I honestly don’t know how to start this story. There’s many ways I can start it.
One time a friend of mine told me she had taken every drug out there. I asked her what was the best. She said, “By far heroin is the best. But it made me sick and was too addictive. But after you first throw up you feel better than any other drug. That’s why it’s so addictive.”
Ugh, I don’t like to throw up. And I don’t want to be addicted to anything. And anything associated with needles is a BAD IDEA.
I can also start this story with the time I went to the dentist and he gave me Percocet (also an opiate like heroin) as a painkiller.
I was in a happy glaze until the middle of the night when the Percocet wore off. Then I was in extreme pain. Two things happened that morning. One is that I got all sorts of emails talking about my appearance on Jay Leno. Apparently Jay Leno made fun of me.
Then I called the dentist and I DEMANDED more Percocet. Claudia laughs right now because she is saying, “I had never seen you like that before”. In any case, the dentist refused to prescribe more, “It’s very addictive,” he said. “DON’T WORRY ABOUT THAT!” I said. But still, no more Percocet.
The third way I could start this story is by telling you about a friend of mine who doesn’t take any painkillers after surgery. “I don’t have post-surgical pain,” he said.
Apparently he has an abnormally high release of endorphins after surgery and an abnormally high steady-state of endorphins even without surgery.
“Endorphin is a shortened term for endogenous morphine,” he said.
I knew what morphine was (basically…heroin) but I didn’t know what endogenous meant.
“It means the body makes it, so it’s completely natural,” he said.
“That must mean you are pretty happy most of the time,” I said.
He was smiling. “That’s right.”
Since I am a doctor on Facebook I decided to research further and see how I could self-medicate using the chemicals in my own body. Who needs a prescription! Right Jay Leno?!
No heroin because: needles, throw up, addiction, BAD!
And here’s the thing with Percocet. Constipation. All of those drugs lead to constipation. That’s the worst. There’s no way I can work or be generally happy if I’m constipated all the time and if progressively my liver is getting worse and worse, which is a side effect of Percocet.
But this “endogenous morphine”.
I’d like to consistently release Endorphins in a natural way throughout the day.
Which begins a fourth story on endorphins. One that convinces me that one can live a SUPER life with natural chemicals.
About a year ago I had to give a talk that was part of a competition. The talk was only fifteen minutes but I was incredibly nervous and I realized my prepared talk was horrible.
Then they called me to the stage. I had arranged for the theme song to the all-time classic movie “Xanadu” to start playing as I walked up.
While I was walking up I had strange feeling shoot through me. It was as if every nerve cell in my body was glowing. I felt like a super-man.
I didn’t even think after that. But I gave a good talk completely on the fly, everyone was laughing (hopefully with me and not at me) and I was very proud of myself. But I was curious what that feeling was that started in me and lasted throughout the talk.
Now I think I know what it was: endorphins.
Apparently one way to trigger endorphins is by sudden extreme stress. The endorphins are released and produce some kind of high that reduces stress so, for instance, you can survive in the jungle when a lion is chasing you.
This is my guess. But one way to release endorphins is through the phenomenon called “Runner’s High”. You’re running or exercising for a prolonged time and then you need that one sudden burst to keep going.
Why would humans have runner’s high? Because we would chase prey in the jungle and just when the prey (and we) would be getting exhausted, we’d get “runner’s high” – a release of endorphins – to give us that extra push and capture the prey.
So how to naturally produce heroin:
1. STRESS YOURSELF OUT BUT
put a time limit on it and do the ONE method I suggest below. For instance, if you have to ask your boss for a raise or give a talk or go on a date or whatever.
Here’s specifically the method I did before the talk:
Right before the talk I pretended there were two of me.
I imagined there was the “me” that had all the stress. He was splitting off from me seconds before the talk so I could focus on the talk and not the stress. I pictured him completely and even spoke to him (he looked like a teenage version of me) and told him it would be all ok.
Then I left him in the crowd when I went to the stage to give my talk. It was that exact moment that I started to feel warmth and energy all over me. No BS. Actual warmth and energy. I was like a different person by the time I reached the stage.
When you exercise, you burn off all the stored energy in your body (the glucose that hangs out in the body after you eat carbs). The runner’s high develops after you run out of this stored glucose. Like I said, I’m a doctor on Facebook.
But it’s this factor that leads me to point “C” which I’ve never seen written anywhere else before in the context of endorphins.
Humans in some form or another have been around for a few million years.
A minute ago in evolutionary timelines, a superior being domesticated us.
For four million years we were hunters, nomads, always moving. Nothing in the jungle could domesticate us.
Around 10,000 BC, wheat domesticated us. A blip in our evolutionary cycle.
And yet here we are. Wheat forced us to stay still for harvests, to store the results of that harvest, to protect it, to fight for it, to build cities and civilizations and currencies so we could trade it (the first currency was most likely a grain, barley).
Why did this happen? Probably because it felt safe. We no longer had to hunt for lions all the time. We could just stand still and grow grains.
But 10,000 years out of four million is not a lot. We haven’t really had the chance for our bodies to handle the overwhelming amounts of wheat-based products we now consume.
I’m not arguing paleo or not paleo. People should eat whatever they want. But if you go in the grocery store, probably 90% of the items or more have processed grains in them. And our daily diet probably has many more grain-based items then we had for almost four millions years.
Since runner’s high (and hence the release of endorphins) comes about when you deplete the stored glucose in the body, one good way to have a consistent release of endorphins then would be to have less glucose in the body and be more active: walking, running, work, some stress, etc. So less sugars, less grains, and more nuts, vegetables, meats, whatever you like.
Around the time I gave this talk last year I was about six months into a paleo diet. I was in the best shape I had ever been in and was eating almost zero grains.
Ever notice that when you have a toothache or some other sort of pain that you don’t feel it when you are having sex? BAM! Same goes for stress or thinking about that phone call you have to return or whatever. Of course this happens for evolutionary reasons.
The people who release happy chemicals during sex are the ones who have sex more, resulting in children, resulting in the ONLY REAL GOAL of every person in evolution, which is to replicate your DNA as much as possible.
…with a statistic.
Here’s a fun statistic. Children laugh about 300 times a day. The average adult? Five times a day.
We get sucked into our bills, our relationships, our 9-5 work. And we forget to play. And to laugh.
Hospitals used to send in clowns to help children with polio (my mother had polio as a kid). The reason: laughter releases Endorphins. The more you laugh, the more natural heroin in the body.
Laughter is even sometimes called “inner jogging” (i.e. “runners high”).
My plan if I ever come down with a terminal illness is to watch one funny movie a day. Even today, I probably watch comedy (standup usually, but all forms of comedy) on YouTube for at least an hour or so a day.
Come to think of it, I do have a terminal illness. Once I was born there was no way to prevent it. Which is probably why the natural instinct for kids is to laugh.
6. HOT SPICY FOOD.
By “hot” I mean both temperature and more spiciness. Spice is not a flavor. It’s actually pain. And heat is also pain. The reason people like hot, spicy foods? Is because the pain triggers that runner’s high, which releases the endorphins.
I don’t know what the evolutionary reason for this is. Probably has something to do with the body’s way of making sure the food is cooked and bad bacteria is killed. A little bit of spicy food per day can keep you happy and if it’s spicy enough, you’ll probably forget about your boss, or jealousy, or other pains for a short while.
This is hard for me. I’m not a very social person. When you’re a kid you play in the playground with all the other kids. You climb on the jungle gym. You play football with a tennis ball. You play tag. You’re IT. You run and laugh and hit and scream.
I don’t do that anymore.
But socializing triggers endorphins. And it makes sense. Who is more likely to catch the lion in the jungle?
The individual or the group of people who can work together?
In fact, when humans started to move up the food chain (around 70,000 BC) is when we actually developed what would now be called “social skills”.
When we were in tribes of less than 30 (like we were for millions of years) we were somewhere in the middle of the food chain. The lion would eat the prey. The vultures and other big animals would grab the rest, and then we ate the bone marrow when all the meat were gone.
Then what happened? We were given the god-given ability to GOSSIP. We could now talk about people we didn’t know. Jack could tell Jill that Harry was an ok guy. Suddenly Jack and Harry could hunt together even if they didn’t know each other – simply because Jill was a gossip (I don’t know why I chose a woman for that role. Jill could be “Bill” also).
Socialize also doesn’t mean “networking” or going to a work-related meetup. Socialize, to me, means play, sharing, talking, having fun with others.
I need to do this more.
There’s no right or wrong view about meditation. But I think most people think “magic” things happen while you are sitting down and closing your eyes and chanting something. It’s why I don’t like to use the word “meditation” that much.
Meditation is “a practice”, not an end in itself. What is it practice for?
It’s practice for the rest of life. When life is hard, or stressful, or when the invaders are attacking your village and your body is getting all set to panic.
And so why should this release endorphins? It’s because the body rewards the people who spend time and effort learning not to panic, not to jump to mental conclusions.
By the way, the brain is crazy tricky. HOW DOES THIS ALL WORK? The same way heroin works.
Heroin is a double negative. It inhibits the stuff that inhibits dopamine. So when you are feeling pain, and the spinal cord says “enough is enough!” and releases endorphins, then suddenly the prison gates are open and the bottled up dopamine in your body runs wild.
Dopamine is the neurochemical that makes you happy, that makes you perform above and beyond what a normal human can do and turns you into a super-human.
The good thing about endorphins is that it is completely natural. No addiction necessary. No constipation.
So you can forget about everything else. It doesn’t matter about any other self-help if you just do the above items to release endorphins every day. I mean, what can wrong if you laugh, play, socialize, have sex, eat spicy foods, less grains, and exercise every day?
Note that money is not mentioned here. Money is only a side effect of a healthy life. But people not leading a healthy life will often look towards money as a substitute. Something to fill the hole left by a lack of happiness.
But what if you are starving and have bills to pay? Then, yes, money is necessary. But the way to get money is to first make sure everything else is operating at full capacity. Else, no money. No side effects.
More endorphins, more money.
Which begs the question: is there a soul? Because all of the above are evolutionary triggers for opiate happiness and not metaphysical ones.
The answer is very simple: some things can’t be explained. Nor do they have to be explained. Our brain is not meant to know everything.
We do what we can do to be happy this moment. And there is a faith component.
I have faith that there are many mysteries I will never understand. I have faith that inside myself is a doorway to those mysteries.
And by consistently being the best I can be then one day, dead or alive, I will walk through that door.