Want to increase your happiness naturally? Endorphins are the way to go. They’re natural hormones in the body that come with mood-boosting benefits and give you the classic “runner’s high” feeling. Dr. Elizabeth C Gardner, an orthopedics sports medicine surgeon at Yale Medicine, explains that endorphins block out pain and block stress and studies show they even decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety and help people feel more optimistic.
Exercise releases endorphins, but it turns out, a lot of other activities can boost endorphin levels, too. Experts share how to get more of those happy hormones without stepping foot on the treadmill.
- Massage and acupuncture - Both of these have been shown to stimulate the release of endorphins, especially when specific trigger points are targeted, according to Gardner. She explains that hitting trigger points “induces the pain sensation” and endorphins are released since they’re your natural pain reliever.
- Meditation - Some studies have shown that consistent meditation can help release endorphins, Gardner says, but the exact reason that happens is unknown.
- Laughter - According to Sharon Collison, a registered dietitian and instructor of clinical nutrition at the University of Delaware, many studies have shown that “laughter physiologically stimulates the production of beta-endorphins.”
- UV Light - Being outside on a nice day can be relaxing and Gardner says part of that is that the UV light helps to stimulate the release of beta-endorphins. On top of that, the brain releases serotonin when you’re exposed to sunlight, which adds to the happy hormones.
- Sex - Depending on how you do it, sex can be like exercise, so it makes sense that it’s another way to increase endorphins. Adding to that feel-good factor? Studies show that having sex can reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
- Yoga - Sure, it’s technically working out, but it’s not a long-distance run or intense spin class, the kind of exercise associated with the release of endorphins. But Collison says yoga also boosts endorphins, as well as other feel-good hormones and lowers cortisol levels, too.
- Music - A study on pain tolerance in performers found that singing, dancing and drumming trigger the release of endorphins, but some experts like Gardner say listening to music can release them too. And studies do agree that listening to music can cause the release of dopamine, another happy hormone.