Are you feeling burned out of stressed? Well, we’ve got some great news! The easy lifestyle tweaks below can help you calm down, unwind, even sleep better and lose weight. Read on for how to make all your good-for-you habits even more effective — so you look and feel your best.
Listening to birdsong fosters calm — fast!
When you’re feeling frazzled, set aside your phone. Researchers reporting in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that carving out 15 minutes a day to power off your electronics and do something peaceful — like reading a book, painting, or even just listening to the birds sing — makes you feel significantly more content and relaxed.
Stress less by taking a spin around the block
You already know that a brisk walk releases feel-good endorphins that quash anxiety. Now, research in the journal Social Science & Medicine proves you can boost the benefit just by hopping off the treadmill and heading outside. Scientists found that when you walk, jog, or bike in nature, you feel 50 percent calmer than if you’d exercised inside. The change of scenery delivers distractions (think flowers and cute critters) that make it easier to forget your worries.
Bonus points if you find a park with a pond! A study in the journal Health & Place found that visiting “blue spaces” like lakes, oceans, or pools weekly makes you 70 percent more likely to feel sunny. Researchers credit the calming spaces with soothing your autonomic nervous system.
Safeguard your sight by eating greens this way
When it comes to keeping your vision sharp, you’re smart to load up on greens like spinach, which contain rich stores of the “eye vitamin” lutein. But instead of using it as a salad base or sautéing it as a side dish, try tossing a handful of the leafy greens into your morning smoothie. Swedish researchers say blitzing the leaves releases 133 percent more lutein — plus pairing it with dairy fat from milk or yogurt maximizes absorption of the vitamin.
Or dance! Put on the radio and cut a rug. Regular aerobic activity like dancing improves the flow of nutrient-rich blood to the eyes. Researchers at the American College of Sports Medicine report this reduces your risk of developing visionhampering cataracts.
Sleep deeper with a spa bath
Aah…there’s nothing like sinking into a warm soak to wind down before bed. And the cool-down after you step out of the tub kick-starts the production of melatonin, lulling you to sleep.
For even deeper rest, combine 10 drops of lavender essential oil with 2 cups of Epsom salts and stir the mixture into your bath. The soft scent of lavender has a sedative-like effect that helps women fall asleep 36 percent faster and promotes deep, restorative sleep, making you 81 percent more likely to wake up feeling refreshed.
Or create a bedtime playlist!
Add a few of your favorite relaxing songs to your MP3 player and listen to the tunes 45 minutes before bedtime. A study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that blissing out with calm music reduces the body’s alertness hormones, significantly improving your sleep.
Protect your heart by brewing tea longer
If you already savor a cup of black tea daily, you’re keeping your ticker young with every sip. Tea’s flavonoids are known to lower your blood pressure, triglyceride levels and cholesterol.
To supercharge the heart-smart brew, British scientists recommend steeping black tea for at least five minutes to absorb 60% more antioxidants.
And unwind with a comedy!
Dig into a funny book or cue up a rom-com. A study in The American Journal of Cardiology found that laughing releases nitric oxide, which widens the blood vessels to help your heart beat easier.
Speed weight loss with spicy salsa
Snacking throughout the day is study-proven to keep insulin levels steady and metabolism humming. But to really send fat-burning into high gear, opt for a midday snack with a kick.
Foods like salsa with spicy peppers or hummus with a dash of hot sauce contain capsaicin, a compound that University of Maryland scientists say increases metabolism by 25 percent for three hours, the calorie-burning equivalent of a 40-minute walk!
Or close your eyes!
Tempted by a sweet? Shut your eyes and imagine a beautiful scene, like a beach. Scientists at Canada’s McGill University say thinking about something pleasurable shuts down cravings to make weight loss effortless.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine