Blustery winter days are the perfect excuse to reward yourself with some rest and relaxation. Even better, research reveals that your favorite indulgences boost your wellbeing! Check out these quick health tricks to learn more.
Closing your eyes solves sticky problems.
When you’re looking for a solution to a problem, try this health trick: Close your eyes and kick back for 10 minutes. Doing so makes you more likely to think up an ingenious fix than if you actively brainstormed, AARP experts say. Letting your mind wander allows it to put together unrelated pieces of information in new ways.
Protect your heart with a paintbrush.
Love to paint, knit, play guitar, or participate in other hobbies? Regularly making time to enjoy your favorite leisure-time activities reduces your risk of serious heart trouble and stroke, reveals a study by Japanese researchers from the journal Atherosclerosis. That’s because enjoyable pastimes reduce stress and take pressure off blood vessels, which allows twice as much blood to reach your heart than if you didn’t make time for hobbies.
Catch a sunset.
The best health tricks are the ones that encourage us to get outside! Blissing out for 30 minutes a day as you watch the sun set — or simply do nothing — may cut your risk of heart-harming cholesterol trouble, Harvard University researchers report. Daily relaxation breaks tamp down stress hormones that tinker with the liver’s cholesterol control.
Boost joy by window shopping.
For a surefire smile, peruse that cute new craft store at the mall or head online and browse your favorite shops. University of Michigan researchers found that you’ll notice a significant increase in good feelings by mentally selecting products you like — no buying needed! That’s because making decisions (even small, fun ones) gives you a sense of control, which makes you feel more secure and satisfied with your life.
Bonus: A separate study found that window-shopping and choosing items to put on your wish list exercises brain areas linked to decision-making, giving them a boost.
Soak your feet.
Need a simple relaxation technique? Try this health trick: Make yourself a warm foot bath with two or three ginger tea bags, and soak your feet while you read a book (or your latest Woman’s World magazine, of course).
Experts explain that when stimulating ginger compounds (called shogaols) are absorbed through the skin, they can lift your spirits and ease inflammation.
Ease aches and pains by flipping through photos.
Scrolling through pictures on your smartphone or in old photo albums rekindles warm memories of past birthdays, vacations, and holidays. An added bonus: It may spur a significant drop in pain from arthritis, back strains, and other aches, according to a Frontiers in Psychology report. Why? Nostalgic memories increase optimism and a sense of control, which in turn makes discomfort feel less noticeable.
Catch up with a pal.
Calling, texting or mailing a “thinking of you” card to a friend can strengthen your relationship and ease pain, the New York Times explains. Social bonds and pain share a common neural pathway in the body, which means feeling closer to loved ones reduces pain signals sent to the brain!
Sharpen memory with a short snooze.
A midday snooze sharpens recall, University of California scientists say. They found short snoozes improve memory by 20 percent in children by increasing slow-wave activity in the brain.
Bonus: Regularly napping for up to a half hour (and not much more) may reduce your risk of dementia, as explained in a BMC Geriatrics article.
Open a novel.
Women who read recall more words and have better language skills than others, say Canadian scientists. And it doesn’t have to be highly educational! Fiction books improve your verbal abilities by engrossing you in the storyline.
Lose weight by deciding on dessert first.
You can have your cake and eat it too! First, decide on a dessert, then choose your meal. As a University of Arizona study shows, knowing ahead of time that you’ll be treating yourself makes you more likely to opt for healthy foods and smaller portions during your meal. This helps reduce your overall calorie consumption.
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A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.