How To Stress Less, Live Long and Be Healthy
Confused about where to start your health journey? Sometimes, it just means keep doing what you've always done. Find out why these common activities are scientifically proven to benefit your body and mind.
One of the most common reasons why we can't make time for self-care is lack of time and resources. And yet, what if we told you that you're already on the right track? We eat certain things, sleep at a certain time, or develop certain habits like brushing our teeth, exercising or taking a shower—they are all tried and tested methods of being better versions of our species. However, after doing these things every day for all our lives, these actions seem mundane and we forget why we were doing them in the first place. Here are ten such everyday things that might not seem special to you, but have been proven by research to do wonders for your health and well-being.
1. Tea and coffee reduce risks of dementia and stroke: Can you imagine waking up to the winter sun without a hot cup of tea or coffee in your hands? Although detrimental in excess, coffee as well as tea has been proven to keep your brain and heart healthy as you age. "Drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee and tea daily was associated with a 32% lower risk of stroke and a 28% lower risk of dementia," says a 2021 study published in the PLOS Medicine journal.
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2. Walking prolongs life expectancy: We're all for walking. A free, energising and full body workout that lifts your mood, burns calories and betters your health? Sign us up. In fact, a 2006 British Journal of Sports Medicine study noticed a reduced rate of mortality and improved cardiovascular health in people who walked regularly, both at a fast and slow pace. Get moving—be it in your house, in a park or on the road (with safety).
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3. Physical touch can boost immunity: Touch starvation is very real, especially in the COVID-19 world. Be it sexual, romantic or simply affectionate intimacy—sometimes, a single kiss or hug can make your day. Not only can hugs relieve stress and pain, romantic kisses can initiate the exchange of millions of "good bacteria" (Microbiome, 2014). This restructuring of our oral microbiota aids in a better immune system.
4. Arts and crafts have healing powers: From scribbling on walls as toddlers to scribbling on the last page of our notebooks, from drawing a sun in the corner of the page to drawing full canvases—art lives, breathes and grows alongside life. In fact, art helps to "heal emotional injuries, increase understanding of oneself and others, develop a capacity for self-reflection, reduce symptoms, and alter behaviors and thinking patterns," says an American Journal of Public Health paper. What's more, being creative with your friends and family is one of the best shared experiences to bond over.
5.Brushing your hair is a free conditioner: Have you heard of sebum? It is, as Harvard Health Publishing explains it, a naturally occuring oily substance produced by sebaceous glands to keep our skin moisturised. Although too much sebum (mixed with dirt and dead skin) calls for a wash, research does advise against excess shampooing—to preserve some of the natural oils in the hair. When you brush or comb your hair regularly, not only does it increase blood flow and massage your scalp, the bristles also help distribute sebum throughout your hair, thereby keeping it moisturised.
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6. Laughter is a natural workout: Laughter is truly the best medicine, the best expression of positive feeling. Time and again, studies have shown the incomparable benefits of laughter and humour on not only our psychology but also our physiology. It reduces cortisol levels and pain, releases endorphins and builds camaraderie. What's more, laughing gets your heart pumping and works your abdominal muscles—giving you a mini cardio session each time you crack up.
7. Chewing gum improves concentration: Your parents may have warned you against it in childhood (probably due to a choking hazard), but chewing gum is also known for reducing nausea, suppressing cravings and most importantly—improving cognitive skills. A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Psychology concluded that "chewing gum can help you stay focused for longer on tasks that require continuous monitoring," with quicker and more accurate reactions.
8. Decluttering elevates self-esteem: Often, when we live in a cluttered space, it can clutter our minds too. We tend to lose focus, feel out of control and hamper our productivity. Thus, not only does organising our living space keep us active, it also lifts our mood and self-confidence, says a 2012 study by the University of California, Los Angeles, USA.
Related story: How This One-Minute Rule Can Declutter Your Life
9. Sunlight improves sleep: Sunscreen is a must-have for everyone—but did you know that you still need exposure to the sun? As a 2008 paper published in the Environmental Health Perspective journal shows, sufficient vitamin D means healthier bones, lesser risks of certain cancers (breast, ovarian, colon, pancreatic, prostate) and more. The paper also suggests that 10 to 15 minutes of daily sun also helps in producing serotonin (the happy hormone) and advancing the nocturnal production of melatonin—a key hormone that aids sleep at night.
Related story: How to Layer Sunscreen With Your Skincare
10. Listening to music strengthens memory: Music having beneficial properties is not a shocking revelation. It breaks language barriers and connects people, helps us cope and relieves stress. However, did you know that music-lovers tend to have better memory? A 2013 Memory and Cognition study of 60 adults learning a new language concluded that those who sang the phrases were able to recall them much better than those who did not. Music not only improves cognitive and visual memory, it can thereby also aid patients with Alzheimer's, dementia and brain injuries. So put on your favourite tunes, learn a new instrument or do a little jig and have a little party every day.