You’re already making smart health choices that help you feel good. Here’s how to up your game to feel even better! You’ll be surprised how easy it is to go from good to great.
Linger over a good book.
Reading is a boon for brain health: Studies link regular reading with a sharper memory, delayed brain aging, and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. To boost the benefits, read at a more relaxed pace and pause every few pages to digest the information. Stanford scientists say mulling over complex messages in story lines (like what motivates characters) sharpens rational thinking skills, helping you see which decisions in your own life lead to the best outcome.
Speed up your nightly stroll.
Strolling around the block is the country’s most popular form of exercise, firing up your body’s fat burners to help melt unwanted weight. Want to fast-track results? Try varying your pace! Ohio State University scientists say that speeding up for a bit then slowing back down makes your leg muscles work a little harder, burning significantly more calories for fuel.
Switch up your serving utensil.
Crunching on low-fat pretzels instead of calorie-laden chips when a hunger pang hits is a smart move. Even smarter? Using a pair of tongs to serve up your snack. According to research in the journal Appetite, using tongs forces you to slow down and pay attention to how much you’re consuming, helping you eat 30 percent less and feel fuller sooner.
Bring on the olive oil.
Eating veggies keeps your heart strong! Swedish scientists say carotenoids, or plant pigments (in foods like bell peppers, spinach, and carrots), prevent plaque from clogging your arteries and straining your heart. Now, research shows drizzling a generous serving of olive oil on those veggies helps them deliver even more healthy perks. Eating two tablespoons of olive oil a day doubles carotenoid absorption, University of Connecticut scientists say, which cuts your heart disease risk by as much as 44 percent — adding two healthy years to your life!
Let your garlic sprout.
Known for taming high blood pressure and cholesterol, garlic gets an added boost if you let the bulb start to sprout before using it. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found green shoots are a sign that garlic has undergone biochemical changes that up the activity of its heart-protective antioxidants.
Give yourself a massage.
You already brush morning and night, but Swedish scientists say a quick midday “toothpaste massage” can further reduce your risk of bacteria buildup as much as 50 percent. Simply rubbing a dab of toothpaste into your teeth and gums (like you’d do if you didn’t have a toothbrush handy) after lunch works as well as a third brushing, upping your fluoride protection by as much as 400 percent.
Brush before you brush.
Here’s a quick and easy trick to make toothbrushing more effective: Brush your teeth for 60 seconds with a dry toothbrush before adding a dollop of toothpaste. The dry bristles sweep away bacteria, which a study found cuts plaque and tartar buildup by 67 percent. Also smart: Consider an electric toothbrush. British scientists say they remove 11 percent more plaque than manual brushes. One to try: Philips Sonicare Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush (Buy on Amazon, $149.95)
Make your bedroom a phone-free zone.
Do you curb screen time before bed to sink into a deeper sleep? Try keeping your phone outside of the bedroom too. Even when it’s on silent, a British study found having it nearby ups anxiety about incoming texts and emails, leaving you restless. Keeping the bedroom tech-free overnight helps you sleep deeper and awake feeling more refreshed. Unplug and feel great!
Try time-release melatonin at night.
Melatonin at bedtime has been shown to improve sleep. But high doses may cause your levels to spike fast and drop early, waking you overnight. Switching to a low-dose, time-release formula sustains the levels your body needs to snooze soundly all night. One to try: Life Extension Melatonin 6 Hour Timed Release, 3 mg (Buy on Life Extension, $6)
Hold your breath.
When you’re tense, it’s natural to take steady breaths to soothe your nerves. For greater relief, try this trick: Take a deep belly breath and hold it for as long as you comfortably can, then exhale and repeat four times. Belgian scientists say briefly holding your breath normalizes your carbon dioxide levels, which calms your central nervous system and cuts edginess by as much as 63 percent.
Sit under a tree.
Spending time in nature is a study-backed way to ease stress — and you don’t have to march around a park. Simply lounging under a tree will do the trick! University of Michigan scientists say greenery, rustling leaves, and earthy scents can help you relax in just 20 minutes.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.