Unnatural highs, like those that come from some drugs, are the results of chemicals in the drug changing the ways that chemicals work in our brains. These brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters help the brain and body to communicate so changing their levels can change how you feel. The good news is that when you understand these chemicals a little better, you can manipulate them in healthy and natural ways without drugs.
1. Work Out
Endorphins are a group of neurotransmitters that relieve pain and help your muscles to work better. Another feel-good neurotransmitter called serotonin is also released when you exercise. They are released when you push yourself and your muscles through physical activity. Physical activity also increases the amount of oxygen that gets into your blood and brain, which can also change how you feel.
Any time that you use your muscles your body releases some level of endorphins but the feeling that you get from a rush of endorphins is often called a “runners’ high” because running and jogging produce the feeling.
2. Scare Yourself
Another neurotransmitter called adrenaline, or epinephrine, is a chemical that prepares your body for situations in which you will need to confront or escape a situation. It increases heart rate and breath rate, dilates your pupils, and has other effects. You may not have enjoyed it if you experienced while, say, driving but some people enjoy deliberately subjecting themselves to this feeling.
These people, informally called “adrenaline junkies,” may try to get an adrenaline rush by engaging in extreme sports like skydiving, by going on rollercoasters, or even just watching scary movies or playing intense videogames.
3. Get Close
If endorphin and adrenaline rushes are like getting high, an oxytocin rush may be more like being drunk. Oxytocin calms you down, makes you sleepy, decreases levels of stress hormones, and it makes you sleepy. This neurotransmitter, which is also important for building relationships with others, is released when you cuddle up with someone else.
4. Get some Sun
Remember serotonin? It’s one of the feel-good neurotransmitters that are released when you exercise. The feeling that you get from serotonin can be pretty intense when you also get it with those endorphins and high oxygen levels. However, you can also get serotonin by itself by spending time in the sun. Serotonin makes you happy and helps to stabilize your mood. It might not make you sleepy, but it makes it easier for you to sleep.
Spending time in the sun also helps to activate vitamin D in your blood. Vitamin D has a number of important physiological roles, and low levels of it have also been linked to depression.
5. Make Love
When you make love, your body releases a whole cocktail of neurotransmitters including Oxytocin, adrenaline, endorphins, and dopamine – another feel-good hormone that your body uses to reward you for behaviors that are good for your health and the health of the species. It also results in changing oxygen levels which can change your feelings as we saw with exercise and adrenaline rushes.
As we’ve seen, neurotransmitters aren’t the only chemicals that can change the way that you feel. Levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood and the brain can change the way that you feel as well. You can alter levels of these chemicals by changing the way that you breathe.
One simple way to do this is through a classic breathing exercise called “Skull Shining Breathe.” In this exercise you rapidly exhale without fully drawing in. Don’t worry, as your diaphragm relaxes between exhales, oxygen flows into your lungs so you are still getting air in. It gets in in different ratios than you are used to and can result in a lightheadedness like that early smokers feel when they light up.
Neurotransmitters that make you feel good are usually released when you do things that are good for you so living a healthy life is often a good way to feel better. So, work out, take risks, get some sun, get close, get closer, and breathe.
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