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Hi there, thanks for joining me. This podcast is all about sharing positive advice and wisdom for daily life in recovery, and today we’re going to discuss nine different activities that provide a natural high.

So, first of all, it’s important for me to note that chasing any type of high (either natural or drug-induced) can be dangerous and unhealthy, but a balanced lifestyle that includes endorphin-boosting activities can enhance your sober life.

Although a drug-induced high is the one we need to avoid in recovery, certain activities can produce similar feelings of pleasure and euphoria without the use of drugs or alcohol. These activities work to create a natural high by influencing your body’s production of endorphins. Endorphins are peptides that are produced by the brain. They are often referred to as the “feel-good hormone.” They help reduce pain and increase feelings of happiness and positivity.

Now that you know a little bit about how it works, here are nine natural highs you can enjoy in recovery.

#1. Physical exercise

Running can provide what’s known as a “runner’s high” but it’s not the only physical activity that makes you feel good. Studies show that almost any kind of moderate to intense physical exercise stimulates your brain’s release of endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine, which work together to provide positive feelings and stress relief. While any type of cardio or aerobics will provide a natural high, so will other activities like yoga, team sports, a group exercise class, biking, or hiking, among many other activities. Physical exercise has a lot of benefits for people who are in recovery, but the feel-good endorphins are a big one.

#2. Laughter

They say laughter is the best medicine and there definitely is some truth to the saying! Research shows laughter triggers the release of endorphins, which makes you feel good all over. But that’s not all it does. Laughter has also been scientifically proven to reduce the level of stress hormones in the body, boost sickness-fighting T-cells, improve heart health, lower blood pressure, and give you a more positive outlook on life in general.

#3. Meditation

Meditation is another activity that releases endorphins while also stimulating the production of dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin in the body. Even just a few minutes of meditation each day can leave you feeling calm, happy, and relaxed. Daily meditation can also provide time for reflection and help you develop a disciplined schedule and lifestyle as you adjust to sobriety.

#4. Music

Music is a great recovery tool. In fact, one research study even found that music has the same effect on your brain as drugs and sex. It has a consistent emotional impact and listening to music or creating it influences the production of dopamine, oxytocin, prolactin, serotonin, and epinephrine in the body. People have consistently ranked music as being one of the top things in life that gives them pleasure (even more so than money, art, or food) because it truly does make you feel good. Sometimes, sobriety can be difficult, especially after the “pink cloud” of early recovery wears off. So it’s important to have things in life that can bring you joy, happiness, and pleasure when you’re feeling discouraged or depressed.

#5. Vanilla or lavender scents

Aromatherapy with vanilla and lavender has been linked to the production of endorphins and these two pleasant scents also come with a host of other great benefits. Lavender is a naturally calming smell and it can help you overcome insomnia by giving you get a better night’s rest. Vanilla has been shown to elevate feelings of happiness, joy, and relaxation. So, break out those vanilla candles or lavender essential oil and enjoy.

#6. Dancing

You don’t have to be a great dancer to experience the many benefits this activity can provide in recovery. Not only does it get you out in social situations where you can interact with your peers and make new friends, but it also provides a lot of physical benefits too. Dancing causes the brain to release endorphins and neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine, which work together to lift your spirits, promote feelings of euphoria, and increase pain tolerance. It can also reduce anxiety and increase heart health.

#7. Volunteering

A study published by the National Institutes of Health found that volunteering produces something known as a “helper’s high” because the act of helping others activates the brain’s pleasure centers and triggers a release of endorphins. Volunteering in recovery is also a great way to get involved in your community, serve alongside other people in recovery, and give back as you transition from a lifestyle of addiction into one of selflessness, generosity, and community.

#8. Massages

Getting a massage doesn’t have to be a regular thing to be beneficial to your health, but if you’re feeling particularly down or depressed, it can be a helpful way to relax and prioritize self-care. Physical touch, in general, can stimulate the release of endorphins and help reduce anxiety, stress, insomnia, headaches, pain, and other common ailments. If you’re dealing with a particularly stressful life event or circumstance in recovery, getting a massage is a great way to take a load off and relax.

#9. Sharing your recovery story

If you’re new to recovery, sharing your story might sound intimidating or nerve-wracking, but it can also be an exciting and rewarding experience. Being able to share your story of addiction to help others is a true gift and one that not everyone has. Sharing your personal experience and life lessons is a one-of-a-kind high that you just can’t replace or imitate.

Finding natural ways to boost endorphins can help you sustain your sobriety and also battle feelings of depression and anxiety in recovery. I hope these nine endorphin-boosting activities will help you stay on track and pursue a lifetime of recovery.

If you have questions, comments, or want to suggest a topic for our next episode, email me at kelsey.brown@novarecoverycenter.com.

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