Great news! There’s no need to sweat, starve, or meditate for hours. It’s easier to stay healthy with just a little pampering. Read on for simple feel-good ways to boost your health.
Boost brain health with a cozy mystery.
A smart reason to ditch raking leaves in favor of getting lost in a juicy novel: Reading sharpens your memory. Yale scientists say it requires different areas of the brain to work together to turn the words on the page into a story. For the biggest benefit, opt for a romance or mystery. Romances often include exotic locales, while mysteries are peppered with subtle clues you have to pull together. These take you out of your element and make you pay closer attention, which gives your brain a bigger workout.
Let yourself daydream.
University of California scientists say letting your mind wander (say, to a dreamy forest) makes it easier to concentrate on whatever task is at hand. Why? An afternoon reverie gives your mind a chance to process what’s been going on around you so you feel refreshed.
Sleeping in soothes aches and pains.
No need to feel guilty about catching extra Zzzs. Hitting the snooze button or indulging in a catnap eases stubborn discomfort. University of California at Berkeley scientists explain that getting more deep sleep ups your pain threshold.
Dodge cold by playing hooky.
When you forget about folding laundry and instead indulge in a virtual game night or enjoy a picnic in the park, you’re actually taking care of your health! Researchers reporting in Social Science & Medicine found that adding more enjoyment to your everyday life reins in immunity-hampering stress. This eases the workload on your immune system so it can function at its peak, making you noticeably less susceptible to falling ill.
Give yourself a foot rub.
At the end of a busy day on the go, few things feel better than a pampering foot rub. And it turns out that mini moment of calm bolsters your defenses against colds and viruses too. University of Miami researchers say firmly massaging the soles of your feet for just two minutes stimulates acupressure points that curb stress-hormone production by 25 percent. The result: Your immune system becomes less sluggish so it’s better able to fend off viral invaders.
Beat the blues by fantasy shopping.
You don’t have to pull out your wallet to enjoy the mood-boosting perks of retail therapy. Fantasy shopping is a fun (and free!) pick-me-up. Thinking about what you’d like to buy while flipping through a catalog or scrolling through Amazon instantly boosts your mood, University of Michigan scientists say. Deciding what you’d like to buy, even if you never make a purchase, increases your sense of control over the world around you, which ups your confidence and buoys your spirits.
Bask in a citrus soak.
Relaxing in a bath scented with 10 drops of orange essential oil stimulates the mind’s emotional control center, which scientists say cuts your risk of blue moods in half.
Sidestep stress with hot chocolate.
Cozying up with a cup of cocoa is more than just a moment of delight. Chocolate has antioxidants that Australian scientists say significantly lower stress levels by soothing the same anxiety-activating brain receptors as medications like Xanax and Valium. Tip: You’ll get an added boost if you brew your hot chocolate with milk since it contains a blood pressure–lowering protein.
Do a crossword.
Duke University scientists say playing games switches on the problem-solving region of the brain while dampening activity in the region responsible for anxiety, helping you stress less.
Lose weight by digging into apple pie.
If savoring a slice of pie is your favorite way to treat yourself, you’re in luck: It can help speed weight loss too. Research in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found dieters who enjoyed their favorite treats once a week lost just as much weight as those who stuck to a healthy eating plan 24/7, plus had higher motivation and self-control. Having something special to look forward to helps you eat fewer calories the rest of the week; those who never splurge overeat in an attempt to quiet cravings.
Play a video game!
Playing Bejeweled stops you from imagining the food you’re craving, a study in Appetite shows, cutting the urge to indulge by 25 percent.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.