Great news! Breakthrough research proves indulging in “me time” is the secret to a happier, slimmer, and worry-free you. Here are six ways to start relaxing.
Boost your bliss with a relaxing sip.
Whether you prefer savoring a refreshing Pinot Grigio over lunch or unwinding with a glass of Merlot in the evening, research proves a little vino goes a long way to making you feel sunnier. Wine contains phytoestrogens, compounds that British researchers say prod the body to release mood-elevating brain chemicals. In fact, just 4 oz. of red or white wine daily is enough to reduce your risk of the blues and pesky mood swings by as much as 63 percent.
Or treat yourself to a scented steam. Breathe your way to contentment with the uplifting scent of cardamom. Simply add 1/2 tsp. of cardamom to a bowl of 2 cups of boiling water, lean over 12" from steam and inhale deeply: The aroma triggers a release of “happy” brain chemicals, according to a study in the journal Pharmacology Biochemistry & Behavior. You’ll feel noticeably more cheerful in two minutes.
Dodge spring colds with a good read.
It’s such a relief to take a quick break from the daily grind... and now science says it’s good for your health, too. Ohio State University researchers report that unwinding with your feet up and a copy of the latest bestseller (or this week’s copy of Woman’s World!) lowers your cortisol levels by 55 percent. This plunge in stress hormones allows your immune system to function at its peak, releasing more infection-fighting antibodies to help you sidestep sniffles and sneezes.
Or give yourself a mini massage. Move your fingertips in small circular motions along your scalp for 10 minutes, and you’ll improve your body’s ability to fend off viruses by 32 percent, suggests a study in the journal Scientific Reports. The movement activates nerve endings that stimulate the release of immune cells.
Halt head pain with a rosemary soak.
Headache that just won’t quit? Slip into a rosemary-scented soak. According to researchers at the University of California at San Diego, an aromatherapy bath works in two ways: The warm water calms muscle spasms while rosemary encourages the body to release ache-dampening serotonin. To get the benefits, steep 1/2 cup of dried rosemary in 2 cups of boiling water for 15 minutes, then stir the cooled, strained mixture into your bathwater.
Or light a candle. Not in the mood for a bath? Scientists at Chicago’s Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation recommend reaching for an apple-scented candle. The comforting scent calms the parasympathetic nervous system, easing tense muscles to melt away head pain.
Curb cravings by catching a catnap.
Give yourself permission to shirk your to-do list in favor of lounging on your couch for a luxurious afternoon snooze this weekend. A study in the journal PLOS ONE found that getting more shut-eye (either through quick naps here and there or sleeping in when you can) maximizes the amount of fat your muscles burn for fuel and helps cut your cravings for diet-sabotaging carbohydrates in half.
Or soak up the sun. Pop outside for 20 minutes on a sunny day, and you’ll automatically reduce your cravings by 50 percent, Cornell University scientists say. That’s because UV light activates the production of the body’s appetite-suppressing hormones, helping to turn off hankerings and hunger.
Soothe allergies with a spa-inspired compress.
For natural relief from itchy eyes, borrow a tip from top spas and enjoy your own chamomile mask. To do: While lying back, place a steeped and cooled chamomile tea bag over each of your eyes for one minute. British researchers report that the brew’s flavonoids block inflammation-triggering hormones in the delicate eye tissues to erase irritation, itchiness and redness.
Or cozy up with this tea. Sip mustard tea, and you’ll breathe easier all day. British scientists say mustard seeds improve drainage and ease congestion in as little as 20 minutes. Just steep a teaspoon of ground mustard seeds in a cup of boiling water, strain and add honey to taste.
Remember the secret to lasting positivity.
You know painting, knitting, or reading puts a smile on your face. Now research proves the happy boost has a carryover effect. A study in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that engaging in activities that inspire you makes you feel happier in the moment and more positive the next day, too!
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.