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5 Easy Ways to Boost Creativity, Ease Aches, and Melt Away Stress


You love getting outdoors this time of year and studies show that just one minute of being in nature has benefits for dramatically improving your well-being. So it’s worth trying these five ways to spend more time outside so that you’ll feel happier and healthier!

Protect your ticker by picking herbs.

The mint, basil and other herbs in your garden are ready for picking, which is great news since adding a teaspoon of any blend of herbs to meals noticeably reduces the body’s production of heart disease-triggering inflammatory compounds, reveals new research from Penn State University. Spices and herbs are rich in inflammation-curbing molecules that each work in their own unique way, and combining them has a greater effect than seasoning with one alone.

Melt away stress with a ‘tree touch.’

Taming tension so you can get back to fun-filled summer days just got easier. When you start to feel your stress levels rising, step outside for a “tree touch,” and you’ll experience serenity within 60 seconds. According to research out of Japan, we associate wood with nurturing feelings since it’s traditionally used to build homes and furniture. As a result, simply placing your palm on the trunk of a tree (or a “woody” branch of a shrub or similar plant) fills you with calm coziness. This trick reduces activity in the brain’s stress response center (the prefrontal cortex) up to three times more than when touching another surface, such as smooth marble or stainless steel.

Ease aches by snapping a photo.

Take a photo of a friendly cat or inspiring sunset, then send it to a friend (or post it on social media) as a way to perk up someone’s day. Chinese scientists say kind deeds like this ease aches by 25 percent by decreasing activity in the pain-sensing area of the brain.

Boost creativity by gazing at the sky.

More nature benefits: When you need an inventive solution to a sticky problem, head outdoors and gaze at something blue like the sky or water. Doing so means you’ll come up with twice as many creative ideas, Canadian scientists say. Why? “Most people associate blue with openness, peace and tranquility,” says study co-author Rui Juliet Zhu, PhD, which “makes people feel safe about being creative and exploratory.”

Spur a smile by spying butterflies.

Spotting something out of the ordinary, like a pretty butterfly or colorful bird you’ve never noticed before, instantly boosts happiness. British scientists say the unexpected excites pleasure centers in the mind, triggering a flood of the feel-good brain chemical dopamine.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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