7 Ways to Activate Endorphins & Enjoy Life

bicycling brainpower

Sigmund Freud first introduced the pleasure principle, the idea that we seek pleasure in order to satisfy physiological and psychological needs. But did you know there is actually science behind it?

Experts believe that play is every bit as valuable to adults as it is to children. Play stimulates the following:

  • Learning
  • Creativity
  • Problem solving
  • Relaxation
  • Competiveness
  • Cooperation
  • Fun

Play is also healthy for the human body. Many forms of recreation, outdoor fun, and group activities have physical benefits. Do you actively participate in the following pleasurable activities?


1. Swimming

Swimming is an inexpensive activity with a lot of health benefits. Swimming raises the heart rate, which makes it a great source for cardio exercise. According to the Center for Disease Control, just two and a half hours of swimming each week can alleviate pain associated with chronic disease, improve range of motion for those who suffer from arthritis, and heighten mood overall. So the next time the suggestion of going to the pool comes up, take up the offer! Swimming is not only a fun leisurely activity but also one of the healthiest.


2. Bicycling

What if a pleasurable activity could make you smarter? Studies indicate that if you choose bicycling as a mode of transportation, it may very well be the case. One recent study indicated that memory and reasoning improved in subjects who rode stationary bikes for 30 minutes. It seems hopping on a bike not only improves fitness, it improves brainpower.


3. Board Games

Board Game Brainpower

There is something to be said for family game night. Like bicycling, board games are a great way of exercising the mind. They facilitate problem solving skills, perception, and communication.

Most importantly, they foster social skills. Studies indicate that social skills are imperative to acceptance within society as well as the development of friendships. According to the Mayo Clinic, friendships help us avoid unhealthy decisions. They’re also critical to the development of a healthy self-esteem and for stress relief.


4. Walking

When was the last time you walked to the supermarket or the gym? Better yet, when was the last time you took in the scenery of a local park while walking through it? Walking modest to moderate distances each week reduces the risk of heart problems by 18-30%, according to studies by Harvard University. It also reduces the risk for having a stroke. Speed does not impact the effects of walking, which means that even if you go for a casual stroll, you’ll still reap the health benefits from it.


5. Sunlight

You may not know that just being in the sun has health benefits. Vitamin D, which the sun generously provides, is a major enemy of cancer. This may seem ironic to anyone told to stay indoors for fear of developing skin cancer as the result of too much sun exposure. But a 2006 World Health Organization study revealed that diseases related to over exposure to the sun account for only .1% of all diagnoses.

Soaking up vitamin D from the sun helps the body absorb calcium, which promotes bone health. Healthy levels of vitamin D also aid in the treatment of diabetes, autism, depression, heart disease, and pain. So why wouldn’t you take advantage of the opportunity to go outside and play?


6. Socializing

Go to a restaurant with friends. Attend a party. Have a date night. Enjoy a picnic or backyard barbecue. It’s not only fun, it’s healthy! A 2007 study of more than 2,000 female subjects indicated that maintaining a healthy social network is effective in staving off cognitive diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Socializing is also effective in developing healthy support systems, defining goals, and promoting happiness.


7. Pets

If you’re a pet owner, one of the greatest resources for health likely cuddles up with you on a daily basis. According to the Center for Disease Control, pets are effective resources for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Animals are also being used as therapy for dementia patients, autism patients, and (among others) patients with depression.

Pets are natural promoters of exercise! With an increasing awareness of the benefits of pet involvement in daily life, more public domains are being dedicated to them. Dog parks are springing up in towns all over the country. Traditional parks are also a great venue for getting some valuable one on one time with Fluffy or Fido.


Pleasure & Health: A Perfect Match

It’s difficult to think of pleasure as a way to ease pain or to prevent or treat chronic illness. But feeling good about ourselves boosts our brainpower! In turn, our brains send messages to our bodies that all is well. Our bodies respond in turn. Pleasure is not only critical to being happy, but also to being healthy.

Photo credits:

  1. Nelson L. / CC BY 2.0
  2. John Liu / CC BY 2.0


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