We're not talking about packing up and renting a U-Haul. Dr. Fuhrman says that viewing beautiful art, watching a touching dramatic scene or even listening to an inspiring piece of music can produce endorphins. "A person who gets pleasure in life, from whatever source, will keep endorphins at a healthy level," he says.
Endorphin factor: 2, unless you're overwhelmed with emotion (think swooning, tear-filled eyes and a quickened heartbeat); that counts for 3.
"Putting needles into the body is a release," says Dr. Fuhrman, "and it may trigger endorphin production." Also, acupuncture patients benefit from a placebo effect -- they believe that the process is working, so it really does, says Dr. Fuhrman. Talk about the brain's power.
Endorphin factor: 3. People who use acupuncture tend to be positive thinkers, which adds to the effects.
We knew that the cocoa bean had an addictive quality. "The food closest to a drug is chocolate," says Dr. Hirsch. "It actually has an impact on your brain that triggers an endorphin release." But there's no need to wolf down three bars in one sitting; a bite or two will cause the same response.
Endorphin factor: 1 -- but such a sweet one!
Ever hear friends say they like being scared? Whether you're watching a horror movie with your hand over your eyes or feeling a rush of wind in your hair as you plummet down a steep incline on a roller coaster, fear causes endorphin release. Why do you think extreme sports are so popular? No one wants to get hurt; it's just fun (in a twisted kind of way) to cheat death. "The thrill of a high-speed ride induces a positive mood state that can leave you giddy," says Dr. Hirsch. And Freddy Krueger can do it for you too. Who knew he was such a heartthrob?
Endorphin factor: 3 to 5, depending on the personal fear factor.
Catch a few rays
Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center have found that ultraviolet (UV) light can trigger endorphin production, which may be why some bathing beauties are reluctant to give up their tanning time, even given the dangers of skin cancer. A few minutes of exposure is enough to harm your skin, so doctors recommend sunscreen. But with the placebo effect working for you, just knowing it's sunny outside can boost your endorphin production and your mood.
Endorphin factor: 2, because you know you're protecting your skin (and you're happy it's warm).
Have a giggle fit
Whether it's a quick joke that tickles your funny bone or a long, hilarious romantic comedy, having a laugh produces endorphins that will increase your immune function and make you more resistant to disease, according to Dr. Fuhrman.
Endorphin factor: 2 to 3. Ever hear the phrase "Laughter is the best medicine"? Get thee to a comedy show.
Reviewed by David Slotnick, M.D.