No matter how you enjoy celebrating America, doing so is a boon for your health and happiness. Research reveals that patriotic holiday festivities also have the power to sharpen your memory, balance your blood sugar, deepen your sleep, relieve stress and more. Feeling your best has never been more fun!
Feeling patriotic can boost your mood
Belt out “Born in the U.S.A.”
There’s no better time to join friends in renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, “Born in the U.S.A.” and other patriotic songs than on America’s birthday. And when you do, you’ll be happier and more relaxed.
That’s according to a study in Psychology of Music that suggests group singing doubles your production of the feel-good “cuddle” hormone oxytocin. Plus, it significantly reduces your output of the stress hormone cortisol. Researchers say singing as a group synchronizes your movements and sounds. This makes you feel even closer to others, giving you a joyful lift!
Proudly fly Old Glory
Waving the American flag helps remind you of what you love about this country, such as its freedoms and opportunities. That’s important, say researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Their research found that feeling proud of where you live makes you feel more content and satisfied with your life.
Feeling patriotic can balance your blood sugar
Celebrate with others
If you’re like us, you’re probably celebrating the Fourth of July with a backyard barbecue. To keep your blood sugar steady while indulging in your favorite fare, try this simple trick. After eating, play holiday-themed games that are sure to make you laugh, such as red, white and blue water balloon toss, patriotic bingo or an Independence Day scavenger hunt.
According to a study in Diabetes Care, 40 minutes of laughter significantly lowers post-meal blood sugar spikes, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers suspect laughing repeatedly tenses and relaxes respiratory and other muscles. This helps steer excess glucose out of the blood and into muscle tissue.
Dig into a slice of blueberry pie
Research in Clinical Nutrition suggests adding 1 cup of fresh blueberries to sugar-sweetened desserts (such as pie or ice cream) reduces glucose and insulin levels up to 6 hours after eating. One possible reason: The berry’s anthocyanins are improve insulin production and insulin sensitivity while also slowing down the body’s absorption of carbohydrates.
Feeling patriotic can lock in happy memories
Enjoy a fireworks display
Watching the spectacular arrangements of vibrant colors lighting up the night sky helps you recall all the Fourth of July fun you’ve been having for years to come. According to a study from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, a new or exciting experience triggers a surge of memory-boosting dopamine in the brain.
This helps shifts short-term memories into long-term storage. Tip: Use this trick to remember anything longer. For instance, read a book somewhere different, such as your backyard instead of your living room, to better recall the storyline later on.
Cheer on your local town parade
Enjoying a wider variety of fun activities, such as attending a parade or visiting a new local farmer’s market, improves your working memory (the kind needed to juggle multiple pieces of information) the day you do them and the day after, reveals a new study in Neuropsychology. Experts say diverse experiences stimulate your brain, keeping it sharp.
Feeling patriotic can lead to deeper sleep
Catch up with a friend over the phone
Falling asleep faster and enjoying more restful sleep is as easy as calling loved ones to wish them a happy Independence Day. So say researchers from the University of Utah, who reviewed 61 studies and found that fostering strong relationships with family and friends results in better Zzzs. Feeling supported by others reduces tension, which helps you relax more deeply once you head to bed.
Thank a service member
Taking a moment out of your day to say “thank you” to veterans lets them know how grateful you are for their sacrifice. But there’s also a surprising perk to showing your gratitude: It helps you sleep better! A study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that thankfulness spurs positive thoughts after you lie down, making it easier to let go of worries and drift off.
Feeling patriotic can lead to greater creativity
Unwind in a nearby park
Take a stroll through one of the 424 national parks around the U.S. or a local arboretum on the holiday to soak up America’s beauty on the Fourth of July. Doing so also be fires up your ingenuity. This makes it easy to find clever solutions to sticky problems (such as where to place a fire pit in your backyard) and inspire innovation (for example, coming up a new apple pie recipe).
A study from Stanford University shows that walking outdoors for as little as 4 minutes at your usual pace spurs twice as many creative ideas compared to sitting still. Study authors theorize that strolling unlocks memories, which helps you pair unrelated ideas from your memory banks to create imaginative new ones. Rainy day? Walking indoors, even if it’s just to the kitchen, also gets your creative juices flowing!
Sip some iced tea
A refreshing glass of iced black tea cools you off on a hot summer day and spurs more creative ideas after you drink it, reports the journal Food Quality and Preference. The researchers suspect that it’s because we associate folks who drink tea with being smart and innovative, so we adopt these qualities ourselves when we sip it!
Feeling patriotic can soothe stress
Kick back poolside
If you’re one of the millions of Americans whose July 4th traditions include a trip to a beach, lake or river to enjoy a fun splash, great news: A recent study in the Journal of Aging and Environment shows that stress levels are lowest when you’re around a natural body of water! Water’s calming sights and sounds distract you from your regular day-to-day life, which helps you recover and recharge.
Savor something new
While at your neighborhood Fourth of July potluck, dig into some watermelon salad or fish tacos. Trying new dishes introduces you to new flavors and helps you stay calm. That’s the suggestion of a recent study in the journal Nutrients. Researchers found that folks who ate a wider variety of foods were up to 52% less likely to experience stress.
According to the investigators, one reason may be that increasing the diversity of your diet helps you get more stress-busting micronutrients (such as magnesium and zinc), making you more resilient to everyday hassles. That’s key since 48% of Americans get too little magnesium and up to 40% of older adults get too little zinc.
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.