Short on time? These six study-backed tricks deepen your sleep, curb stress, ease aches effortlessly, and more. Plus, most of them are easy enough to do anywhere, anytime!
Channel Superwoman to dial down worry.
You have a meeting with your boss coming up but feel your nerves getting the better of you. The fix: Stand tall and place your hands on your hips like a superhero. Harvard scientists say this “power pose” cuts anxiety by up to 50 percent in two minutes!
Tame tension with soothing music.
Think it’s impossible to create calm on your most hectic days? Not so! A new University of Pennsylvania study found that cuing up a relaxing instrumental song, like Marconi Union’s Weightless, is all it takes. Researchers say listening to mellow tunes for just eight minutes reduces stress as effectively as a prescription sedative. That’s because the soft beats gently slow your heart rate and encourage the body to dial back the production of stress hormones.
Hug a teddy bear.
When severe stress strikes, reach for a comforting memento, like a stuffed animal from your childhood or a treasured locket. New research out of Yale University found that in times of tension, focusing on a “safety signal” — something you find comforting — reduces anxiety by signaling to your brain that you’re safe.
Quiet aches by doing a twist.
Sore and stiff? Whether you’re recovering from “weekend warrior syndrome” or battling a backache from a poor night’s sleep, doing a simple stretch can dull the pain in two minutes flat. Here’s how to do it: Twist your upper body to one side while breathing deeply, then repeat on the other side. Cornell scientists say deep breathing releases painkilling endorphins, while a gentle waist swivel boosts oxygen-rich blood flow to achy muscles to quell inflammation. Have a few extra minutes post-stretch? A study in The Journal of the American Medical Association shows that regularly sitting still and focusing on slowly inhaling and exhaling for just 10 minutes trains your brain to respond less intensely to pain signals.
Light a candle.
Pop the lid off your favorite cookie-scented candle for fast, drug-free pain relief. Canadian researchers say sweet scents trigger the release of pain-fighting hormones called oxytocin and prolactin.
Sleep soundly by relaxing in a rocker.
Between harried schedules and lengthy to-do lists, it’s no wonder 68 percent of us struggle to get enough shut-eye at least once a week. To drift off more quickly, spend 60 seconds before bed relaxing in a comfy rocking chair. UCLA investigators say the rhythmic motions encourage the brain to produce calming alpha waves, which help you fall asleep faster and snooze soundly through the night.
Snack on this.
Enjoy a cup of Jell-O, and a study in Sleep and Biological Rhythms found you’ll spend more time in the deep stages of sleep. Gelatin contains glycine, a compound that gently lowers your body temperature to foster drowsiness.
Sharpen focus with a game face.
To power through mentally taxing tasks with ease, new research in Stress & Health suggests putting on your game face. Adopting a focused facial expression helps the mind filter out distractions, noticeably improving your ability to juggle multiple bits of information and stay on task.
Change your lightbulbs.
Upgrade your lamp with a higher wattage bulb, and you’ll instantly boost your alertness, a study in Physiology & Behavior shows. Bright light signals to the brain that it’s time to wake up.
Energize with a “micro-walk.”
When your stamina is flagging, take a 60-second stroll. Canadian scientists say any activity (like dancing or climbing stairs) that moves your large muscle groups turns on the genes that help the body absorb more glucose for fuel, boosting energy by 80 percent for 90 minutes.
Look around the kitchen.
A study in Consciousness and Cognition shows that the brain so strongly associates coffee with perkiness that just glancing at a mug energizes you.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.