No need to overhaul your routine to stay healthy and happy. These fuss-free health tweaks are proven to restore your vim and vigor fast.
Beat the blues by sipping in the sun.
Take your morning cup of coffee or tea in your backyard or by a sunny window. Doing so lifts your spirits as effectively as prescription Prozac, suggests German research. Getting bright light within an hour of waking up triggers the brain to release a flood of feel-good serotonin. Meanwhile, UV rays reset your internal body clock so you feel more even-keeled the rest of the day. Bonus: The caffeine in your brew blocks bad-mood chemicals so effectively, a single cup lowers your odds of feeling blue by 32 percent, say Harvard scientists.
Tune into the birds.
Listen for their chirps for 90 seconds, and you’ll get a mood boost that lasts nearly five hours, say British scientists. Hearing birdsong signals to the most primitive part of your brain that all is well in the world. Tip: Try a free smart-phone app, such as Bird Sounds.
Sweet treats bolster vaccines.
Enjoying a few squares of dark chocolate or a cozy cup of dark cocoa each day leading up to getting any vaccine — and for three weeks afterward — boosts your defenses! That’s the word from investigators in Japan, who found that antioxidant-rich polyphenols in chocolate improve your body’s response to vaccines.
Strengthen bones with restful nights.
Simply take 3 mg. of melatonin before bed, and you’ll sleep better than if you’d used prescription Ambien — and you’ll boost bone density. Danish scientists say ramping up levels of the sleep hormone spurs bone-building cells (osteoblasts) to produce four times more new bone. Another boon: Related Norwegian research reveals women who clock at least seven hours of sound sleep a night cut their risk of osteoporosis by as much as 52 percent.
When your favorite upbeat song comes on the radio, take a cue from the bouncy cartoon character and hop along from one foot to the other. English investigators say little bursts of weight-bearing activities like hopping or dancing are more effective at strengthening bones than long sessions of high-intensity workouts, strengthening your bones as effectively as prescription osteoporosis drugs.
Dodge colds by cracking a window.
Joining friends for a day of pumpkin picking? Simply crack the car window a quarter-inch on the drive over, and you’ll cut the risk of airborne infection by as much as 70 percent. British scientists say the gentle breeze zips harmful microbes out of the enclosed space before they can build up in the air and overwhelm your immune system.
Wear sunglasses or eyeglasses when out and about, and you’ll be up to five times less likely to pick up airborne bugs, suggests research in JAMA. The frames and lenses act as a physical virus barrier.
Safeguard your heart with a deep soak.
Relaxing in a tub of warm water nightly is as effective as working out 30 minutes a day, a study in the journal Heart found. The secret: Sinking down into the suds far enough to cover the front of your shoulders. This mimics traditional, deep Japanese soaking tubs, which are designed to warm you evenly from head to toe and help blood vessels dilate more efficiently, easing strain on your ticker.
‘Split’ your multivitamin.
Cutting your multivitamin in two and taking half with breakfast and half with dinner reduces heart attack and stroke risk by 44 percent, Harvard research suggests. Dividing the dose boosts nutrient absorption and keeps blood levels of heart-protective B vitamins steady.
Boost focus with cinnamon rolls.
Warm up a pan of the comfort food, and you’ll notice a boost in concentration within minutes. A study in the North American Journal of Psychology found the aroma of cinnamon instantly ups attention and significantly sharpens focus. Credit stimulating compounds in the scent that boost nourishing blood flow to the brain.
In Australian study found that even a mini dose of nature (just 40 seconds!) reboots your brain, increasing productivity and focus for at least two hours.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.