60-Second Health Tricks
By Lisa Collier Cool
Got a minute? Easy actions that take 60 seconds or less can have surprisingly powerful health benefits, from boosting your happiness to improving sleep, warding off diseases, or even lengthening your life.
Whether it's eating chocolate, sipping wine, writing a thank-you note, or hugging the one you love, here are a dozen science-backed ways to start feeling better, in one minute or less.
#1. Check the TV guide.
Simply anticipating watching a humorous TV show two days before it airs reduces depression, anger, fatigue, confusion and stress by up to 50 percent, University of California, Irvine researchers reported. Actually watching the comedy dialed down negative mental states by up to 98 percent.
#2. Nibble dark chocolate.
Eating a square or two of dark chocolate could actually save your life, by dramatically lowering risk for heart attack and stroke, new research shows. Another health bonus: dark chocolate and cocoa powder contain more disease-fighting antioxidants than blueberries, cranberries, acai, and other superfruits, according to a peer-reviewed study published in Chemistry Central Journal.
#3. Write a thank-you note.
When Stanford University researchers reviewed 51 studiesthat tried to magnify happiness through positive thinking or deeds, they found that people who wrote thank-you notes to someone who had helped them experienced a rise in happiness lasting weeksor even monthseven if they never mailed the letters.
#4. Measure your waist.
Your waist size can predict your risk for type 2 diabetes, even if youre not obese, a new study reports. The numbers that signal a higher threat of diabetes are greater than 35 inches for a woman and greater than 40 inches for man. Waist size is also a better predictor of heart attack risk than your weight or body mass index (BMI), earlier research shows.
Related: 23 Diet Plans Reviewed: Do They Work?
#5. Stand up straight.
Assuming a power pose (standing tall with legs and arms spread) reduces sensitivity to pain, according to a study published in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Another study found that adopting this posture for one minute raised testosterone levelswhich are linked to self-confidence and higher pain toleranceand lowered cortisol (a stress hormone). Standing up straight instantly made study participants feel more powerful, compared to slumping.
#6. Floss your teeth.
Brushing and flossing daily can lengthen your life, while lowering risk for diabetes, heart attacks, colds, flu, and arthritis, as I recently reported. In a recent study, researchers tracked more than 5,600 seniors for 17 years, and found that those who didnt floss had a 30 percent higher death rate than people who flossed daily. Not brushing at night raises mortality by 20 to 35 percent, compared to brushing every night.
#7. Contribute to charity.
Money reallycan buy happiness, if you give it to charity. Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton recently reported at the TED conference that in nearly every country, studies show that people who donate to charity are more joyful than those who only spend on themselves. One of his studies also found that buying a $5 gift for a friend or giving that amount in cash to a stranger can also boost bliss.
#8. Freeze a water bottle.
A recent study found that when overweight women cooled the palms of their hands with a special device during exercise for 12 weeks, they not only improved their cardiovascular fitness and endurance, but they also trimmed nearly 3 inches off their waists and lowered their resting blood pressure. The researchers say you can get a similar effect by holding a frozen water bottle while you work out, then sipping the ice water as it melts.
#9. Clip on a pedometer.
Wearing a pedometer motivates people to take up to 2,491 extra steps a day (about 1.25 extra miles), a studyat Stanford University School of Medicine found. The researchers reviewed 26 earlier studies involving 2,767 people, most of whom were overweight and sedentary at the start of the study.
#10. Enjoy a glass of wine.
Sipping a glass of wine a day boosts the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your body, helping reduce inflammation and improve arterial health, according a study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Harvard researchers recently reported that middle-aged women who imbibed one alcoholic drink a day were about 20 percent more likely to be being free of chronic illness, disability, and cognitive decline 12 years later, compared to nondrinkers. Cheers!
#11. Hug the one you love.
People who received a 20-second hug from their partner before a stressful task (giving a speech about an upsetting experience) had significantly lower blood pressure and levels of stress hormones than those who sat in a quiet room without their partner, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study found. In another study, the researchers reported that women who received frequent hugs from their partner had higher levels of oxytocin. Known as the cuddle chemical, this hormone enhances social bonding and cardiovascular health.
#12. Cover your clock.
Its normal to wake briefly several times in the night, but if you keep an alarm clock by your bed, you can inadvertently createor worseninsomnia by checking the time, sleep researchers report. Clock-watching makes you worry about the rest youre not getting, making it harder to doze off again