Our bodies are equipped with little wonder molecules that, when properly ignited, are capable of lifting your spirits in ways you never thought imaginable. These naturally occurring wonder drugs are called endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that offer a variety of health benefits including emotional elation, stress reduction, improved immune systems, and decreased pain. There are simple ways to get your daily dose of endorphins…
• Laughter: We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine and more and more evidence is proving this adage to be true. Cardiologists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that laughter increased blood flow about as much as some cholesterol-lowering medications or light exercise. Although the researchers did not recommend laughter over exercise, they did recommend a combination of both.
Laughing also triggers the release of endorphins and may improve our immune systems. Since laughing offers so many benefits, I recommend every household in existence mandate at least thirty minutes a day of good hearty laughter.
• Chocolate: I absolutely adore chocolate and, when consumed responsibly, it may even be good for you. Scientists have found that dark chocolate contains antioxidants that can help maintain cardiovascular health.
• Chili Peppers: The hotter the better when it comes to chili peppers and endorphins. Bell peppers are relatively mild while habaneros will have you doing a jig! The ingredients from chili peppers are also used to treat arthritic pain when used topically.
*Caution: Avoid use in the very young and very old.
• Exercise: The “runner’s high” experienced by athletes is a sought-after feeling. Although I do not run, I can “ellipticize” my little heart out all for the purpose of achieving that awesome endorphin rush. Remember, exercise is our friend! Regular exercise not only helps our bodies look more fit and tone, it also helps us smile.
• Massage: A professional massage releases endorphins, increases circulation, and stimulates the nervous and lymphatic systems. If you can’t afford one from the pros, three-year-olds are easy to teach!
• Meditation: When our bodies are in a relaxed state, as with meditation, this triggers the outflow of endorphins. It’s easy to do and is free-of-charge. Just close your eyes and concentrate solely on your breath going in and out in a slow and rhythmic process. Meditation also increases blood flow, slows heart rate, and decreases muscle tension. Although it may be next to impossible for most little ones to try this, older kids and teens can benefit.
Happy parents equal happy homes. It is crucial for us to utilize our bountiful endorphin banks to brighten up our days and our children’s lives, so seize one of these opportunities today.
The author is a Doctor of Pharmacy, mother of two, and chocoholic. Her column, The Medicine Mom, features entertaining articles related to family and children’s health. E-mail questions/comments to [email protected] or visit her website at www.themedicinemom.com
You can buy meditation tapes and CD’s; massage, yoga and pilates supplies; and other endorphin energizers at Gaiam.com and GNN will earn a small commission