How to have a healthy high

How to have a healthy high(Rex Features- OJO Images)
You want to feel on top of the world but you don’t want the hangover later? No problem. Just follow our guide to the highs that don’t come with side-effects.
You want to feel good, on top of your game and on top of the world. You want to feel happy, energised and full of joie de vivre.
But you may not want to damage your health or do anything illegal to get that sort of high.
The good news is, you don't have to. By working with the chemical makeup of your body rather than against it (as illegal drugs, alcohol and even sugar tend to do) you can experience a healthy high.
Here's how to get your fix.
Cheese
You want that loved up feeling that only comes from, well, love? Get it straight from the fridge.
Yep, good cheese can make you feel gooey with romance, and give you a feel-good high that isn't normally associated with dairy products. Cheese contains 10 times more of the chemical phenylethylamine - believed to give the same rush of hormones as sex - than chocolate. Studies by Australian food researcher Dr Max Lake also found that the scent of certain cheeses alone can provide a sexy mood-boost.
So your first healthy high? Very cheesy pizza.
Video games
It's possible to play video games too much, and turn a fun activity into a dangerous addiction (dangerous for your chances of finding a girlfriend and getting a promotion anyway). But enjoying video games is one of the easiest healthy highs of all.
Video games stimulate your dopamine pathways, and dopamine is the neurotransmitter that allows you to experience feelings of euphoria. It also means that you tolerate unpleasant sensations - like noise and discomfort - more easily. Studies have shown that volunteers immersed in video games are very hard to distract, meaning they're in the zone and loving it.
Music
Not into video games? Not to worry. A study by neuroscientists at the University of Montreal linked music-induced pleasure with a surge in intense emotional arousal, including changes in heart rate, pulse, breathing rate and so on.
Again, the secret is dopamine. The scientists found that a large dose of this feel-good chemical is released when we listen to the music we like, whether that's Mozart or Metallica. They reckon this may explain why music has been such an all-pervading part of human culture throughout history.
Sex
Sex with your partner is about the best high you can have, for all sorts of reasons. But a large part of the sex high is down to chemicals called endorphins, which are released during sex and which have a similar structure to morphine.
So how do these endorphins make you feel? Sexy, yes, but also relaxed, euphoric and generally happy and at one with the world. They also have a calming effect. Sex also prompts the release of the hormone oxytocin, which serves to create a bond between you and your partner. So for feelings of loved-up well being, sex is every bit the equal of a warehouse rave circa 1991.
Exercise
Exercise gives you a sense of achievement. You also feel fitter and look better, and that makes you happier. But there's more to the exercise high than that.
In fact, taking part in sport and exercise releases several chemicals into the brain that are powerful mood-boosting stimulants. Endorphins lower stress and give you that post-exercise high. Serotonin, a natural mood enhancer, is also released during a sweaty workout.
And then there's brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF for short, a neurotransmitter also released in response to exercise. BDNF helps to reduce the symptoms of depression.
All in all, exercise prompts the release of a cocktail of mood-boosting chemicals, all of which make you feel happier, less stressed and euphoric. And that's before you've even stepped onto the scales or noticed your increasingly lean 'n' mean physique in the changing room mirror.
Get outside
Whether you're exercising or not, you can feel good about life simply by stepping outside. According to scientists, we could be living in a light deprived world. We tend to work in offices, exercise in gyms and socialise in pubs, restaurants or clubs. Just a few generations ago, most people lived far more of their lives outside, and studies have found that, even on cloudy days, light tends to be far brighter outside than in.
And experts now think that bright light - daylight - prompts the release of serotonin, the natural mood enhancer,which is also released during exercise. That could be why running outside can seem far more satisfying than running on a treadmill, and why simply getting out in the open air at lunchtime is one way to get an easy mood boost.
All these entirely natural highs boost mood and make you happier, less stressed and calmer. In that respect they work like drugs or alcohol, but because they work with your body rather than against it, these are highs that come without the crushing lows associated with comedowns or hangovers. Give them a try.
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