Great news: Making time for the things you love is study-proven to boost well-being! Here’s how to harness the power of happy.
Prevent headaches by sunbathing.
Grab a book and lounge by the pool or lay a blanket in the backyard and bask in the sun. Just 15 minutes a day of soaking up some rays cuts your risk of headaches in half, according to research in the journal Headache. Scientists credit UV rays with boosting your vitamin D levels, which ups your pain threshold, calms blood-vessel inflammation and relaxes scalp muscles so they’re less likely to spasm.
Or plan a girls’ night: Invite the girls over for a barbecue or catch a movie together. Regularly socializing with friends keeps stress in check so effectively that University of New Mexico researchers say it significantly reduces your risk of developing tension headaches.
Spark joy with a summer concert.
Snag tickets to see your favorite singer perform or drop by a concert in the park to listen to a local band (many towns put on free summer shows). Not only will you have a blast in the moment but you’ll also reduce your risk of feeling blue later on. Folks who enjoy cultural activities like visiting museums or attending concerts once a month are 48 percent less likely to feel depressed, according to research in The British Journal of Psychiatry. Interacting with the arts boosts happiness by taming stress, calming inflammation and encouraging socialization.
Or visit a farmers market: Wander the aisles of fresh fruit (or eye pretty trinkets at a craft fair, if you prefer) and you’ll leave smiling — even if you don’t buy anything. Research in the journal Neuron found that looking at items you’d consider buying releases mood-lifting dopamine.
Sidestep stress by posting on Facebook.
Dodging tension is as easy as sharing a few snapshots on social media. University of California scientists say taking photos of things that make you happy (like pretty summer sunsets) and sharing them online or via text makes you feel 190 percent calmer. The images help you focus on the positive, eliminating stress-causing negativity.
Or make a bouquet: Snip a few blooms from your garden and gather them in a vase. University of North Florida researchers say keeping flowers in your home prods the brain to slow your heart rate and nix stress.
Improve your memory by sipping sangria.
Go ahead and savor a glass of your favorite summer sipper with lunch — doing so improves your recall. Research in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias found that adults who enjoyed one to two drinks daily had significantly better recall than teetotalers. Scientists explain that moderate alcohol consumption prods the body to release proteins and chemicals that aid communication between brain neurons.
Or pick up a paintbrush: Join a painting class or visit a pottery studio and craft your own masterpiece. A study in the journal Neurology found that women who create art stimulate brain cells, making them 79 percent less likely to develop degenerative brain diseases such as dementia.
Shed excess weight by eating ice cream.
If a cool treat is calling your name, answer it! Turns out, allowing yourself a small sweet each day satisfies cravings and makes it easier to stick to a healthy eating plan. The best part: Daniela Jakubowicz, MD, author of The Big Breakfast Diet ($14.97, Amazon), says this tasty trick helps you shed up to three times more weight than women who completely cut out the foods they love.
And put on a feel-good playlist: Good news: Blissing out to calming music can cinch your waist. While loud or persistent background noise can trigger the production of belly-fat hormones, a study in Occupational & Environmental Medicine found soothing sounds prevent hormone spikes and release stored fat.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.
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