The complexity of our bodies allows scientists to continue to make discoveries that increase our understanding of why we react to the world the way we do.
In the 1970s, it was discovered that our bodies could produce endogenous opiate-like chemicals (endorphins) that made us feel better and tolerate pain more effectively.
It was thought to be involved in producing the “runner’s high” caused by intense running or after a long period of exercise. It’s a deeply relaxing and euphoric state that some say makes them feel like they can run forever.
The chemicals released during this phenomenon temporarily elevate mood, reduce stress and anxiety, make us feel calm, and protect us from pain. This was thought to be the result of an endorphins rush, but a study published in 2015 found that endocannabinoids may also be strongly linked to this feeling of exercise-related ecstasy.
The endogenous cannabinoid system (also known as the endocannabinoid system) was named for the cannabis plant (also known as marijuana) that led to its discovery and is the same system activated by compounds found in cannabis , including cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
During exercise, endorphins and endocannabinoids are released into the bloodstream. But endocannabinoids are smaller molecules that can cross the blood-brain barrier, which is a system that only allows certain vital nutrients and substances to reach the brain.
The brain’s endocannabinoid system plays a central role in controlling fear, anxiety, and stress. When endocannabinoids stimulate receptors in this system, it helps us calm down, soothe us, and provide a general sense of well-being.
Not everyone experiences the sudden, short-lived feeling of energy, accomplishment, optimism, strength, power or calm while running. But there are other activities that can trigger endocannabinoids and produce the euphoric feeling of a runner without actually running.
Just as endocannabinoids can bridge the mind and body, yoga is meant to be a mind-body-spirit connection. Some research from 2020 found that ‘internal engineering practices’ at a yoga retreat, including meditation and breathing work, increased endocannabinoids in the body and showed improvement both in the short term. and sustainable mental health.
Researchers found, through surveys, that participants’ depression and anxiety scores decreased, while concentration, happiness, and positive well-being scores increased immediately after retirement from their baseline values. . All improvements have been reported to last for at least a month afterward.
Stress and anxiety have a negative effect on endocannabinoid levels, so when you slow down and relax your mind and control your breathing, you can increase these levels, which positively affects the endocannabinoid system.
If yoga seems like too much work to you, you can try acupuncture, which is a healing practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine where thin needles are strategically inserted into the body at specific “acupuncture points”. This activates the body’s opioid system, which can relieve pain and relax the body and mind. Recent research suggests that the endocannabinoid system may also play a role in how acupuncture is able to reduce the sensation of pain.
A 2009 study published in the journal Stroke found that electroacupuncture activates receptors in the central nervous system and increases the number of endocannabinoids in the brain, as well as endorphins.
If acupuncture isn’t a good choice for you, social interaction is another way to stimulate the endocannabinoid system, especially an endocannabinoid known as anandamide.
It has been suggested that the company of others stimulates the brain to produce oxytocin, which in turn stimulates the production of anandamide. The pleasure that social animals experience when in the company of others seems to require both oxytocin and anandamide.
People who experience a runner’s euphoria say it often happens when they are running in a beautiful, meaningful, or relaxing place, and the same is true of other endocannabinoid-inducing activities. The endocannabinoid system thrives in a stress-free environment when worries are non-existent.
The key ingredients to a cannabinoid-induced euphoric experience seem to be a great environment, engaging in something enjoyable, and doing some physical activity. Instead of using marijuana, you might find your way to a natural high.