Getting physically and mentally sharper doesn’t have to take a ton of time or lots of money — and it can even be fun! Here are five tricks to feel happier and healthier this summer.
Boost brainpower with a backyard break.
Next time you can’t find the answer to a tricky crossword clue, take a quick break. Head outside to listen to the birds chirping, pour a glass of lemonade, or do anything but work on the problem, and you’ll come up with the answer faster. That’s because switching tasks clears your working memory — the brain’s chalkboard that holds multiple pieces of information — freeing up more mental resources that help you come up with a brilliant idea, say researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Texas at Austin.
Quiet a cough with a cup of joe.
Spring colds and other viruses can leave a lingering cough. While doctors typically prescribe oral steroids to soothe symptoms, there’s a simple home cure that works even better: Drink a cup of coffee followed by one tablespoon of honey three times daily. In a study in the Primary Care Respiratory Journal, this natural remedy led to a near total reduction in cough symptoms within seven days, whereas folks on oral steroids experienced only minor relief. Coffee’s caffeine reduces inflammation and opens airways to make breathing easier, while honey contains compounds that heal scratchy throat tissues. Together, they nix the swelling and irritation that trigger a nagging cough.
Lower blood pressure with a sideways reach.
You don’t have to break a sweat to lower your blood pressure (BP), a new Canadian study reveals. Simply stretching for 30 minutes five times a week lowers your systolic BP (top number) by up to six points and diastolic BP (bottom number) by up to five points more than exercise within eight weeks. “Stretching muscles also stretches the blood vessels that feed into the muscle, including the arteries,” explains study co-author Phil Chilibeck, PhD. The result: reduced artery stiffness, which significantly improves circulation.
Wipe away worry with your favorite tunes.
Melodies of any kind, from slow ballads to classic rock tunes, usher in more soothing calm than the anti-anxiety medication Valium, according to a review of 400 studies from Canada’s McGill University. Credit goes to music’s ability to wipe out worry two ways: It distracts you from problems, halting rumination that ratchets up fear, and it curbs the production of the stress hormone cortisol so you can truly unwind.
Lose pounds faster with an omelet.
Munch on high-protein foods at every meal, and you’ll lose weight effortlessly. Folks in a University of Washington School of Medicine study dropped 11 pounds in 12 weeks. Filling up on protein throughout the day curbs hunger, so you eat 441 fewer calories. It also counteracts age-related muscle loss (a key cause of weight gain), helping you torch 142 more daily calories by maintaining fat-burning muscle cells.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.