Turns out the joys of fall can boost your health with delightfully cool, crisp days that chase away stress, brighten mood, improve your well-being… and more!
Erase tiredness with a pop of red.
Instead of reaching for another cup of coffee when you feel your get-up-and-go starting to wane, pull on your favorite red sweater, crimson jacket, or cheery ruby scarf. According to University of Rochester investigators, just seeing the color red activates the area of the brain responsible for reversing tiredness and encouraging alertness, instantly lifting your energy levels by 31 percent.
Or open a window! Nothing like crisp air to quickly perk you up. Researchers from UCLA explain that fresh air flushes out stamina-sapping toxins that frequently build up indoors when your windows are closed, helping you feel up to 65 percent more clearheaded and sharp within minutes.
Pumpkin pie eases aches and pains in a week.
Digging into a slice of pumpkin pie or spooning up a bowl of pumpkin soup is a delicious way to boost health and ward off autumn discomfort. USDA researchers found that eating 2 1 ⁄2 cups of pumpkin each week delivers a dose of potent anti-inflammatory compounds that ease swelling by 25 percent. The payoff: Less pain, more flexibility, and increased freedom of movement in as little as one week.
Boost immunity with mulled wine.
Sipping a cup of mulled wine gives your body the boost it needs to fight off viral invaders throughout the chilly season. That’s the word from Spanish scientists, who say that flavonoids in wine and vitamin C in oranges work together to destroy viruses, plus boost production of virus-fighting antibodies. It works so well that researchers found women who enjoy a glass a day are 32 percent less likely to catch colds than teetotalers. Prefer a different nightcap? Carnegie Mellon scientists say folks who enjoy a serving of any alcohol daily are less likely to fall ill than those who abstain.
Or slip on fuzzy socks! Keeping your tootsies toasty can boost health by improving the ability of white blood cells to travel throughout the body and respond to viruses, helping ward off winter bugs. In fact, a British study found warm socks reduce your risk of getting sick by 61 percent.
Outsmart insomnia by knitting a scarf.
Get the urge to break out your sewing or crafting supplies when cooler weather blows in? Smart move. Not only is it a fun hobby, but keeping your hands busy by knitting a scarf or filling a scrapbook also helps you fall asleep faster. Harvard scientists say focusing on any type of handiwork for 20 minutes before bed lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol in as little as 5 minutes, plus triggers the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
Or build a campfire! Researchers at Connecticut’s University of Bridgeport say focusing on flickering flames helps the brain churn out calming alpha waves, cutting your risk of restless sleep by 50 percent.
End worries by leaf peeping.
When a hectic day leaves you feeling tense, grab a seat on a park bench and admire the fall foliage. A study in Environment & Behavior found that gazing at trees shifts the brain into a restorative state that triggers relaxation, reducing stress by up to 60% in 6 minutes. Can’t get outside? No problem! Researchers report pulling up a photo of trees busts tension just as effectively.
Or watch Halloween! Turn on your favorite scary movie. Surprisingly, a study in Emotion found folks are markedly less tense after getting spooked, since facing fears helps tame anxiety.
Spark joy with nature’s music.
Next time you’re feeling a little blah, take a stroll around your yard and listen to birds chirping, squirrels chattering, or the wind blowing through the trees. According to a study in Ecopsychology, nature’s music stimulates the brain’s frontal lobe to increase the production of feel-good beta waves, helping you feel 157 percent more upbeat. You can also get the perks from a free nature sounds app, like Nature Melody.
Or grab a blanket! Running your fingers along something fuzzy stimulates the release of the cuddle hormone oxytocin, which Loma Linda University scientists say cheers you up in 60 seconds.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.