When you’re managing autoimmunity and other chronic health issues, the dietary changes, lab testing, and lifestyle overhauls can be a lot of hard work. But it’s also vitally important to your immune health to do things that make you feel good in a positive way. This is because having fun boosts your endorphins, which dampen inflammation.
Raising endorphins to dampen inflammation and autoimmunity
Endorphins are chemicals produced by the body that help inhibit pain and produce feelings of euphoria. Likened to the body’s natural opioids, endorphins are not only feel-good chemicals, they are also necessary for proper immune function.
Many cells in the immune system have receptors for endorphins, and some studies show that many patients with autoimmunity have low endorphin levels. Increasing your endorphin levels is a great way to increase your body’s immune function. It’s easy to do, and even better, it’s enjoyable.
Boosting endorphins has multiple benefits. Not only does it help with pain management and immune function, it supports balanced brain function relating to anxiety and depression, and helps you to maintain a positive outlook toward healing, all of which can help support your recovery. It’s common in our culture to feel guilty for having fun, but turns out it’s good for you. (We are talking about healthy fun; “fun” derived from substance abuse or other unhealthy indulgences is a different set of mechanisms linked with addiction).
Ways to boost your endorphin levels include pleasurable activities such as:
- Socializing regularly
- Healthy touch
- Feeling love
- Meditation and breath work
- Massage and other forms of body work
- Doing something playful regularly
- Daily expression of gratitude via a journal or verbal affirmation
- Regular exercise that gives you a “natural high” but doesn’t wear you out
A positive outlook brings results
A positive outlook goes a lot further than most people suspect. In fact, my patients who have a positive outlook and focus on including these activities in their daily life see better results than those who keep a negative outlook.
Many of these activities have multiple benefits above and beyond increasing endorphins. For example, exercise is known to balance blood sugar, improve brain function, support stress response, and reduce depression and anxiety, while regular socialization is shown to reduce depression and potentially increase life span.
When you face health challenges, it can be difficult to maintain a positive outlook. Don’t take these activities on as another “job” on your healing checklist; pick some and allow them to be enjoyable. If you can incorporate a little each day, you might find that you begin to become capable of more, and the effect can be synergistic. All the while, you’ll be enjoying yourself.
Endorphins are one important factor to address when coping with autoimmunity and other chronic health challenges; also remember to address food intolerances, leaky gut, inflammation, gluten sensitivity, chemical intolerances, hormone imbalances, brain health, and more. That may sound like a long list but as you start to feel and function better you’ll find you’re naturally more motivated to keep it up, especially if you make having fun part of the prescription.