Health

6 Quick Ways to Feel Happier and Healthier in Just 2 Minutes

Outsmart end-of-winter doldrums.

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Whether you find your mood and energy drained more easily because of rainy spring weather, being cooped up inside more often, or lingering cold-weather aches and pains, we have the solution to help you feel happier and healthier in just 2 minutes!

To boost pep: Put on your red

Spring may be here, but at least 67 percent of us are feeling draggy because still-short days and chilly weather have depressed an energizing region of our brain called the limbic cortex.

The good news: Scientists at Nebraska’s Creighton University say simply gazing at a bright red sweater, scarf or pillow for two minutes can boost focus, energy and stamina by 35 percent for one hour. Just the sight of this cheery color stimulates electrical activity in a weary limbic cortex.

To soothe stress: Sing with a pal

Singing with a friend or loved one or in a choir — or even along with a favorite tune on the radio — cuts tension and anxiety by 55 percent in two minutes for 90 percent of women studied. Psychologist Julie Lynch, PhD, explains that adding your voice to a song prompts your brain to release the calming, mood-steadying hormone dopamine. Feel self-conscious about belting out tunes? Cornell University researchers say even just quietly humming along to much-loved music can make your stress levels drop by 45 percent!

To banish the blues: Take a minute for a stretch

Even people not prone to blues produce fewer mood-boosting endorphins when days have been dark, so it’s no wonder 75 percent of us notice a downturn in happiness by the end of winter. To pump up your mood by 65 percent for one hour, take one minute to do a few stretches, making sure you hold each pose so you feel a strong — but not painful — pull for 15 seconds. British researchers say when any muscle is stretched to its comfortable limit, its sensory nerves signal brain cells to release a flood of endorphins.

To pummel pain: Try devil’s claw

If cold-weather aches won’t abate, devil’s claw can help. This medicinal plant gets its name from the little hooks on its fruit. And British studies suggest taking 2,000 to 3,000 mg. daily relieves back, neck, tendon and joint pain for up to 75 percent of sufferers, making it as effective as many prescription pain meds. Credit harpagoside, the plant’s anti-inflammatory, muscle-relaxing, painkilling compound.

To crush cravings: Draw dancing daisies

Chilly days make 55 percent of us crave sweet treats or carb-laden snacks. But you can double your odds of resisting that cookie tray — and shed up to 6 pounds in the next two months — by taking two minutes to sketch something silly or upbeat, like a dancing flower or a house with wonky windows. Researchers at New York’s Brooklyn College say the act of sketching something smile-worthy stimulates the brain region (the prefrontal cortex) that heightens self-control.

To deepen sleep: Shift your eyes

A setting sun is your brain’s cue to release sleep-inducing theta waves. But when dreary weather disrupts that release, it can leave you restless and wide-eyed. To drift off in half the time: Turn out the lights, cozy up in bed, and breathe calmly and deeply while slowly moving your eyes up and down. Psychologist Tara Komori, PhD, says combining controlled breathing with simple eye motions prods your brain to release theta waves.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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