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Endorphins are chemical messengers in your body, released by both your central nervous system and your pituitary gland.

While experts are still identifying all the ways they work in your body, 2010 research suggests endorphins play an important part in your body’s ability to manage pain and experience pleasure.

Endorphin release generally happens when you:

  • are injured
  • experience stress
  • activate your natural reward system with activities like eating, exercising, or sex

When released, endorphins can help relieve pain, reduce stress, and may cause a euphoric feeling. In short, they can make you feel pretty darn good. Here’s a look at how to boost them naturally.

The physical benefits of exercise can’t be denied. Its mental health benefits are just as impressive, thanks in large part to endorphins. While you’re likely to see more benefits from more exercise, any amount is better than none.

If you’re looking for an endorphin boost, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Endorphin release is linked to continuous exercise. Research from 2011 suggests endorphin release occurs after 30 minutes of exercise.
  • Moderate-intensity exercise may be best. A 2017 study found that 22 participants experienced euphoric feelings linked to endorphin release after an hour of moderate-intensity exercise. Moderate exercise means your heart rate and breathing speed up. You can talk, but you might be a bit short of breath, and you’ll probably sweat at least a little.
  • Group exercise may give you a better endorphin boost. According to a small 2010 study, 12 participants saw more of an endorphin boost when exercising (rowing) in a group than when they did similar exercise alone.

This alternative treatment is a type of Chinese medicine that uses very thin needles to stimulate pressure points.

Many people participating in medical studies have found it helpful for a range of issues, including:

Research from 2004 suggests that these benefits of the endorphin release are triggered when the needles are inserted.

If you’ve considered acupuncture, particularly to treat pain, it may be worth a try. It’s safe for most people, and the added endorphin boost may lead to positive feelings beyond pain relief alone.

According to 2011 research, meditation is another way to trigger endorphin release.

Meditation can help you relax and achieve an inner sense of calm. It can also offer other health benefits, including:

  • improved physical wellness
  • improved mood
  • increased ability to cope with illness
  • better sleep

How to get started

Meditation may seem difficult if you’ve never tried it before, but anyone can give it a try.

To try it:

  1. Choose a quiet, comfortable place to sit.
  2. Get comfortable, whether that’s standing, sitting, or lying down.
  3. Let all of your thoughts, positive or negative, rise and pass you by.
  4. As thoughts come up, try not to judge them, cling to them, or push them away. Simply acknowledge them.

Start by doing this for 5 minutes and work your way up to longer sessions over time.

According to a 2012 study, lavender aromatherapy seemed to help relieve anxiety associated with IUD insertion in 106 women. A small 2017 study supports this finding, suggesting euphoric essential oil aromas (such as lavender) can lead to endorphin release.

You can try other euphoric oils, including:

That euphoric feeling you feel during sex? You can thank your endorphins and other hormones, such as oxytocin, for that.

Surging endorphins may help explain why sex offers other benefits beyond making you feel good, such as:

Whether you consider chocolate an occasional treat or enjoy it regularly, it can satisfy your sweet tooth.

Eating chocolate also produces endorphins, promoting feelings of bliss. These pleasurable feelings may help contribute to chocolate cravings you might have when feeling down or stressed — if something makes you feel good, you’ll likely seek it out again.

If you don’t care for chocolate, you can also get an endorphin boost by enjoying a glass of red wine, which may also trigger endorphin release.

Smiling or laughing at something funny can help lift a bad mood and relieve feelings of anxiety and stress. There’s even a type of cognitive behavioral therapy called laughter therapy that can help reduce feelings of stress and depression.

Beyond these benefits, laughing with people you’re close to can also release endorphins. A small 2017 study found evidence to suggest watching half an hour of comedy with a group of friends boosted endorphin levels.

Next time you and your friends can’t decide what to watch on movie night, go for a comedy and enjoy an endorphin boost.

If you enjoy drama and other stories that stir you emotionally, you’re in luck. Comedy may not be the only genre that can boost your endorphin levels.

There’s some evidence to suggest you might experience a similar increase in endorphins while watching a dramatic movie or show.

Why does this happen? Well, watching something that appeals to your emotions can lead to sadness, a type of emotional pain. Your brain may react to these emotions by releasing endorphins in the same way it would if you experienced physical pain.

Don’t be afraid to put on your favorite tearjerker or anything else that moves you.

Doing something kind benefits you as well as the people you help. By helping another person, you might lighten their physical or emotional load, giving them the boost they need to get through the day.

You’ll generally also feel happier and better about yourself when you do something nice for someone else, since acts of kindness trigger endorphin release. This boost doesn’t last long, but the positive feelings you experience can make you want to keep doing kind things for others.

Performance may be its own reward, but another reward you’re likely to see is an endorphin release. If you’ve ever felt euphoric while making music or performing, that’s probably your endorphins kicking in.

Simply listening to music can promote good feelings and an improved mood, but 2012 research suggests musical performance is more likely to boost endorphins than listening to music alone.

This may relate to the community aspect of performance, similar to the way social laughter is more likely to boost endorphins.

Sunlight has more than one health benefit to offer. It helps your skin produce vitamin D, an essential nutrient. It also boosts production of serotonin and melatonin, which can help improve your mood, increase your energy, and help you get better sleep.

The ultraviolet radiation in sun can also boost your endorphin levels. Getting outside a few times a week for about 15 minutes at a time will generally be enough for you to benefit from sun exposure.

Since UV radiation can increase skin cancer risk, it’s important to enjoy sunlight in moderation. Always use sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher or cover exposed skin if you stay out for longer than 15 minutes.

Massage therapy helps relieve stress and can help improve symptoms of some physical health concerns, such as chronic pain and fatigue. It can also have benefit during childbirth by reducing pain and increasing contractions, which can lead to a shorter labor.

These benefits are associated with the multiple hormones, including endorphins, released by massage. It also increases levels of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin.

In other words, you really can’t go wrong with massage therapy. If you’re more comfortable seeing a professional, it’s perfectly fine to stick with a licensed massage therapist. Trading massages with a partner or close friend can be another good way to see an endorphin boost.

If you’ve tried massage before and didn’t love it, keep in mind that there are many types of massage to choose from.

Taking a long, hot bath can help soothe you after a stressful or tiring day. The heat of the water can help relieve tension and pain in your muscles, but it can also trigger the release of endorphins into your blood.

Besides helping you unwind, regular hot baths may also help decrease risk for heart disease and help lower your blood pressure.

When bathing for wellness benefits, the longer the bath, the better. Why not light some scented candles or add some essential oil to combine bathing with aromatherapy for an additional endorphin boost? Bring a book or put on your favorite show, or even just meditate in the warm water.