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Mental Health

6 Natural Ways to Ease Cravings, Headaches, and Other Common Health Bothers

Between work and family, we’ve all got so much on our plates. Even if we’re tired, stressed, or have a stomach ache, life goes on — and so must you. Here are six quick remedies to outsmart busy-day health bothers.

Belly troubles? Hum a tune.

Go-go-go days can trigger GI upsets. Blame cortisol — a stress hormone that makes your GI tract slow to empty and quick to cramp up. For speedy relief, hum a tune! Scientists at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University say humming soothes the nervous system, cutting cortisol production by 25 percent and easing cramping and indigestion in as little as two minutes.

Always tired? Sip citrus.

Chronic weariness is the top complaint of stressed women. And it’s no wonder! Stress hormones provide a burst of energy, but levels that stay too high for too long hinder the production of GABA — a brain hormone that gives you calm, steady energy, Canadian researchers say. 

To cut tension in half in 20 minutes — and boost your energy by 35 percent —sip four ounces of 100 percent orange juice diluted in eight ounces of water twice daily. Australian scientists say oranges’ citrus oils increase GABA release while the fluids help flush stress hormones.

Head hurts? Inhale the scent of freshly cut grass.

Your brain releases beta waves to heighten focus and energy, plus keep headaches and other pains at bay. But when your nervous system is in overdrive to keep up with your duties, beta wave production can plunge. 

The good news: You can stop a stress headache — often in just five minutes — by breathing in the aroma of freshly cut grass (tear off a few blades and roll them between your fingers if there’s no lawnmower in sight). Australian scientists say the distinct scent stimulates your brain’s limbic system to prompt beta wave release.

Battling cravings? Brush your skin.

If seasonal busyness has you craving comfort foods, try dry-brushing your skin for five minutes. Stanford University researchers say stimulating pressure-sensitive skin nerves triggers your brain’s release of serotonin — a hormone that slashes the urge to eat in half for four hours. Use a long-handled body brush and short, firm strokes to brush from your ankles and wrists up toward your heart.

Can’t unwind? Rock it out.

When you’re feeling tense and on-edge, try gently rocking on a swing, hammock or rocking chair, or even just swaying from side to side while chatting on the phone or folding laundry. 

Finnish research suggests this simple trick will help you feel 65 percent calmer and happier in five minutes. Explains naturopath Elaine Wilkes, PhD, rocking puts your entire nervous system into a relaxed meditative state, plus it calms the amygdala (the anxiety center in your brain).

Burned out? Gaze at a vacay pic.

Focusing 100 percent of your attention on a cheery summer vacation photo could make your stress level plunge when you’re feeling overwhelmed — and restore your mental stamina— in 60 seconds. Explains Scott Haltzman, MD, author of The Secrets of Happy Families, when you stop scrolling and study a truly meaningful photo, your brain releases oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that helps you feel calm, focused, and mentally energized.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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