variety is the spice of life. Make sure you vary your exercises so that you don't get bored. Check your local gymnasium or community center for an assortment of exercise programs.
- Don't let exercise programs break the bank. Unless you are going to be using them regularly, avoid buying health club memberships or expensive equipment.
- Stick with it. If you exercise regularly, it will soon become part of your lifestyle and will help reduce your depression.
Never ignore pain. You may cause stress and damage to your joints and muscles if you continue exercising through pain.
If you still feel pain a couple hours after exercising, you have probably overexerted yourself and need to decrease your activity level. If your pain persists or is severe, or if you suspect you have injured yourself, contact your doctor.
If you are unable to regularly participate in exercise or athletics, you can also try other tools to help boost your mood. Studies of meditation and massage therapy have demonstrated that these techniques can stimulate endorphin secretion, increase relaxation, and aid in boosting mood.
National Institute on Aging: “Don't Let the Blues Hang Around.”
Mental Health America: “Staying Well When You Have a Mental Illness.”
Cleveland Clinic Center for Consumer Health Information: “How Does Exercise Improve Depression?”
American Psychiatric Association, Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major Depression, 2000, and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR, American Psychiatric Pub, 2000.
Fieve, R. Bipolar II, Rodale Books, 2006.
© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. Home Remedies
10 Ways to Boost Dopamine and Serotonin Naturally
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that carry electrical signals between neurons in the brain. Dopamine and serotonin are two important neurotransmitters for mental health. They affect your mood, memory, sleep, libido, appetite, and more. Imbalances can contribute to addictions, mood conditions, memory issues, and attention difficulties.
Over the past several decades, the world has seen an increase in medications for serotonin and dopamine imbalances. These prescriptions can treat symptoms of many mental health conditions. Yet they have a long list of potential side effects, from dizziness to insomnia. Also, their effectiveness varies from person to person.
Find a Therapist
Some people want to try some non-drug treatments before committing to medication. Others take medication but want to supplement it with other strategies. Below are 10 ways to increase dopamine and serotonin that don’t require a pill:
Regular exercise for at least 30 minutes each day improves one’s overall mood. Research has revealed that long-term cardiovascular exercise boosts serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin can lower hostility and symptoms of depression. It also encourages agreeableness.
(More: Movefor Your Mood: The Power of Exercise to Help Lift Depression)
2. Spend Time in Nature
In previous generations, humans spent most of their time outdoors. These days, many people work indoors, sitting at a desk under artificial lighting.
Researchers have found as little as five minutes outdoors in a natural setting can improve mood, increase motivation, and boost self-esteem.
The amount of time spent in sunlight correlates with serotonin and dopamine synthesis. Even a brief walk in the park can improve your well-being.
(More: 5 Ways Nature Can Help You Feel Better)
Diet can also influence one’s mental health. Coffee increases your serotonin and dopamine levels … for as long as you take it. Once you stop drinking coffee, you will go into withdrawal. Your brain, used to the high levels of neurotransmitters, will act as if there is a deficiency. It can take up to 12 days of caffeine-free diet for the brain to return to its normal state.
Omega-3 fatty acids boost serotonin levels without the withdrawal. They help serotonin trigger nerve cell receptors, making transport easier. Many studies have shown that omega-3s help reduce depressive symptoms. You can find omega-3s in cold-water fish salmon.
Contrary to internet rumors, eating turkey does not raise your brain’s serotonin levels. Many people think foods rich in tryptophan can boost mood, since the brain uses tryptophan to produce serotonin. However, tryptophan competes with several other amino acids for transportation to the brain. Since it is low on the body’s priority list, it usually loses.
That said, having some tryptophan in your diet is important. If you don’t have enough, your serotonin levels will drop. If you need more tryptophan, you can get it by eating starchy foods whole wheat bread, potatoes, and corn.
(More: Good Mood Foods to Help Fight Depression, Stress, and More)
Meditation is the practice of relaxed and focused contemplation. It is often accompanied by breathing exercises. Evidence has shown that meditation increases the release of dopamine. It can relieve stress and create feelings of inner peace.
(More: Stress Reduction: Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners)
Scientific research has shown gratitude affects the brain’s reward system. It correlates with the release of dopamine and serotonin. Gratitude has been directly linked to increased happiness.
There have been many studies on a practice called the “three blessings exercise.” Every night for a week, you write down three things you are thankful for. People who complete this exercise tend to report more happiness and less depressive symptoms. Their improved mood can last up to six months.
(More: How a Simple Mason Jar Can Bring More Gratitude to Your Life)
6. Essential Oils
All essential oils come from plants. These oils often have medicinal properties. One study found that bergamot, lavender, and lemon essential oils are particularly therapeutic. Using your sense of smell, they prompt your brain to release serotonin and dopamine.
Note: Always follow the instructions on the bottle’s label. Although essential oils are “natural,” some can be dangerous when misused. Do not let young children play with essential oils.
(More: How Aromatherapy Can Boost Psychological and Physical Health)
7. Goal Achievement
When we achieve one of our goals, our brain releases dopamine. The brain finds this dopamine rush very rewarding. It seeks out more dopamine by working toward another goal.
Larger goals typically come with increased dopamine. However, it’s best to start with small goals to improve your chances of success. Short-term goals can add up to achieve a long-term goal (and a bigger reward). This pattern keeps a steady release of dopamine in your brain.
(More: How Positive Affirmations Can Help You Achieve Your Goals)
8. Happy Memories
Researchers have examined the interaction between mood and memory. They focused on the anterior cingulate cortex, the region of the brain associated with attention. People reliving sad memories produced less serotonin in that region. People dwelling on happy memories produced more serotonin.
(More: Can We Purposefully Make Memories Last Forever?)
The brain reacts to novel experiences by releasing dopamine. You can naturally increase your dopamine by seeking out new experiences. Any kind of experience will work. You can do something simple a new hobby or recipe. Or you can try something grand skydiving. The less familiar you are with the activity, the more ly your brain will reward you with dopamine.
(More: 5 Things on My New Year’s Bucket List for My Kids)
Research indicates if you change your mood, you can affect serotonin synthesis in your brain. This implies mood and serotonin synthesis have a mutual influence on each other. Psychotherapy often helps people improve their mood. It is possible therapy can help raise one’s serotonin levels as well.
(More: Benefits of Therapy)
While these 10 methods can boost your neurotransmitters, they are not a substitute for medical care. If you have mental health concerns, you should always seek a doctor’s or therapist’s advice.
A mental health professional can tell you which approaches are best for your unique situation. There is no shame in taking medication or attending counseling.
They are common treatment options among many.
- Coffee and hormones: Here’s how coffee really affects your health. (n.d.) Precision Nutrition. Retrieved from https://www.precisionnutrition.com/coffee-and-hormones
- Do you need a nature prescription? (2013, June 19). Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/nature-therapy-ecotherapy
- Essential oils: Poisonous when misused. (2014). National Capital Poison Center. Retrieved from https://www.poison.org/articles/2014-jun/essential-oils
- How Do I Increase Serotonin and Dopamine Levels? (2017, August 14). LIVESTRONG Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/301434-how-do-i-increase-serotonin-dopamine-levels/
- Jenkins, T.A., Nguyen, J.C.D., Polglaze, K.E., & Bertrand, P.P. (2016, January 20). Nutrients, 8(1), 56. Retrieved from http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/8/1/56/htm
- Lv, X.N., Liu, Z.J., Zhang H.J., & Tzeng C.M. (2014). Aromatherapy and the central nerve system (CNS): Therapeutic mechanism and its associated genes. Current Drug Targets, 8(14), 872-879. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23531112#
- Novelty and the brain: Why new things make us feel so good. (2013, May 21). Retrieved from https://lifehacker.com/novelty-and-the-brain-why-new-things-make-us-feel-so-g-508983802
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Mood Disorders. (2012). Today’s Dietitian, 14(1), 22. Retrieved from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/011012p22.shtml
- Thankfulness linked to positive changes in brain and body. (2011, November 23). ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/science-thankfulness/story?id=15008148
- This is how your brain becomes addicted to caffeine. (2013, August 9). Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/this-is-how-your-brain-becomes-addicted-to-caffeine-26861037/
- Why our brains short-term goals. (2013, January 3). Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225356
- Young, S.N. (2007). How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 32(6), 394-399. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/
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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.
How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs
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