By Rachel Cernansky, Planet Green
The brain is pretty good at playing tricks on us, especially on our moods. But that doesn’t mean we can’t play tricks on it, too. As the book Natural Highs points out, almost all mind-altering substances are actually similar to brain chemicals and work their effects by mimicking, enhancing, or blocking their effects. Which means we should be able to get “natural highs” without relying on these harmful substances.
Valium, for example, creates its effect by enhancing the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, and some anti-depressants are SSRIs, or selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors—all simply making the brain do things it already does, just in different proportions.
A lot of herbs will do the same thing—St. John’s Wort and Kava Kava are two herbs well-known for their positive effects on mood and stress levels. Others, such as lemon balm, valerian, chamomile, peppermint, and skullcap, also have calming and balancing effects.
The endorphins produced during exercise (of all forms, not just running) have a chemical effect on the brain: they are groups of peptides that interact with opiate receptors and reduce the perception of pain and stress—similarly to opiate drugs, except they are naturally occurring in the body and aren’t addictive. When endorphin levels increase, you feel happier and more relaxed.
Endorphins are produced after an orgasm, too. So if you missed your jog for the day…