Your joyful outlook is good for your heart! That’s the word from Georgetown University scientists, who say the hormones your brain releases when you’re cheery also strengthen arteries, cutting your heart disease risk by 50 percent. More good news: These spirit-boosting strategies help you shake off the stress of the last few months too!
Breathe a la Oprah.
While on your porch swing, borrow a tip from Oprah’s stress-busting playbook and take a few deep breaths. Doing so soothes the brain’s anxiety control center, cutting your risk of chronic stress in half so you feel more upbeat, UCLA scientist say. What’s more, a study in Psychological Research found that regularly inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of six lowers your blood pressure by up to 10 points in eight weeks, helping your heart beat easier.
Savor like Ina.
If you love chocolate as much as Ina Garten, great news: It spurs the release of the antidepressant hormone serotonin, boosting your mood for up to two hours, says Joseph Maroon, M.D., author of Square One: A Simple Guide to a Balanced Life (Buy from Amazon, $23). Plus, Italian scientists say enjoying two ounces of dark chocolate daily cuts heart disease risk by 50 percent! Cocoa’s antioxidants prevent artery-clogging plaque buildup.
On a walk? Pull back your shoulders, lift your chin, and swing your arms like Denise Austin. Canadian scientists say great posture and a peppy stride boost the production of the mood-lifting, heart-strengthening hormone dopamine by 65 percent, helping you feel calmer and happier in just 60 seconds.
Cue up Loretta Lynn.
Listening to “oldies but goodies” lowers your stress levels by 55 percent in five minutes, Michigan State University scientists say. Plus, the nostalgic feeling of these tunes triggers a release of artery-relaxing oxytocin, cutting blood pressure by 15 points — results on par with dietary changes. Sounds like a great reason to listen to some Loretta Lynn!
Clip some coupons.
Finding a coupon ups your brain’s production of the happiness hormone oxytocin by 38 percent for up to two hours. And University of Miami scientists say the feeling of calm that saving money provides cuts heart disease risk by 25 percent!
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.