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Emotional Health

4 Ways to Be Happy and Pain-Free

When yard cleanup leaves you stiff and sore, relief is just a smile away! According to researchers at Georgetown Medical School, the mood-boosting hormone that helps us feel happy and content (serotonin) also relaxes tight muscles and calms overactive pain nerves, cutting risk of chronic aches by up to 75 percent.

Tidy in the morning.

Regular bouts of movement increase your brain’s production of mood-boosting serotonin more quickly and effectively than prescription antidepressants can, cutting stiffness and pain by as much as 55 percent in one week. And according to Canadian researchers, 15 minutes of tidying, gardening or strolling first thing in the morning, when brain nerves are most responsive, works just as effectively as longer jaunts later in the day.

Crunch crudités.

Those carrots and snap peas you munched on boost serotonin
levels by 20 percent for 3 hours! Two cups daily could cut aches and pains by 40 percent in 10 days. Yale University researchers say gut bacteria produce 90 percent of feel-great serotonin, and nutrient-rich veggies keep the release high.

Reach before dinner.

Taking 5 minutes before dinner to arch your back, squeeze your shoulders, or touch your toes could prevent evening blahs, plus cut aches in half for 3 hours, UCLA researchers say. Explains alternative medicine physician Mo Lee, M.D., deep muscle stretches activate brain nerves that keep serotonin production steady all night long.

Try this before bed.

Taking 450 mg. of holy basil at bedtime cuts chronic pain by as
much as 70 percent, suggests research in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine. Explains study co-author Marc Cohen, Ph.D., this Ayurvedic herb encourages your brain to release serotonin, plus helps cells absorb this healing hormone. Note: Check with a doctor before supplementing.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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