How to release your natural anti-anxiety ‘drug’

If you struggle with anxiety, you know how debilitating it can be.

It’s more than just feeling a little fearful now and again. When you have an anxiety attack, you feel like you’re losing control of your mind and body….

You feel shaky, restless, short-of-breath, nauseous, sweaty, irritable and overcome by dread. Your racing thoughts make you feel like you’re going crazy, and you’re racing heart can make it feel like you’re having a heart attack.

These mental and physical symptoms have a paralyzing effect that can prevent you from enjoying your life. That’s probably why so many people end up taking prescription medications to treat their anxiety like Xanax, Klonopin, Prozac and Zoloft. They’re desperate for relief in whatever form they can find it.

Unfortunately, these drugs cause a wide range of side effects, including dizziness, confusion, stomach problems, fatigue, headaches and physical addiction, just to name a few. In some cases, they may even cause worsened anxiety.

There has to be a safer way, right?

Well, there is. In fact, there’s a safe and effective “drug” for treating your anxiety hiding inside your own brain…

Your brain’s natural anxiety medication

Your brain is like a little chemical factory. It’s constantly churning out chemicals that affect how your body and mind function — that includes chemicals that could cure your chronic anxiety…

A recent study from the University of Sydney in Australia found that chemicals your brain produces naturally — known as opioids — play a large role in regulating fear and anxiety in the brain. And other studies have supported this finding…

One previous study found that when you get rid of the natural opioid enkephalin in the brains of mice, they experience more fear, anxiety and aggressiveness. Alternatively, increasing enkephalin makes them feel less of these emotions.

And one 2013 study from the University of Michigan showed that people who have more natural opioids pumping through their brain have less social anxiety.

Now, if you know anything about prescription opioids, you know that they make you feel relaxed and happy. Your brain’s natural opioids create a similar effect, which explains why they could help ease your anxiety.

The question is… how can you harness the power of your brain’s natural opioids to heal your anxiety?

Well, there are a lot of proven ways to boost your brain’s natural opioid levels. If you choose a few and practice them regularly, you’re sure to notice a decrease in your anxiety. Here are a few natural, opioid-boosting activities you can try:

  • Indulge in some aromatherapy. Certain scents in particular are known to promote opioid production and relieve anxiety, like lavender and vanilla.
  • Get more exercise. Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins (natural opioids). That’s why runners get the characteristic “runner’s high.”
  • Read or watch something that tickles your funny bone daily. Laughing is one of the quickest (and most enjoyable) ways to release natural opioids in your brain — so you now have a good excuse to sit back, relax and watch reruns of your favorite funny sitcom, or better yet cat videos.
  • Get some acupuncture. Acupuncture can encourage your brain to release natural opioids known as endorphins too. That’s why it’s such an effective pain reliever.
  • Sit in the sun. Exposure to UV rays encourages your brain to produce opioids. Don’t overdo your sun exposure, but try to get at least 20 minutes per day to boost your good mood vitamin — D.
  • Eat something tasty. Chocolate and spicy foods are both know to encourage the production of natural opioids. Fermented foods, think pickles (the kind you find in the refrigerated section), can also lessen anxiety symptoms. Just don’t become too dependent on food as your source of natural opioids… otherwise you may develop an unhealthy food addiction.
  • Hang out with friends. One 2016 study found that having more friends causes your brain to release more endorphins.

These solutions may seem too simple to ease your chronic anxiety, but remember — they’re encouraging your brain to release a powerful chemical that’s proven to make you feel happier and less anxious. Practice them consistently and you may be surprised how effective your brain’s natural anti-anxiety “drug” really is.


  1. “Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  2. “Anxiety Medication: What You Need to Know About Anti-Anxiety Drugs.” Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  3. “Boosting natural brain opioids may be a better way to treat anxiety.” MedicalXpress. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  4. L. Winters, et al. “Endogenous opioids regulate moment-to-moment neuronal communication and excitability.” Nature Communications, 2017.
  5. “Sticks and stones: Brain releases natural painkillers during social rejection, U-M study finds.” University of Michigan. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  6. “8 Ways to Naturally Increase Endorphins.” Reader’s Digest. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  7. “Laughter Remains Good Medicine.” ScienceDaily. American Physiological Society. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  8. V.-A. Johnson, R.I. M. Dunbar. “Pain tolerance predicts human social network size.” Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 25267.


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and