msn health & fitness SMALL CHANGES, BIG RESULTS
Finding the self-discipline to live a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy. But what if healthy changes required little to no effort on your part? Changing the color of your water bottle, displaying a colorful bowl of fruit within arm’s reach and chatting with a friend can make you happier, healthier and boost your brainpower — with little conscious effort. Here experts talk about ways you can trick yourself into living a healthier lifestyle.
SLOW YOUR BREATHING … TO FALL ASLEEP EASIER
The next time you find yourself tossing and turning and unable to sleep, try slowing your breathing by matching the breathing pattern of your sleeping partner. “When you match your breathing to your partner’s, you are practicing a deep breathing technique,” says Matthew Mingrone, otolaryngologist and lead physician for EOS Sleep California Centers, San Francisco. Deep breathing serves two purposes: it calms the central nervous system and acts as meditation to quiet the mind. “It helps you focus on sleep and breathing instead of any other worrisome or stressful thoughts that may be keeping you awake,” says Mingrone. If you’re alone simply try deep breathing yourself: slowly breathe in through your nose, hold a few seconds, and then slowly exhale through your mouth.
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SURROUND YOURSELF WITH BLUE … AND BE HAPPIER
Although it’s often associated with feeling down, the color blue may actually do the opposite, according to a study from the University of Sussex. Brain waves of people viewing the color blue showed increased boosts of happiness.
Try these ways to boost the blue in your days, from Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D, author of “A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness”:
· Hang a blue-themed picture on the wall of your office or other room where you spend a lot of time
· Get blue pillows — on your bed, your couch or even your office chair
· Put a blue picture on your refrigerator
· Drink water out of a blue cup or water bottle
· Choose blue soap in your bathroom
· Look out at the blue sky during the day
ASK TO SEE THE CALORIE COUNTS WHEN YOU DINE OUT … AND EAT LESS
Before you place your order, ask to see the calorie count of the offerings and you may order less food. Even better, translate those calories to the number of minutes it will take you to burn them off. According to researchers at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, people who ordered from a menu that translated the number of calories in a meal to the number of minutes of brisk walking it would take to burn it all off ordered less food than people who ordered without the calorie burn-off equation labels. “The majority of restaurant meals are three times the calories you’d think,” says Lisa DeFazio, Hollywood dietician. “People are often shocked when they see that their favorite meal is 2,000 calories — their total daily calorie limit.” Knowing it takes two hours of running to burn off a meal may make you think twice about ordering that Alfredo dish. “You may decide it’s not worth it, and therefore order something healthier,” says Fazio.
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SMILE LIKE YOU MEAN IT … TO BOOST HAPPINESS
Smiling when you don’t feel happy can help reduce the way your body perceives stress, according to a study published in Psychological Science (2012). Subjects who smiled through a stressful test showed lower heart rates and reported less stress. Other studies from psychologists at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people whose ability to frown was compromised by Botox injections were happier, on average, than people who could frown. “If you’re really feeling down, however, it is a good idea to assess why,” says psychologist Lombardo, who suggests posting reminders to yourself to smile. “Oftentimes, being happier better helps you deal with whatever’s going on.”
SLEEP IN YOUR WORKOUT CLOTHES … SO YOU’RE READY TO WORKOUT
Digging around for workout clothes in the morning may be enough to make you ditch the idea altogether. Sleeping in your shorts and a T-shirt means you’re ready to go when you get up, says Tom Holland, exercise physiologist and author of “Beat the Gym.” “Another way to psych yourself into working out is to tell yourself you’re only working out for 10 minutes,” says Holland. “Once you get started you’ll likely keep going.” In addition, when weight training, trick yourself into doing more repetitions by changing the way you count, suggests Holland. Instead of aiming for 20 pushups, for example, think of it as four sets of five.
LIGHT A PEPPERMINT SCENTED CANDLE … TO CURB YOUR APPETITE
The next time you’re tempted to grab a donut, try sniffing a peppermint or vanilla-scented candle instead and you’re likely to lose your desire to eat it, according to Alan Hirsch, neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. “Ninety percent of taste is about smell,” says Hirsch. “Smelling food creates satiety and can satisfy cravings, so when you’re presented with real food you’ve tricked your brain into thinking you’ve already eaten it.” Spray a tissue or handkerchief with a food aroma or light scented candles. Sniff it a few times whenever you feel a craving.
SPIKE YOUR SMOOTHIE … TO GET YOUR VEGGIES
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables every day. If you’re not a veggie lover, try tossing them into a smoothie and you’ll reap the benefits without tasting them, says dietician Fazio. “Smoothies are a great way to hide healthy ingredients.” Add a handful of spinach or other greens into a smoothie for added nutrition. Fazio recommends kale, as it’s one of the most nutrient-packed veggies, along with carrots and berries to balance out the flavor. Or make your favorite protein smoothie by adding 25 percent broccoli florets along with berries, a banana and honey to taste for a nutritious pre or post-workout drink.
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KEEP FRUITS AND VEGGIES WITHIN ARM’S REACH … AND YOU’RE MORE LIKELY TO EAT THEM
In addition to spiking your morning smoothie with veggies, keep fruit within sight and you’re more likely to eat it, according to a study published in the journal Environment and Behavior (2012). People ate more apple slices when the apple pieces were placed in a clear bowl and in close proximity versus in an opaque bowl farther away. “To do the same at home, save time by buying pre-cut veggie and fruit trays at the market,” says Fazio. When you buy fruit like melon, cut it up and store it in the fridge, but leave it out on the table after dinner so it’s in front of you, Fazio suggests.
DOODLE DURING IMPORTANT PHONE CONVERSATIONS … AND IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY
The next time you’re in an important meeting or listening on the phone to a conversation, try doodling at the same time and you’re more likely to remember key facts. Doodling geometric shapes while listening to a monotonous mock telephone message listing names of people coming to a party enabled study participants to recall nearly 30 percent more information on a recall test, according to a study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology (2010). The researchers speculate that doodling helps people concentrate by stopping the mind from wandering without interfering with the task of listening.
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MAKE SMALL TALK … AND IMPROVE MENTAL FUNCTIONING
Chitchatting with others not only keeps you in touch but also makes it easier to solve problems, according to a study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science (2010). According to the study, brief social contact helps improve executive function, which includes working memory (short-term memory), self-monitoring and the ability to suppress internal and external distractions—all essential for solving life problems. Study participants who engaged in brief conversations where they simply were told to get to know the other person showed increased performance on a variety of common cognitive tasks. The scientists believe the performance boosts relate to engaging other peoples’ perspective on things.
CLENCH YOUR LEFT HAND … TO HELP RECALL EVENTS
Clenching your right hand may help you create a stronger memory of an event, according to a new study in the journal PLOS ONE (April 2013). To recall it later, clench your left hand. According to the study, simple fist clenching helps you remember and recall on cue. The study participants were divided into four groups, which clenched their right and left hands in various combinations while being asked to memorize and later recall a list of 72 words. The group that clenched their right fist while memorizing the list and then clenched their left when recalling the words performed better than all the other hand clenching groups. The researchers believe these simple body movements temporarily change the way the brain functions and may improve memory.
CHOOSE DOUBLE-DUTY PRODUCTS … TO REDUCE YOUR RISK OF SKIN CANCER
To reduce your risk of skin cancer, experts recommend wearing sunscreen whenever you go outdoors. Instead of trying to remember to slather on sunscreen every morning, weave it into your daily routine by using double-duty skincare products, says Debra Jaliman, a New York based dermatologist and author of “Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist.” “For those with oily skin a nice trick is to use a powdered sunscreen and use it instead of facial powder. It also comes in bronzing colors so you could use it instead of a facial bronzer.” For men and women, use body lotions and hand creams with built-in sunscreen after showering or shaving.