Surprise—it’s not money woes, long work hours or other stressors that have the greatest impact on your health. It’s your attitude toward them. According to a Penn State study, folks who adopt a positive mindset when facing problems—such as looking for a silver lining or thinking “this too shall pass”—are healthier than folks with the same exact problems, but who let them sour their mood. Why? Coping mechanisms like these lower your body’s output of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been linked to the development of serious ailments, such as heart disease and stroke.
When you’re tempted to give up on your weight-loss plan, consider this: A Johns Hopkins University study shows you can folks who drop just 15 pounds have 20% deeper, more restful sleep, resulting in more daytime energy. Reducing body fat enables you to breathe more easily, so you’re less likely to wake up in the middle of the night.
Don’t smile too much! Sounds counterintuitive, however, a recent study in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior reveals that recruiters rate interviewees who smile every now and then far more favorably than those who force a smile throughout most of the interview. The reason? Intermittent smiles seem more genuine, making you appear more trustworthy and sincere.
Does your pooch bark and whine when you leave the house, take him for a ride in the car or have company over? Try tuning the radio to a classical station. Research from Colorado State University shows that tunes by Mozart, Beethoven and other classical musicians have an even more relaxing effect on anxious dogs than soothing music created specifically to calm canines.
Great news, lovers of caffeinated coffee and tea: These delicious brews not only give you a boost in pep, they also help you see the world as a rosier, happier place to be. That’s the word from researchers out of Germany’s Ruhr University whose recent study shows that caffeine triggers certain changes in language areas of the brain that make you more likely to spot and focus on uplifting words around you, for instance, an article about a local hero in your newspaper and inspirational quotes on Facebook. Sounds like a good reason to pour yourself a cup right now!
When you’re meeting someone new—say, at a networking brunch or singles event—keep your cell phone in your purse or pocket. In a study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, strangers who had a conversation with someone who kept their phone out of sight felt the person was more likeable and trustworthy than those who put their phone on the table…even if they never used it. The mere presence of a phone makes people think they’re going to be interrupted at any moment, which is distracting and makes it harder to bond.
Want to get over a tough day or simply bump up your mood on a hum-drum one? Tack a few more minutes onto your usual exercise routine, for instance, go for a longer walk or do a few more yoga poses. On days that volunteers did just this, they reported feeling happier and more satisfied with their life, according to a study in the journal Health Psychology. Exercise prompts the brain to churn out feel-good endorphins and reduce its output of stress hormones—and adding a few more minutes than you usually do intensifies these positive effects!
Shocked when your dentist tells you have one or more cavities that need to be filled…especially since you’ve had no discomfort and have been brushing and flossing regularly? Before you schedule an appointment to go under the drill, first ask your dentist if these are “microcavities”, which is an early stage of tooth decay. If the answer is “yes”, consider waiting six months or getting a second opinion. Today’s modern dental equipment is able to pick up minor erosions that can often be “remineralized”, meaning they can be reversed by regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste and avoiding acidic drinks like soda. So by your next check-up, they may be gone—no filling needed!
If you know me, then you know my stomach: It’s pretty finicky. I’m lactose intolerant, have food sensitivities and food frequently simply doesn’t agree with me. So, with all this sour stomach experience, you’d think I’d be an expert at banishing bloat. But, not so! I recently came upon a study in the journal Gut that reveals I was making one key mistake whenever my tummy swelled with air: I usually lay flat on my bed when it happens, but researchers found that doing so tells your digestive system to slow down, trapping the gas longer! Instead, they found it’s more effective to stand up or walk around, which tells your digestive system to keep working, so it pushes the gas out faster.
Want another easy bloat-buster: Try sipping peppermint tea or eating candy made with peppermint oil. Research shows that peppermint relaxes the intestines, allowing pent-up air to escape more easily.
I’ve tried to kick the caffeine habit more often than Lady GaGa changes her outfit. But, after suffering a week of crippling withdrawal headaches and irritability that annoys everyone within a 50-foot radius of me, I always come crawling right back to caffeine. I can’t help it–it’s just so effective at reducing migraine pain (it constricts dilated blood vessels and research shows it enhances the effects of painkillers by 40%) and additional studies show it eases discomfort from a vigorous workout, which I can say from personal experience is thankfully true. And now a new study out of Norway’s University of Oslo reveals yet another reason I can keep on chugging caffeine: It reduces aches and pains in your neck, shoulders, forearms and wrists caused by computer work. As the researchers explain, caffeine stimulates certain cells in the body that block pain–and the effect lasts for hours. Sounds like a reason to brew another cup!