Health

6 Easy Ways to Nix Winter Health Bothers and Feel Great for the Rest of the Season

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The cold weather cab bring about all sorts of woes such as aches, stuffiness, and forgetfulness (ugh!). Luckily, you can get rid of them in seconds with these six simple ways to end winter health bothers!

Breathe to the beat aches.

We know deep breathing makes pain easier to ignore, but new research finds abdominal breathing (where you push your belly out as you inhale deeply) leads to biochemical changes that can nix even chronic pain if you do it for two minutes an hour. Study co-author Fred Sweep, PhD, says deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, prompting the release of inflammation-taming proteins and reducing the production of pain-triggering compounds. Tip: To make belly breathing a habit, slowly tap your foot and pace your breathing to that beat.

Try an acupressure trick to nix stuffiness.

Exposure to dust, mold and other indoor irritants combined with outdoor exposure to cold, dry air triples your risk of sinus irritation and congestion. For speedy relief, try this simple move: Push your tongue against the roof of your mouth for two seconds, then relax your tongue and press firmly between your eyebrows with your index finger for two seconds; repeat 15 times. UCLA scientists say this creates a rocking motion that gently moves a small bone in the nasal passage, opening and draining your sinuses in 60 seconds.

Reminisce to reduce stress.

Short days and dreary skies hinder the brain’s production of the calming hormone oxytocin, making 65 percent of us feel more anxious this time of year. The good news: Scientists at New York City’s Weill Cornell Medicine say touching a childhood memento (like a toy from your youth or a teddy bear that a little one in your family treasures) can quash stress and heighten happiness by 50 percent, often in as little as one minute. The reason? Researchers say the strategy activates the frontal lobe of the brain, prompting the release of oxytocin to steady moods and bring on calm.

Say this to stop forgetfulness.

Hoping to pick up milk on your way home, but not sure you’ll remember? Tell yourself, “If I pass a grocery store, then I’ll get milk.” In a University of Wyoming study, people who used if and then statements did better on memory tests than those who didn’t. Lead researcher Sean McCrea, PhD, explains, “Forming if and then plans helps people notice when to act and respond without thinking about it, like an instant habit.”

Drink a hot chocolate treat when you’re feeling blue.

Some 65 percent of us feel a bit meh this time of year since the sun’s UV light isn’t strong enough to signal the brain to produce the antidepressant hormone serotonin. The sweet fix: Sip hot cocoa fortified with medicinal mushrooms (One to try: Real Mushrooms’ Mushroom Hot Chocolate Mix, Buy from realmushrooms.com, $24.95). University of Connecticut scientists say a daily dose can cut blue spells by as much as 70 percent, thanks to unique happiness-boosting, serotonin-building compounds found in cocoa and mushrooms.

Shower with citrus to banish tiredness.

More time spent inside and inactive lowers your brain’s production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps you feel alert. But taking 20 seconds to inhale the aroma of citrus can help you feel 45 percent more clearheaded and energetic. And since citrus’ aromatic oils prod the brain to release feel-good chemicals like dopamine, you don’t have to eat the fruit to get the payoff, suggests research in Physiology & Behavior. Tip: Dopamine levels are lowest in the morning, so try showering with a citrus soap for a boost.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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