The Science of the Natural High with Matt Bellace, PhD
From Alexa Smith
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And he goes, "Wait a minute, weeds a natural high, because it comes from a plant." And I looked at him. I'm like, "Wait, what else comes from a plant? That's right. Heroin, cocaine, tobacco." He's like, "Good point. Good point." And he sat down.
Now, you know what? The best natural high, though, in terms of being studied is exercise. Who here loves to run? Any runners in the room? Three people. Who here hates running? Everybody else? All right. Okay. Here's something you should know about exercise. After 30 minutes of any exercise, it gets your heart rate up. Could be cycling, could be swimming, it could be running. Your brain releases chemicals. Do you know what they're called? Endorphins. Nice. One of those endorphins has a funny name though. Anandamide. Anandamide gets released when you exercise for about 30 minutes or more. It improves your mood and improves your memory. Smoking weed, which, by the way, THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, looks so much like anandamide, smoking weed has the opposite effect. Do that three or four times a week as a teenager, your mood gets worse, your memory gets worse.
In your brain, you have one mechanism for producing highs, for making you feel happy. When you do it naturally through sports, through laughter, through meditation, what happens is your brain releases these chemicals and you feel good, but it balances the chemicals. It never releases so much of the chemicals that it damages your brain tissue.
But when you pursue a high with a drug, you're forcing your brain into a state it doesn't naturally want to be in, and your brain responds by doing various things. First of all, your brain can become damaged if you give it too much of the chemicals, and it's toxic, essentially, for the pleasure center. But over time, let's say you use something like weed on a regular basis, your brain responds with something called homeostasis, which is it trying to maintain balance. You force your brain into a high state, the brain reacts by putting you in a low state to try to respond to it. And what we see over time is people who use drugs a lot, their everyday life becomes dull, gray, listless, and they start to use drugs just to feel normal.
So you have a choice. You get to choose in your life how you're going to get a high, and this is the time in your life when it's so important. It's as important as choosing what kind of food are you going to eat. Are you going to pursue fast food that's unhealthy for you that you know is going to lead some pretty negative health outcomes? Or do you choose slow food, more fresh, unprocessed foods, if you can get your hands on them? What's your choice going to be?
My name is Matt Bellace, and my natural high is surfing. Although today, can't do it. Broke my finger. Broke my finger biking, of all things. But you know what? I have lots of natural highs, whether it's eating a great meal, cooking, gardening, laughing, telling jokes. It's all good. I'm in pursuit of natural highs. That's my mission in life.