Emotional Health

6 Nostalgia-Inspired Cures for a Bad Mood

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Do you love watching classic movies, grooving to the oldies station, and re-reading your favorite childhood books? Then we have good news! Traveling back in time releases mood-boosting hormones that not only lift your spirits, but can actually improve your health. So reminisce away — that dose of nostalgia could make you feel better fast.

Reduce your risk of headaches by sweating to a retro workout video.

Your favorite fitness icon from the 1980s and ’90s is just as energetic as ever! Simple, fun and effective, Denise Austin’s aerobic exercise videos (at DeniseAustin.com or YouTube.com) get your heart pumping from the comfort of home. And that’s key, since a study in Cephalalgia found that 30 minutes of daily exercise cuts your risk of head-pain flare-ups in half, making it as effective as headache-preventing prescription medications.

Soothe aches and pains by curling up with Judy Blume.

Whether it’s a sore back, achy knees, or stiff joints, reading a beloved book from your childhood can soothe body-wide discomfort in as little as 10 minutes. Austrian investigators say that taking a break from the daily grind to relax with something that brings you joy, like the coming-of-age novels that resonated with you in your youth, lowers your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that causes painful inflammation. The feel-good result: Your nostagia-inspired reading can reduce aches by 43 percent.

Ease worries by “Stayin’ Alive.”

Streaming of peppy songs from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s is up by 54 percent on Spotify, and for good reason during these uncertain times: Japanese scientists say listening to upbeat songs from the 1970s and ’80s cuts the production of the stress hormone cortisol by 66 percent, quickly settling jangled nerves. Bonus: A separate British study found that listening to songs from your youth makes you feel more hopeful about the good things to come in your future. So indulge in some nostalgia next time you turn on the tunes!

Lower your blood pressure by screening a classic movie.

You already know warding off hypertension keeps your heart healthy, and luckily, that’s as easy as turning on a classic movie channel: Treasured comedies like The Pink Panther or The Parent Trap significantly widen blood vessels so blood can flow more freely, easing strain on your ticker. What’s more, a Japanese study found that laughter lowers your blood pressure by seven points within minutes. Snack on some chocolate while you watch (like a classic Peppermint Pattie or Hershey’s Kiss), and you might get even better results: German scientists say eating a small square of dark chocolate daily lowers your blood pressure by up to three points.

Boost immunity by playing Monopoly.

One fun way to outsmart summer ughs: Challenge a pal to Monopoly or Battleship. Even friendly competition like a board game can sparks your “fight or flight” response, which UCLA scientists say makes virus-fighting immune cells more active. Can’t get together in person? Playing a virtual version on a free website like Pogo.com offers the same benefit. Plus, a British study found that online games curb immunity-hampering stress.

Lose weight by doing the Twist.

If your pants are a little snug, you’re not alone. A new survey reveals that 47 percent of us have gained weight during the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, you can avoid overeating by bringing back classic dance moves, like the Hustle. Research in Marketing Letters found that when workouts are fun, folks eat 50 percent fewer snacks that day. Have a craving that won’t let up? Reach for some Play-Doh. A study in Appetite found shaping the clay into circles or squares (without looking) uses up the brain’s visual resources, crowding out thoughts of food.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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