The Quickest Fix
Here are 23 ways to improve your health and change your life — in two or three minutes.
By Dr. Kathleen Hall
If you are the kind of woman who puts yourself last on your own to-do list as you work to pursue your dream and make a difference in the world (while caring for so many others), here are a few simple things you can do to change your life – without taking a whole lot of time from living.
1. Play an online game. A few minutes of playing Scrabble, Word Whomp or PoppIt will make you feel less stressed and more alert mentally than before you played. Check out pogo.com and see for yourself.
2. Sing. Singing your way to work releases physical tension, oxygenates the blood, exercises your muscles and liberates suppressed emotions. The University of California found that Immunoglobulin A, a protein used by the immune system to fight disease, increased 150 percent during singing rehearsals and 240 percent during performances.
3. Go barefoot. “It feels great to walk around the house barefoot, especially after my morning three-mile run,” says Roxanne Housley, vice president of sales and marketing for Canyon Ranch. The soles of your feet have more than 7,200 nerve endings.
4. Text a message to a beloved. It’ll boost your serotonin and endorphin levels. According to a California Department of Health Services study of 7,000, people who had the strongest social ties had dramatically lower rates of disease and premature death versus those who feel isolated and alone.
5. Jump rope. A woman of average weight (130 to 155 pounds) can burn about 25 calories by jumping rope at a moderate speed for two minutes. “Not only is it fun and a wonderful balance and agility exercise,” says Michael Hewitt, Ph.D., director for exercise science at Canyon Ranch, “but the mild jarring force of skipping rope also provides a bone health benefit.”
6. Look into the eyes of someone you love. The brain chemical oxytocin is produced during bonding experiences. This hormone increases trust, according to a study in Nature.
7. Breathe consciously. Concentrate on your breath – inhaling and exhaling to a count of four. “I practice Pilates, and breathing allows me to concentrate on the movement and eliminate all distractions,”Housley says. “I also find that a couple of deep in hales and exhales help me focus just before a presentation or meeting.”
8. Place a vase of flowers on your desk. A behavioral research study conducted by Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School reveals that people feel more compassionate toward others, have less worry and anxiety, and feel less depressed when freshly cut flowers are present.
9. Hug someone. A team from the University of North Carolina studied the effects of hugging in 38 couples and found that hugs reduce blood pressure, which cuts the risk of heart disease.
10. Chew gum. It curbs your appetite while increasing mental alertness. U.K. psychologists found that people who chewed throughout tests produced significantly better scores than those who did not.
11. Do a breast self-exam. Just a couple of minutes can save your life. “By doing this regularly, you become familiar with how your breasts look and feel normally and are equipped to recognize any changes,” says Deborah Lindner, M.D., an expert with Bright Pink, a national nonprofit for women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancers.
12. Enjoy color. Keep a shawl in your favorite color in a drawer nearby and occasionally wrap yourself in it. Behavioral science researchers have found that we can use color to positively affect our blood pressure, stress, energy level and even our ability to get a good night’s sleep.
13. Eat chocolate! Just a little, left to melt slowly in your mouth while you saturate your taste buds, will make you happy and even boost your immune system. German researchers found that a 30-calorie piece of dark chocolate – about the size of a Hershey’s Kiss – not only helps lower blood pressure but also raises levels of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels.
14. Forgive somebody. Anger has been strongly associated with chronically elevated blood pressure and with aggregation of platelets, which may increase vulnerability for heart disease – especially if the expressions of anger are frequent and enduring, according to a study in Psychological Science.
15. Laugh! Laughter actually makes blood flow more efficiently. Artery diameter increases 22 percent during laughter and decreases 35 percent during mental stress, according to a study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
16. Show gratitude. Write a note to someone who has made a difference in your life. Long-term research has found that individuals who report a high level of gratitude and optimism have a 23 percent lower risk of health-related death.
17. Floss your teeth. It might actually be the secret to longevity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that people with gingivitis and periodontitis have a mortality rate that is 23 to 46 percent higher than the rate for those who don’t. Poor gum health is linked to increased rates of cardiovascular disease and strokes.
18. Lift weights. Keep a 5-pound weight (or a heavy book) by your desk and lift it repeatedly for a minute with each hand. One 12-month study of postmenopausal women conducted at Tufts University discovered 1 percent gains in bone density, 73 percent increases in strength and 14 percent increases in dynamic balance with just two days per week of progressive strength training.
19. Dance. Close your office door and let loose. The many benefits are obvious. Dancing gives you a certain “high” through the release of endorphins and reduces stress, decreases blood pressure and improves coordination.
20. Encourage yourself. Giving ourselves positive messages combats negative self-talk. Research tells us that our thoughts and emotions release powerful chemicals into our bodies that affect our mental, physical, and spiritual health and well-being. One affirmation to try: “I am strong. I am resilient. Keep letting go.” Go to mindfullivingtv.com for more.
21. Keep dried blueberries in your desk drawer. “Berries have the highest density of antioxidant phytochemicals of nearly all foods,” Hewitt says. Antioxidants are thought to help protect the body against the damaging effects of free radicals and the chronic diseases associated with aging.
22. Use aromatherapy. Keep a little bottle of your favorite scent in your office and bring it out as needed. Lavender, chamomile and vanilla help you relax. Peppermint and orange provide mental clarity.
23. Let someone pull in front while driving. About 8 percent of the heart attacks among people in one German study were directly related to traffic. Let people pass if they are in a hurry; they could be injured, or in labor, or just late. The release of stress hormones can be lessened by practicing compassion
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