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Tired of Being Cooped Up Inside? Beat Winter Solitude With These 6 Health-Boosting Activities

It’s cold out, and you just want to stay home. There’s just no way around it — being outside for long periods of time is no fun. Between having to meticulously plan out your activity and then finding the right balance of layers to wear, it’s exhausting just thinking about heading out the door. But you’re also tired of all your indoor activities by now! Well, it turns out your favorite ways to have fun when cooped up inside improve your well-being.

Indoor plants ease aches and pains.

If you enjoy tending to an indoor herb garden or flowering plant, great news: Greenery soothes discomfort! Admiring nature lowers anxiety and increases relaxation, soothing pain. In fact, Kansas State University scientists found that plants work so well as natural “painkillers” that surgical patients who had live plants in their hospital rooms needed 40 percent less pain medicine than those in rooms without greenery.

Protect your heart with a bestseller.

Curling up on the couch with a spy novel, celebrity biography or other book is good medicine for your heart. That’s the new finding from Chinese scientists who say adults who read books or magazines (like Woman’s World!) daily are 33 percent less likely to experience serious heart trouble. Reading distracts you from stressors so you can more fully relax, which calms your blood pressure and takes strain off your ticker.

Strengthen your immune system by laughing.

Watching comical YouTube videos or even flipping through the cartoons in the Sunday paper improves your immune system’s ability to fend off viral invaders. That’s because, according to a study at California’s Loma Linda University, laughter balances an out-of-kilter nervous system, spurring a more than 50 percent increase in protective natural killer cell activity and a significant increase in disease-fighting antibodies (such as immunoglobulin A).

Sharpen your memory by knitting.

Love to knit, snap photos, bead bracelets, or paint? Regularly taking time to enjoy your favorite hobbies—whatever they may be—lowers your risk of memory-robbing dementia by 52 percent and keeps your thinking sharp for years to come, shows a new study out of Ireland. Continually using skills you’ve learned (such as how to knit a scarf ) and adding to them (for example, picking up a new stitch) acts as a fun form of exercise for your brain, keeping it healthy.

Boost happiness with I Love Lucy.

Admire the personality of a TV character, like Lucy’s unbreakable can-do spirit on I Love Lucy? Watching an episode helps bring out the same trait in you! A new Ohio State University study found the area of the brain that manages your self-identity becomes active when you see a fictional character on TV you want to emulate, automatically making you more upbeat like her.

Soothe worries with a delicious dish.

Putting brownies or casseroles in the oven warms up your kitchen on a chilly day. And when you’re stressed, sharing your baked goods makes you feel noticeably less bothered. Yale scientists say acts of kindness boost positivity, helping you cope with whatever challenge life throws at you. Not a baker? Doing any kind act for someone else, like holding a door, also works.

Indoor activities don’t have to be boring! Try these next time you’re feeling blue while stuck at home.

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