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The feel good factor: 20 ways to boost your endorphins

October 10th 2016 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru

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We asked a panel of experts for their feel good tip offs for helping you exude happiness from the inside out

Looking for a way to boost your day that’s not just a short-term fix? The answer could lie in modifying your diet, workout regime and lifestyle to better accommodate the endorphins in your lives.

We asked a bevy of wellness and Get The Gloss Experts for their top nutrition, fitness and health advice when it comes to how to relieve stress in ways that go beyond skin deep. A Welcome mat if you will for injecting your life with its missing feel good factor. Feeling inspired? With these easy yet effective lifestyle change ups at your fingertips, it could be easier than you think.

1. Keep on moving

“Not only is exercise great for keeping our hearts strong and our weight healthy, but studies have shown that when we exercise we produce increased levels of endorphins and serotonin (happy hormones) which improve our moods and energy levels,” says GP Dr Anita Sturnham. “Exercising daily could have as much as an effect on your happiness as it does on your waistline.

“Aim to do some form of exercise 3-4 times a week for at least 30 minutes at a time. This doesn't have to mean a workout in a gym either. A brisk walk, gardening, dancing, getting off the bus or tube stop early and walking the rest of the way all count as exercise.

2. Meditation

“The fundamental meditation principles of quiet thought, contemplation and reflection offer an antidote to stressful and hectic 21st century living,” says psychologist and Buddhist Elaine Slater. “The process of meditation stimulates the release of endorphins, thus turning off stress hormones and lowering cortisol levels associated with the fight or flight stress response.

“Meditation triggers the hypothalamus; stimulating the pituitary gland to release endorphins, promoting relaxation, self-healing and overall wellbeing.”

MORE GLOSS: How to meditate – my mindfulness masterclass

3. Get nutty

“Brazil nuts are high in selenium and also include amino acid tyrosine that both help to boost dopamine and serotonin levels,” explains nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik. “Just three brazil nuts per day will give your RDA of selenium.”

4. Get outdoors

“Lack of daylight can reduce our vitamin D levels and a deficiency in vitamin D is thought to have an impact on our mood,” explains Dr Sturnham. “Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight. It also occurs naturally in a few foods - including some fish, fish liver oils, and egg yolks - and in fortified dairy and grain products.

“Vitamin D is needed for the production of brain chemicals such as dopamine and norepinephrine and acetylcholine. These brain chemicals are known to improve and increase attention span, and its concentration in the brain is directly correlated with the ability to focus for sustained periods of time.”

5. B vitamin boosters

“Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine is an essential nutrient for the central nervous system,” says Dr Sturnham. “Vitamin B6 is needed in the body for the production of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.

“Symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include irritability, short attention spans and short term memory loss. Vitamin B6 is naturally found in brown rice, legumes, wholegrains and meats. Vitamin B12 or cyanocobalamin is another brain-boosting nutrient.

“Supplementation with the vitamin helps improve focus and mood. Along with vitamins B6 and B9, cyanocobalamin is needed in the body for synthesising and regulating neurotransmitters,” she explains.

6. Have a yolk

“Eggs even look happy and that’s because they also contain tyrosine as well as tryptophan, plenty of B vitamins and vitamin D that all contribute to producing positive thinking too,” says Eve.

7. Interval training

“Interval training can help to dramatically increase the intensity of your workouts and speed the release of mood-boosting endorphins!” says Albert Mordue, Performance and Swim Specialist at Bodyism.

“Our favourite piece of equipment at Bodyism for interval training is the Versa Climber. Try using a 2:1 ratio of work: rest e.g. 40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest.”

MORE GLOSS: Is your workout sabotaging your weight loss goals?

8. Affirmations

“Our thoughts drive our moods and colour our perception of experiences. If you believe the phrase, ‘You are what you think,’ then life truly stems from your thoughts,” says Elaine Slater. “Research shows that up to 80 per cent of the thoughts we produce in a day are negative, and you can’t live a positive life with a negative mind. Affirmations are proven methods of self-improvement because of their ability to re-wire our brains by increasing the level of endorphins released into the body.

“Affirmations make you consciously aware of your thoughts. They are positive statements of a desired outcome or goal. They are usually short, believable and focused. By repeating them, you change neural pathways and synapses in your brain to open up a new state of positive thinking.”

9. Have-acado

“Avocados contain choline that also boosts serotonin and dopamine. They are also an excellent source of N-Acetyl-Cysteine and B5 that both help keep energy and concentration on a natural high too,” recommends Eve.

10. Cacao know-how

“Cacao is the original and most natural form of chocolate that has a similar positive effect but rather than a sugar rush, it contains theobromine which is a mild and non-addictive stimulant and is released more gradually rather than a high and crash effect,” suggests Eve.

MORE GLOSS: 5 healthier ways to enjoy chocolate

11. Green-spiration

“Leafy greens in all their varieties, (kale, spinach, broccoli, rocket) since they contain plenty of B vitamins that tend to be depleted in stress. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol actually reduce levels of serotonin,” says Eve. “In particular, B6 supports the production and functioning of both serotonin and dopamine. And since these are generally considered to be a good source of antioxidants, this helps prevent damage of neurons (brain cells) for better cognitive functioning overall.”

12. Cardio works

“If you’re feeling tired or lethargic, begin your workout with some steady state cardio. As part of the body's physiological adaptations to exercise, endorphins are realised in the brain which combats fatigue and gives you a ‘natural high,’” explains Albert Mordue. “Personally, my favourite piece of cardio equipment for this would be the Concept 2 Rowing Machine. Try warming up with 2000m on level 4 intensity, (for approximately 8-10 minutes).”

13. Monkey business

“Bananas - also contain l-trypotophan, the precursor to serotonin as well as B6 that further supports this conversion,” advises Eve Kalinik.

14. Omega swatch

“Omega 3s - that includes oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and plant based sources such as flax and chia seeds are important to keep cell membranes fluid and flexible so that they can communicate effectively to one another and in turn, help support neurotransmitter functioning,” adds Eve.

15. Beetroot’s best

“Beetroot contains betaine which stimulates the production of S-adenosyl methionine or SAM-e and is essential in the production of dopamine,” says Eve.

16. Spice up your life

“The chemical found in most spicy foods called capsaicin, is effective in boosting endorphins,” says Dr Sturnham.

17. The power of touch

“Physical touch increases endorphins. Certain acupuncture and massage techniques are effective in boosting endorphins,” says Dr Sturnham.

18. Acupuncture acumen

“Acupuncture is the best way I know to activate endorphins,” says fertility specialist Emma Cannon. “These are released when needles are inserted into the body resulting in the euphoric feeling patients report post-acupuncture. This is really important for health because when we release endorphins and feel relaxed and calm, our body is more able to fight and prevent disease.

“For many of my patients, stress is a big issue and any technique that helps to release endorphins will help their health. Feeling safe and calm is part of the way the body heals. If we are constantly under stress we do not digest properly, we do not sleep well and we age more quickly. Additionally, we produce too much cortisol which negatively affects our health.”

19. Conscious deep breathing

“Regular, daily practice of controlled deep breathing, such as conscious diaphragmatic breathing instantly turns on the branch of the autonomic nervous system responsible for restorative rest, repair and recovery,” says Elaine Slater. “It is a proven way of interrupting the body’s stress response and re-balancing the nervous system by releasing neurotransmitters such as endorphins into the body.”

20. Let’s talk about sex

“Enjoying a good sex life with your partner is an ideal way to release endorphins. When an individual achieves orgasm, there is a rush of hormones that result in a feeling of wellbeing,” says Dr Sturnham.

There’s been no better reason to book yourself in for a physical…

Follow us @getthegloss and Ayesha @ayesha_muttu.

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