While humans are the longest-living land mammals on earth, we have a thing or two to learn from other animals. For starters: Pigeons have remarkable memories — they can remember the route home over extremely long distances, using a combination of their internal compass and memorized landmarks. Giraffes have blood pressures that would send a human into the hospital, but rarely pay the price by developing heart disease. And these are more than fun facts: researchers have been studying the health of other animals for decades to learn more about our own health and how we can improve it. Discover these amazing animal facts (and what they can tell us about our own well-being) below.
Think Like a Pigeon: How To Sharpen Your Memory
Far from being ‘bird brains,’ pigeons have a knack for identifying patterns, which helps keep their memory sharp. To improve your recall: Venture outside on a daily basis, and try to identify 10 patterns in nature — such as a set of trees or a row of flowers. Other options: Take a dance class, play a game, or learn a piece of music on your favorite instrument. All of these activities require you to recognize and memorize patterns, which can help you enhance your memory (and creativity).
Snooze Like a Bunny: How To Improve Your Sleep
Rabbits can sprint up to 50 miles per hour, and that quick movement may be why they can sleep 8 to 10 hours a day. Now, a study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (like a brisk walk around the neighborhood) may help regulates body temperature and melatonin production so you can doze off faster and sleep deeper.
Can’t carve out 60 minutes each day? Try splitting it up into two 30-minute sessions, three 20-minute sessions, or four 15-minute sessions. (Even if you only get 15 or 30 minutes in on certain days, some exercise is better than nothing.)
Clean Your Teeth Like a Giraffe: How To Improve Heart Health
Scientists say giraffes have some of the healthiest hearts around, even though their height requires them to have sky-high blood pressure. Why might this be? A lot of it comes down to genetics — giraffes have certain genes that prevent their arteries from stiffening over time. Another potential reason: Their teeth are relatively clean compared to other wild animals, thanks to oxpecker birds who feed on bits of food stuck between the giraffe’s teeth.
In humans, a healthy mouth has a lot to do with a health heart. “The presence or absence of certain bacteria in the oral microbiome can [cause an imbalance of] nitric oxide,” Dr. Kami Hoss, DDS, told Woman’s World in an article about oral health and high blood pressure. “Nitric oxide is a very important molecule in the body. It’s involved in various processes, including expanding the blood vessels and increasing blood flow,”
Dr. Hoss goes on to explain: “In addition, chronic inflammation caused by gum disease can damage endothelial cells that line the blood vessels. When these cells are damaged, it can result in impaired blood flow, high blood pressure, and higher risks of heart attacks and strokes.” Your best bet? Just make sure to brush morning and night and use floss or a water pick every day.
Boost Optimism Like a Pig: How To Reduce Your Sadness
A 2016 study found that pigs were more optimistic when they lived in an environment with more space, hay, and tasty treats as compared to pigs that lived in a smaller, less pleasing environment. (Pigs were more likely to act depressed and ignore their food in the smaller environment.)
Of course, this same principle rings true for humans — many of us tend to feel sad or depressed if we don’t take care of our living spaces. Indeed, the link between clutter in particular and depression has been scientifically proven again and again. So give yourself permission to take the time to surround yourself with things that make you happy, like florals or scented candles, and treat yourself to tasty snacks and desserts. It may just make you see the world in a different, more positive way!
Love Like a Vole: How To Increase Your Happiness
Voles (small critters that resemble hamsters) have a secret to staying chipper: They cuddle with their partners as much as possible. And in one study from 2014, voles that received oxytocin injections spent even more time cuddling with other voles and formed stronger bonds.
What does this mean for us? In humans, cuddling prompts a surge of feel-good oxytocin (the “love” hormone). So, copy voles by aiming for eight oxytocin-boosting hugs a day with loved ones or pets. Also smart: Partake in group activities, such as dancing or trading harmless gossip with pals over brunch. Simply spending time with others lifts oxytocin levels, too.
Stay Moving Like a Fish: How To Boost Your Immunity
The healthiest, happiest pet fish swim all day long, traversing the entire tank rather than hanging out at the bottom, floating near the top, or lurking behind plants. (They do partake in “suspended animation,” which is when they float in space and go to “sleep,” but this behavior is nothing to worry about. But even then, they are still moving to some degree.)
So, what can you learn from the fish? Keep moving. Not only will it help you sleep better (as mentioned above), but it may also bolster your immunity. Being active increases lymphatic flow, which helps generate infection-fighting white blood cells. In fact, a 2004 study published in The Journal of Physiology found that the flow of lymphatic fluid was greater in participants who moved throughout the day than those who sat still.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.