Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
14 May

How to Get High on Life: 10 Natural Ways to Feel on Top of the World

transcendenceMany of society’s favorite psychoactive compounds, both legal and illegal, work by hijacking our own neurotransmitters and brain receptor sites. In other words, they aren’t creating something out of nothing nor are they necessarily imposing an alien influence. They only work because our brains are set up to get high and feel pleasure.

Why does pleasure exist? Pleasure is the carrot dangled by the body to get us to do the things we need to survive and prosper. It helps us reach important survival goals. But we’re not ascetics. Experiencing and appreciating pleasure as its own entity is necessary for true happiness and life contentment. Our genes expect us to feel good, not just do the tasks that feeling good compels us to complete.

So today I’m going to tell you how to get high and hit these pleasure centers, Primal style. If that sounds like it involves a shaman, some cactus cuttings, and monotonous chanting over a fire, I don’t blame you. That’s absolutely one way to get high and it’s probably similar to how Grok did it, but this isn’t an ayahuasca recipe post, a review of peyote churches, or a guide to “Choosing the Right Fat-Busting Entheogen For Your Body Type.” This is a post discussing the ways our bodies can naturally achieve mind-blowing, consciousness-expanding levels of elation and euphoria.

Exercise

It’s popularly known as the runner’s high, but you don’t have to run to feel high from exercise. The best known, mother of all natural highs can have you skimming the clouds. Its soaring yet soothing effects are some of the reasons I stuck with endurance training for so long despite the other negative effects it was having. The latest research indicates that the high is probably mediated by two endogenous chemicals: beta-endorphin, an endogenous opioid involved in pain reduction and relaxation; and anandamide, an endocannabinoid responsible for pain reduction and euphoria.

The exercise high probably influenced human evolution, helping promote the highly active lifestyle necessary to dominate the environment. When the going got tough (like when a saber tooth tiger was right on their heels or when they were chasing down dinner), euphoria and pain reduction would have been invaluable.

Studies indicate that it takes about an hour of endurance training for beta-endorphins to release, whereas short-term anaerobic training produces significant levels of the opioid (the more intense the better). In another study, an acute bout of Olympic weightlifting caused elevations in beta-endorphin. This was low-volume resistance training, no more than ten or fifteen seconds of actual honest work, but the intensity was high enough to provoke the exercise high. Overall, it’s high intensity anaerobic work that produces the biggest endorphin rush. As for the endocannabinoids, intensity is key there, too.

Group Workouts

Just as exercise itself can spur a euphoric state, exercising with others may offer a different and arguably better high. One study found that rowers’ pain thresholds were greater after training as a team than after working out alone. Since pain sensitivity is a marker of endorphin release, the group workouts produced more of a high. In another study, players engaged in a high-pressure soccer shootout enjoyed bursts of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” after celebrating. Not only that, but the oxytocin surges were contagious across teammates, bringing them closer to each other and strengthening bonds.

The more our ancestors enjoyed working together, the better their chances of surviving. This may be why CrossFit is so popular, and it’s one more reason to take up Ultimate Frisbee (my personal favorite of course), join that basketball league, or convince a buddy to do some sprint competitions. Check back tomorrow for more on group workouts.

Extreme Sports

Whether it’s bungee jumping, mountain climbing, snowboarding, cliff diving, sky diving, or base jumping, some of us flock to extreme sports like moths to the flame. The appeal is obvious (even if you don’t personally subscribe to it): extreme sports place the body into remarkably stressful situations. It’s physical exercise, yes, but it’s also mental exercise. When you’re leaping from a cliff or plane, your lizard brain thinks you very well may die. The result is a rush of powerful hormones, including adrenaline, dopamine, and beta-endorphins (which correlate closely with reports of euphoria). Your heart works harder and faster, sending more blood, more quickly to the muscles as well as the brain. Your senses are heightened. Time slows down. Moments linger longer than ever before. It’s all a stop-gap mechanism to help you survive the situation.

Even if you’re not a mindfulness practitioner, extreme sports will force you to savor the moment. Dangerous situations – perceived or real – tend to have that effect. There’s the afterglow, too. After the hormonal explosion has abated and you’re back on solid ground, you’ll feel calm and accomplished and carefree. Stress melts and stays away, because what can compare with flinging oneself off a mountain into open air?

You hear talk of “adrenaline junkies,” as if snowboarders and base jumpers and free climbers are little more than healthy meth addicts – and I think that’s the wrong way to describe what we’re doing out there. What we’re drawn to is the intense, hyper-real focus and awareness that our body produces as a response to the incredible insanity of the situation. It’s not about the risk itself as much as a testing of skill against the very immediate, potent backdrop of survival.

You’re somehow never as in touch with life as you are when you’re walking the edge of it. Was that a Bon Jovi lyric? It should have been.

Spicy Food

Think of the spiciest food you ever ate. I’m not talking Tapatio, Tabasco, or Cholula here. I mean the kind of hot that makes you anxious and queasy and regretful.

The kind of spicy that would make a WAPFer chug the nearest glass of ultra-pasteurized A1 beta-casein skim milk to quell the burn. Maybe it was a lamb curry or a Jamaican jerk sauce. Maybe you got caught up in a chile-eating contest in Tijuana. Whatever it was, you never forget what it felt like or how much you wanted to take a fire hose to your insides. And I bet you felt something else when you ate it, not just the heat on your tongue. Didn’t you?

Although the more sensitive among us might have simply been scarred for life by the heat, others who have ventured deep into that hot terrain tell tales of a much mellower after effect, a uniquely pleasurable calm. Chili heads, as they’re known, are experts in this spice-induced serenity. They’ve grown to love the heat from start to finish.

There’s no strong, incontrovertible evidence that eating hot food has psychoactive effects in humans, though some animal evidence suggests that capsaicin (the main spicy component in peppers) can release beta-endorphins and adrenaline. It also has analgesic properties which may be mediated by activation of the central opioid system. Still, there’s usually a physiological justification for odd human behavior. If people are happily eating food that literally burns their mouths and insides, there’s a good chance there’s something in it for them. I suspect that the pain gives way to pleasure, and that cool pool of biochemical pleasure afterward is indeed the result of endorphin release. After the pain/danger has dissipated, an intense calm pervades.

I’m a believer. One morning in Thailand, I met a young backpacker staying at the same place we were. I was in the common area looking for coffee. He was dumping a sack of red powder into a small glass of water. He mixed it together and tossed it back, making a face reminiscent of a teen trying cheap gin for the first time. Turns out he was taking shots of powdered Thai chiles. Said it was better than coffee and offered me a shot. I accepted, of course. It was about two teaspoons of powdered chile (about as hot as cayenne; not to be confused with chili powder) in a couple ounces of water. I took it, shot it, and probably made the same face he did, but it woke me up. It may have been placebo (though I wasn’t expecting much), but I swear I felt buzzed, really calm yet energized for an hour or two after. I’m a longtime fan of spicy food and can take it pretty hot, so your mileage may vary. Exercise caution.

Love

Falling in love is the ultimate high in most people’s book. You’re at times an utter (albeit blissful) fool who’s checked half his/her brain at the door or the pinnacle of confidence and contentment skimming along life, undeterred by any burden or barrier.

And damn, does it feel good. A review of studies demonstrates that no less than twelve different brain regions are activated by the cascade of chemicals like dopamine, adrenaline, vasopression, serotonin, and oxytocin when we fall in love. Endorphins and PEA (the chocolate/love drug) also play a big role in the neurochemistry of love. As a result, we feel happy and dopey. Confused and excited. Anxious and confident. We’re a mess, basically, a hastily thrown together assortment of neurochemicals all vying for agency. But you can’t wipe that grin off your face when you’re in the thick of it, can you?

What if you’re already settled down with someone? What if that heady blast of new love has long since passed?

Value your relationship. Nurture it, feed it. Spoil your partner, act like it is the early days. Experience them in the fullest possible way. Recall those initial romantic days and do it over again. Relish good memories. Make new ones. In a couple words: be present.

Nature

Most of us are so divorced from our ancestral home – the natural outdoor environment – that leaving the city and going where the cell towers don’t reach feels like entering an altered state of consciousness. Probably because our consciousness has changed. I know when I’m out there, whether it’s at a secluded beach, deep in the redwoods, or alone on a snowy mountaintop, I feel different. I notice new things. My brain works better. I’m high by virtue of eliminating the extraneous sensory clutter of the city.

Sex

Having sex releases a torrent of endogenous drugs, hormones and neurotransmitters so expansive that Hunter S. Thompson and William Burroughs would raise an eyebrow. During arousal, your body secretes the powerful stimulants adrenaline and noradrenaline. Your heart is racing, your blood pressure rises, all in the service of delivering extra blood to various important body parts. Upon climax, your bloodstream is treated to an intoxicating cocktail of prolactin, oxytocin (a.k.a. cuddle time), phenethylamine (levels of this love and chocolate chemical peak at orgasm), and dopamine (care of primal reward system for all around opiate-induced bliss). During male ejaculation, the (male’s) brain apparently lights up like a heroin user’s right after shooting up, indicating a major role for opioids. Neuroimaging studies on women during orgasm also reveal significant activation of the brain’s pleasure centers.

One more thing: everyone focuses on the orgasm, but don’t forget to savor the journey. Take your time with the foreplay and the actual act of sex. You’ll arrive eventually, no need to rush it.

Music

We’ve all heard – or performed – music that has left us with goose bumps and chills. We’re utterly struck by it, held by it, entranced and touched in such a deep way that we feel moved physically and spiritually. I always think of a concert Carrie and I took in some years ago – a choral performance that ended with a piece so piercing and transcendent that it took my breath away. The hairs on my neck and arms stood up and I was swept up in some collective out of body experience. To this day, listening to the piece catapults me back in time and I feel it in my gut.

Science has confirmed the existence of the euphoric music-induced “chills.” Researchers asked participants to choose music that gave them the “chills” each time they heard or played it. Then they allowed subjects to listen to the music while they monitored their brain activity with PET imaging. (In other parts of the experiment, they listened to other peoples’ musical selections or general noise.) Each participant’s chosen music, the researchers found, exclusively produced activity in brain areas associated with “euphoria-inducing stimuli, such as food, sex, and drugs of abuse.” 

The researchers suggest that as humans evolved they developed the ability to experience euphoria from more abstract activities like music. Although unnecessary for hard scrabble survival, music likely contributed to social bonding and the cohesion of human communities, which in turn aided survival. Music is also a way to tap into the rhythm underlying life itself. You won’t find any clinical trials, but there’s real music happening right under our noses every single day. Musicians just reveal it.

Dream

Remember how you’d hang out at night with your friends, looking up at the stars, just thinking and talking about how immense and crazy and impossible and possible everything is? Remember when you were filled with wonder? Dreaming is one thing that still gets to me and makes me feel like a kid again. Best of all, we have direct access to it. It’s the great mystery that we get to explore every single night of our lives.

Every night, we enter a fantastical world of our own creation. In this world, time is relative; we can live out entire lifetimes in the span of a single sleep cycle. We become artists, novelists, world-builders and storytellers that put Tolkien, Spielberg, George RR Martin, and Salvador Dali to shame. And we get to live and breathe and act in those worlds as if they were real. It’s amazing.

What’s going on here, chemically? Some researchers think that our brains release very small amounts of dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a powerful psychedelic compound, during sleep. That certainly seems plausible.

Humor

Laughter’s a funny thing. It’s contagious. The very act of producing the muscular contractions responsible for laughter release beta-endorphins. And there’s nothing like a belly laugh. The weirdest part of all is that it has a mind of its own and cannot be tamed. If something is really, truly funny, you’re going to laugh and there’s not a thing you can do about it. You know how it is – we all have that memory that makes us laugh just thinking of it. Or that friend in class who could get you to laugh just by glancing at you? Or how about the uncontrollable ten minute laughing fit that turns into an ab workout and feels like you’re possessed by a surprisingly lighthearted demon? It’s insane, in a good way.

Laughter yoga shows that laughter can be consciously performed without anything funny happening and it will still have a positive impact. You can in effect fake it till you make it. But that’s not very funny and I’d suggest going for the real deal. Head out on the town with your funniest friend or kick back with the movie or TV show that makes you laugh until your face hurts.

Thanks for reading today, everybody. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Additions, thoughts, amusing anecdotes? What are your favorite Primal highs?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I LOVE this list!!!! Never thought about spicy food in this way before. Maybe I should incorporate more into my life!? ;)

    Naomi wrote on May 14th, 2014
  2. My wife loves laughter yoga – I attempt yoga and she laughs.

    Stevemid wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • LOLd!!

      Sean wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • With or without the yoga pants?

      Wenchypoo wrote on May 14th, 2014
  3. This post is a reminder that we suppose to be connected to and high on life rather than numbed by it or high on synthetic substances and experiences as so many seem to be.

    Groktimus Primal wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • A serious post by Groktimus? How sobering!

      Vince G wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • You fail to realize that many people, are genetically predisposed to seeking those substances, once exposed to them. I may be one of them, and while all the above suggestions as to how to get a Life High are on the top of my list of Must Do’s- the lure of those other substances never leaves me, and many timesthose listed in this posting never get me there…most especially exercise. Being very fit means the endorphin dump can be hard to reach…and if a workout goes off the rails for whatever reason, too many clueless people on the track, walkers crowding the trail, kids in need when I’m Crossfiting at home, etc – you experience frustration and anger which makes whatever high you get not enough.

      But a nice glass of some craft beer, and/or a few hits of some “wink-wink” do
      the trick…

      tom LI wrote on May 14th, 2014
      • Interesting post. Very, for me. I would love to know if you felt better without any craft beer over a period of several days?

        I always thought I was one of that substance people, and I used to drink too much wine over years. Slightly depressive I was, too, don’t know if the egg was first or the hen. With the paleo30 in November I stopped alcohol for a month. After some days it was like a 24/7 high, waking up happy at four am (in wintertime) and not knowin what to do with all that energy. I even started chattering with people in the subway at 8 in the morning, which was a really disgusting trait for someone morose like me. (Hopefully not as much for them.)

        Now I am drinking a couple of glasses of red wine quite regularly, and it costs me – energy, that strange feeling of joy every morning is gone, and two hours a day too, I have to sleep longer and it takes me longer to get ready in the morning, I am anxious agaín. Will stop the red wine when I have mastered that one stressful task.
        Maybe – it is a bad pun, but I am not a native speaker so please forgive – withdrawal is the drug of choice for me…

        barbara wrote on May 14th, 2014
        • Currently doing a whole 30 and I am amazed at how good I feel. Guess it was that last bit of sugar (dairy and dark chocolate for me) that needed to go. I really miss my kerrygold butter. Ghee isn’t the same. It’s a catch 22 because I’m glad I am feeling better but I sure liked being primal as opposed to paleo. Think this is a new way of life for me.

          Pdawg wrote on May 14th, 2014
        • I can go a week or more without the beer, and the other, and all I might notice when picked up again is a headache from the beer.

          Part of the relaxation effect is likely placebo-like…and a lot of it is ritualistic. When I know I will partake, the anticipation, the choosing the brand, the opening, the pour, and the first glass and taste…all combine to “create” the relaxing effect. I try not to be mindless about it, and just reach into the fridge and start swilling cold beer. But to look at it like a treat.

          I’m not a purist about Paleo, as I’m not a person who thinks and behaves in an exact and always stringent manner. I lean toward a artistic, craftsman way of thinking and behavior, where a mood or need must be payed attention to.

          I find strident advocacy for a singular way of eating, thinking, behaving, etc to go against the grain of what makes us human. We are not a Being stuck in an ancient past…be it dietary, or spiritual, or whatever. Take a little from a lot of modes and find what works best for you.

          Thanks for your comment, and good luck on your journey.

          tom LI wrote on May 14th, 2014
        • This is the thing. Those of us who have come off sugar (which also gives a temporary high) and then a crash are a bit reluctant to seek new highs as they come with lows. I am not saying don’t exercise but some people need more and more (just as you need more and more cacao or sugar or heroine or alcohol to achieve the same effects over time) and a good few women in particular get hooked and become obsessive with exercise.

          So I would suggest people integrate it into their lives, walk or run in forests, run for the bus, chase your children but perhaps watch out you don’t get caught in a need for bigger and bigger runners’ highs.

          EnglishRose wrote on May 14th, 2014
      • I understand what you mean about the substances that produce a high. I’ve tripped out more times than I care to count.

        The problem is the negatives of some of these substances, if used too much. The mind becomes “tolerant” and needs more and more. That’s the problem. Natural highs do not seem to be tolerated anywhere near as quickly as the “substance induced” highs.

        I was really messed up for a long time after a mind-shattering trip. It’s things like ego-death, the dissolution of time, and all the solid things melting that upset me greatly. So now I avoid those substances.

        Even too much cannabis will trip you out. Seriously. Remember that some people are extremely sensitive (me, for one) to all these substances.

        I think that one day, when this entire crazy, money-loving system is changed to be more in line with our natural needs, there will be very few people who seek substances to trip out.

        We’ll all be high on life, like Mark covered in this excellent article.

        Rich wrote on May 14th, 2014
        • Agreed, too much – of a lot things mind altering is not good. I try and use temperance in how I make my choices. Never tripped more’n twice, not my thing, and pharmaceuticals always scared me. Instinct kept me away, and some bad bone breaks and the morphine drips. Aye!

          I wish I was so optimistic about the future. Its a fascinating topic, too big and “deep” for this thread. But IMO, we’re the last vestigaes of the Clean, healthy food, and behavior Culture…maybe we got another ten decent years…the industry can’t sustain itself in these downward income economies, where the actual bulk consumers incomes are not keeping up with the basic costs of living. The cost of all that is Paleo is only going to rise, as all the costs to sustain them go higher and higher. The costs of good, clean foods keeps going up. Only the top earners will able to afford these semi-boutique diets.

          To make the leap to a whole new paradigm, you need the middle and lower classes to dive in, and do so without risk to all their other costs. Natural is segemneted sleeping patterns, 12 hour nights, from dusk till dawn. No more blue light keeping us awake for all hours…from the screens in front of us.

          Too deep…too deep. Thanks for the comments.

          tom LI wrote on May 14th, 2014
  4. This is an excellent post. You’ve really hit the nail with this one as far as the psycho-social components of a healthy life go

    Sebastijan Veselic wrote on May 14th, 2014
  5. Re; spicy food and wanting to take a hose to your insides–to cool the fire (if you should ever want to), water is THE LEAST effective thing you can use. FAT is what does the job–cheese, full-fat milk products, coconut oil, meat fat, MCT oil, mayo, etc.

    Don’t believe me? Try it yourself next time you’re inclined to down some ultra-hot peppers, out-of-control hot sauce, or curry that makes you blurry.

    Wenchypoo wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • I will try it, thank you. Nothing is like the roller coaster ride of Wasabi, you spend nanoseconds wondering if you were absolutely mad at that big of a bite of it to only think “I gotta do THAT again” right afterwards..

      2Rae wrote on May 14th, 2014
      • I love wasabi, especially when followed up with a swig of soda, when all those bubble pop in my nose. Cheap thrills, I know.

        Vanessa wrote on May 14th, 2014
  6. Spicy food can definitely trip you out – on my first date with my now wife we had curry and I inadvertently ate a whole chilli, and felt very spaced out. In her words I was “acting strangely”…probably a combination of nerves and unusual stimulus. But overall not a bad experience and all turned out well

    Carl wrote on May 14th, 2014
  7. Most people think that music performers crave the applause or attention afterwards. Many musicians, though, are just as excited about the feeling they get while performing than the audience’s response. There’s something about being in a state of flow and being in the moment that makes music performance a natural high.

    Stephen wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • Indeed. I would say it is the act of creating tangible emotion… and, in most cases, the interaction with other musicians. Once that first note happens, it’s just a whole new world. However, the reciprocal nature of the energy between the crowd and band has a lot to do with it as well. I know we ALWAYS play better when the crowd is into it.

      Vince G wrote on May 14th, 2014
      • Yes, same here. Something about the audience’s energy, mixing with your own energy. I especially love watching people dance to our music. To me, making good music is about giving something to the audience – not just playing for yourself.

        As a solo performer, too, I really feel the audience’s energy and feed off of that in my own performance. I put in so much more emotion and feeling and meaning when the audience is into it.

        meepster wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • So true. A few of my good musician friends often tell me that they barely notice the audience when the band is in the groove. As a super music fan, when a band hits that groove, and I’m there to witness it…its transcending. Its just me and the band the groove.

      tom LI wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • Yep, making the music is the high. I remember that from my cello-playing days.

      I think most creative arts are the same way. When you’re in the groove a natural high seems to accompany the act. That’s been my experience with creative writing.

      C L Deards wrote on May 14th, 2014
      • I agree that jamming with friends and being so totally in sync that we’re one person is the drug that makes us drop everything and get together. It’s not simply that we like to see each other, but the music we’re making.

        granny gibson wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • Hi Steven,

      Yes, quite true.

      I worked as a radio operator back in the Morse Code days. I can tell you I got high as a kite sending and receiving long messages in Morse Code!

      I was a commercial shipboard operator and could not get enough of it.

      To this day, if I’m down, receiving high-speed Morse really relaxes me. Gets you in the zone where you have no negative thoughts.

      It’s an art form, and it’s all about reveling in your art. Whatever that might be.

      Rich wrote on May 14th, 2014
  8. Hey Mark, out of curiosity, what was the piece of music you were talking about that makes you feel breathless?

    Jon wrote on May 14th, 2014
  9. I can’t believe meditation is not listed here…

    Margaret wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • meditation is inherent in all of these things…

      basil cronus wrote on May 14th, 2014
      • I guess we have different definitions of meditation

        Margaret wrote on May 14th, 2014
  10. Agree with everything except I don’t know if I can handle enough spice to get the benefits from that one, interesting concept! Exercise, humor, and music are big in my life and have always been.

    Michele wrote on May 14th, 2014
  11. Hi All,

    For me, one of the wonderful benefits of Qigong is the wonderful flow of endorphins through most of my body–and it’s a nice as my runner’s high ever was. I began practicing basic Qigong over six years ago and have kept practicing daily, if only for a short while each and every day. With this i have become capable of the almost at-will releasing of endorphins. Do try it, keep at it daily, enjoy, laugh, feel, and expect the wonderful tingling feelings of endorphins moving through you. This is well being at its best! (Aren’t the immune cells the same ones that react to endorphins?)

    Qifully yours,

    John.

    john c. akers wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • Ditto!

      Qigong (literally ‘energy work’) rocks!

      Kelda wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • Yes! I love qigong so much I started teaching it. I have even heard the term “chi-bong” used to describe the alternate “qigong state”!

      Kathy Uccello wrote on May 14th, 2014
  12. Talking of great music, I saw this last night – this is pretty epic! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0nDhQEIdSQ

    To add to Marks comments I think a key is getting outside and having some sun on your face :)

    A great group workout I love is Cardio Tennis – Music, sun (hopefully), plenty of sprints and a enough basic hand/eye coordination challenges to make it interesting. http://www.lta.org.uk/players-parents/Cardio-Tennis/Home/

    Jon wrote on May 14th, 2014
  13. Mark, I too would like to know the name of the piece of music you were talking about that makes you feel breathless.

    Kevin wrote on May 14th, 2014
  14. I took Mark’s advice last Fall on taking up an instrument. My instrument turned out to be a digital synthesizer. Creating music is an absolute joy. I sculpt new sounds or just use the pre-programmed sounds. There is an immense satisfaction to music.

    Jon wrote on May 14th, 2014
  15. …”in a word, be present.” I know Mark was talking specifically about relationships, but this jumped out at me.

    Just Be. Participate. Listen. Be observant. You’ll be surprised at what the world reveals – and it does make you feel high on life much of the time. As corny as that sounds… it’s true!

    KariVery wrote on May 14th, 2014
  16. just reading this list made me feel high. i set my life up around a lot of the aforementioned activities.

    jake wrote on May 14th, 2014
  17. Your WAPF remark literally had me cracking up!

    Michael wrote on May 14th, 2014
  18. Hey, this was a beautiful post! The things you mentioned really do make me happy, even on my worst days. Today I caught the wrong bus and had to walk through an area of much lower buildings, and the fact that I could see the horizon and the rising sun really really cheered me up and changed a bad day into a good day!

    Dreams are amazing too. Whoever said you dream less as you grow out of childhood obviously wasn’t talking for everyone! My dreams are just as amazing, if not better, as when I was 5. I look forward to sleep just for dreams!

    Also, have you heard of that laughter group in India (I think it was there)? People gather together in large groups and just laugh out loud, faking it at first until suddenly they start laughing for real!

    Gym Queen wrote on May 14th, 2014
  19. I find I get a particularly strong “high” from volunteer work or otherwise helping others. It also lasts quite a while after the good deed is over.

    Smileyprimaljulie wrote on May 14th, 2014
  20. Thanks Mark. I think cold water showers needs to be on any list of natural high-inducing behaviors. After exercise, a cold water shower keeps me feeling great for hours.

    David wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • Great article. My extreme sport is swimming in cold water. No wet suit just a hat to stop the brain freeze. This gives a great buzz and also keeps me in touch with nature. Also have switched to extra hot chilli sauce lately and am enjoying the heat.

      patrick wrote on May 14th, 2014
  21. Sex and Humor— but not in the same bedroom!

    Pastor dave Deppisch wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • I don’t know about that, Dave. Just ask Ron Jeremy!

      Rich wrote on May 14th, 2014
      • Whoops! LOL

        Dave wrote on May 14th, 2014
  22. I had the opportunity to hear the Three Tenors live in Vancouver many moons ago, I don’t even remember the particular song shamefully; however when they hit their notes together, I swear it was like the space shuttle taking off, I’ve never imagined anything like that possible, was SO truly AWEsome, and it comes back (flashback?) almost as strongly whenever I hear the soaring of these combined voices precisly tuned. If you find your ‘awesome’ sound never let it go. Wallow in it!

    Carrol Anne wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • vincero….vin-CEEEEEEEEEEh-roooooooooo
      Nessun Dorma, perhaps?
      Those guys are/were amazing.

      Tom B-D wrote on May 14th, 2014
      • YES! Even seeing the song title in writing made my arm hairs perk up.

        Whitedaisy wrote on May 15th, 2014
        • :-)
          As an amateur operatic tenor, nailing that high B was the dream. Not my fach though…so I stuck with the day job!

          Tom B-D wrote on May 15th, 2014
  23. I’m tired of chasing highs. A high means a low will follow.

    Rick wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • Not necessarily. Natural highs are fine but drug induced highs are definitely followed by lows. Stick mainly to natural highs and moderation in any other type.

      patrick wrote on May 14th, 2014
      • It’s a law of the universe, if you will. Just as you cannot know light without darkness. The whole premise of reaching a high, natural or not, implies you as starting from “below” that place–a low. The instant you desire it you have created its opposite.

        Rick wrote on May 14th, 2014
        • Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

          Theodore Roosevelt

          I think the ‘gray twilight’ sums up that sort of mediocre life.
          What is so bad about lows anyway? I agree that you must know lows to experience highs but intrinsically is it such a bad thing? Getting to know yourself a little better?

          Shaun wrote on May 14th, 2014
  24. Try one of Bill Kipp’s FAST Defense classes (Fear Adrenal Stress Training). You will be as high as a kite for the next 24 hours (or longer). Be forewarned, one class may lead to a serious addiction!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AkLu4DgL8o

    SumoFit wrote on May 14th, 2014
  25. My husband is one of the happiest, most positive people I know. He is a firefighter, a dirt bike rider, and did recreational skydiving for several years. All of this leaves me a ball of nerves.. but seeing how happy and fulfilled he is in life, makes it all worth it! I don’t think I’ll be trying any extreme sports anytime soon (I’ll just stick with intense work-outs) but I can continue to get the contact high through his activities too!

    Also, being present in long-term relationships is totally key.. choose your love and love your choice to the fullest.

    Thanks for the post!

    Miranda Crochet wrote on May 14th, 2014
  26. Great list Mark, I wonder if this is why I crave spicy things under times of stress, that endorphin release is what the body craves!

    jamie wrote on May 14th, 2014
  27. Another undervalued one here is just human contact – sex works, I suppose. People are generally not very touchy feely any more and I think that disconnect messes with us.

    Dr. Anthony Gustin wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • I couldn’t agree more. Simple human contact — it’s a rare thing, these days. I’ve been on my own (no significant other) for a very, VERY long time. For a long while, I was focused on other things and it was completely off the radar. Lately, it’s come back, and now that I *realize* how lonely I feel, I long for that simple human touch in a way I really never have before. It’s kind of amazing what a really good, long, warm hug from someone you care about can do when you haven’t had one in ages.

      And you’re right — sex is one way to get it, but even just everyday sort of “touchy feely” — seems like people are worried about intruding on others’ personal space or something like that. I usually really like & appreciate people who aren’t afraid to be a little more physical — it usually puts me at ease with them right away. (Of course, that only works if it’s someone you *want* touching you, hehheh. There’s always that creepy guy/gal at the office…)

      Think about humanoid ancestors, or the primate kingdom — they’re constantly grooming each other. (They’re not strangers in their small groups, so it’s not like you’d go up to a random person on the subway and do this, but with friends? Or even just casual acquaintances? Why not? Makes us feel so much more connected, I think.)

      Amy B. wrote on May 15th, 2014
  28. So…. slam some chili water, after crossfit and a long run, before having sex, with someone you love, somewhere beautiful outdoors, ethereal music in the background, you dream and laugh together afterwards, then run, hand-in-hand, to the cliff, and jump together, scearming to the heavens, as you plunge to the water, far below… yes?

    CT wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • bucket list

      Tom B-D wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • damn you painted a pretty picture there

      Erin wrote on May 15th, 2014
  29. Getting body piercings has given me some amazing highs. I remember being happy that there was someone with me to walk me home once, because I felt like a drunk person and would have staggered into the street. And another time I went to get pierced when I was rather stressed out, and went home with the most incredible feeling of calm and peace which lasted for two weeks (!). Just from that second or two of pain from a very sharp needle going through some skin. It’s easy to understand why pretty much every single culture ever has practiced some kind of body modification, often in a ritual context.

    Linda wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • Within the body modification community, it isn’t always. It is a hotly debated question whether or not there even is a distinction between “healthy” body modification and “unhealthy” self harm. Although generally I think the distinction is one of intent: body modification is supposed to come from a good place, with respect for the body, even to celebrate it, make it more beautiful, or maybe to have a spiritual experience. And self harm is thought to come from a place of pain and darkness and destruction, without respect for the body. Although in the end, I suppose the effect can be very similar and it’s probably more of a spectrum than a black/white deal.

      Linda wrote on May 15th, 2014
  30. Nice post Mark. This sounds very similar to my post called 10 Primal Instructions for Life. http://notjustpaleo.com/10primalinstructions/

    Music can be detrimental to your well-being, think about all the horrible mainstream music blared at shopping locations, coffeeshops etc. Be aware of ALL of your musical inputs! They do affect you.

    As you mentioned, it’s not a post about psychedelic recipes, but if someone does want to hear about some of the inner workings of these plant medicines, Daniel Vitalis and I had a conversation about this on my podcast a few weeks back.

    Evan Brand wrote on May 14th, 2014
  31. Fascinating. I was reading this on my way home from a theme park where I rode loads of thrill rides and yes, I feel just great!
    Now I know why- my ‘lizard’ brain had no way to know I was safe really!

    Jackie wrote on May 14th, 2014
  32. Good list, but childbirth is the biggest one for me.
    An incredible high for hours and a feel of super human strength.
    All just minutes after thinking you can’t survive another minute.
    :-)

    Susan wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • True, but I have to say, I wouldn’t want to do it very often!!! (I had twins, once was enough for me.) :-P

      Paleo-curious wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • yes, that IS an amazing one. i always had trouble sleeping after giving birth, despite exhaustion. it was such a surreal feeling that this tiny person is out, and there beside me, breathing.

      jenny rose wrote on May 14th, 2014
    • Giving birth is seriously the biggest high I have experienced, all sixteen times. Exercising, eating chocolate, and feeling the sun on my skin are also biggies.

      della wrote on May 16th, 2014
  33. Having not been doing endurance training, I forgot how good the endorphin thing could be–until I did a Spartan Race with some friends a few weeks ago–it was a great rush, but doing it with friends was really the key, getting through (self-imposed) adversity together.

    Tom B-D wrote on May 14th, 2014
  34. I did bungee jump when I was really young…I felt dead afterward…I swear I will never do that again~ LOL

    The Way We Were wrote on May 14th, 2014
  35. Always a favorite Primal High is working on a project, with my hands and mind, building, repairing, doing heavy maintenance work around the house, etc, and then you forget all sense of time. Your body and brain is in full sync, the project starts to unfold, move toward completion…you can’t stop, breaks are heresy! It can be cleansing. Not only have I zoned out for a few hours, but there’s a completed task in front of me. Maybe a real thing, a dreamed up, sketched, planned and now completed object.

    tom LI wrote on May 14th, 2014
  36. Interesting list…

    Rather than music, I’d include it as a subset of Art that would include film, TV, literature, paintings and music. And rather than just music or any of the above art-forms, I’d go with “Sturgeon’s Law” – that 95% of most of those are junk and 5% that stuff that dreams are made of.

    Watching films ‘Citizen Kane’, ‘Vertigo’, ‘The Godfather Part 2″, “Magnolia”, “The General” (1925), “Rashmoon”, “The Gold Rush”, ect, ect had the same effect as music did for you.

    These and the very best TV shows: “Breaking Bad”, “Hill Street Blues”, “The Wire”, “The Twilight Zone”, “The Outer Limits”, “Bilko” and “Seinfeld” and many other’s too.

    Music: “Adiago for Strings”, Dovark’s “New World Symphony”, “Rhapsody in Blue”, “The Blue Danube”, the Ennio Morricone’s theme from “The Mission”.

    So what I’m basically saying is those works of art that transcend to the pinnacle, that engage the three brains, thinking feeling and experiencing and that cause “flow” – the mysterious disappearance of time. Peak experiences.

    I’d also add meditation; the living in the present – it’s like the afterglow is extreme sports extended to all aspects of life.

    And lastly, a martial art.

    bobby wrote on May 14th, 2014
  37. Weed didn’t make the list this year? Hmm…

    JT wrote on May 14th, 2014
  38. Another one – jumping around barefoot in the snow. Or going outside in a swimsuit on a snowy day and rolling around in the snow or rubbing snow all over yourself. That’s a great natural high. I miss it now that I don’t live in a snowy climate anymore.

    And making music is a great one – especially improvising with other people. I always have an involuntary grin on my face after doing a solo with the band that I’m in. Even if the solo completely sucked.

    meepster wrote on May 14th, 2014
  39. Perfect timing, as I just came home from hoop jam to read this! Hoop dance is my favorite natural high (aside from art-making)– it combines exercise, music, rhythm &, on hoop jam nights, companionship & unison with other flow addicts! And depending on the groove it can be quite sensual too.

    Tonight we had the most amazing golden glowing full moon to top off the evening. I guess all I need now is something spicy to eat &… ;-)

    Paleo-curious wrote on May 14th, 2014
  40. what a great post! i particularly enjoyed reading about music, dream, and humor, transcendent things I’d like more of in my life!

    jenny rose wrote on May 14th, 2014

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