"I don't have time to take care of myself," said — well, a heck of a lot of people. OK, then. Each of these speed-of-light shortcuts can be done in three minutes (or less!). They'll ease your pain, strengthen your heart, improve your sleep, and more.
1. Stop Stress With a Smile
Having an it-rained-on-my-blowout kind of day? Turn things around by grinning. Research shows that feedback sent to the brain from uplifted facial muscles can ease anxiety — even if you have to fake the smile. This works even better if you combine the smile with a positive, cheerful thought. (Anything involving puppies should do the trick.) Feeling better?
2. Brush to the Beat
More than 30 percent of us aren't scrubbing our teeth long enough, which means we're probably leaving behind plaque that could harden and turn into gum disease. The fix: Load your phone or iPod with songs lasting two-ish minutes (the recommended amount of brushing time) and keep that toothbrush moving until the tune ends. Pick your favorites, or get started with this playlist:
- "Fell in Love with a Girl" The White Stripe"All Shook Up" Elvis Presley
- "I Will" Radiohead
- "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" The Smiths
- "Let's Dance" Ramones
- "Gone" Jack Johnson
- "Guess Things Happen That Way" Johnny Cash
- "You Can Do Better than Me" Death Cab for Cutie
- "Tick" Yeah Yeah Yeahs
3. Grab the Honey Jar
The kitchen staple proves that it's the bee's knees by doubling as a health remedy.
Ease Coughs: Mix a teaspoon of honey into your cup of joe: The combo has been found to calm coughs. Honey can soothe the throat, and methylxanthine, a stimulant in caffeine, may expand airways, helping to reduce that hack, hack, hack.
Care for Cuts: Manuka honey from New Zealand has bacteria-battling power thanks to a high concentration of a compound called methylglyoxal. Dab it on burns and minor wounds, then cover with a Band-Aid for faster healing. Tip: You can find the honey at health-food stores, but choose a jar labeled with a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) of 10 or higher. This means that it's medical grade and edible.
Keep Glucose in Check: Sweet news: Diabetic patients who swapped out sugar for honey had more stable blood sugar levels. Make the trade for your tea, oatmeal, or whatever else you typically sprinkle with sugar.
4. Open Up for Love
Connect with your partner — without booking a hotel room — by telling each other a secret. Sharing something private with a person you care for increases intimacy and trust, and a happy, committed relationship is good for both of you: It can boost your mental health and his physical well-being.
5. Sidestep Drugstore Lines
You've got better things to do, right? Try out CVS Pharmacy's Curbside Pickup program. Place your (nonprescription) order using CVS's mobile app, and you'll receive a text when it's ready. Once at the store, your bags are delivered straight to your car so that you can make a speedy getaway.
6. Delete Tech Pain
Hunching over a computer from 9 to 5 tightens upper body muscles. Open up your chest this way: Stand with heels, tailbone, shoulders, and head touching a wall. Reach arms out to the side, then bend at elbows to make a goal-post shape with arms. (Backs of hands should touch the wall.) Hold for one minute.
People who walk quickly may live longer, so focus on a spot ahead of you, such as a tree or stop sign, when you're out there. Research shows this helps increase your pace while (bonus!) making the distance appear shorter.
8. Take a Quickie Diabetes Quiz
Scary stat: Forty percent of Americans are expected to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during their lifetime. Find out if your health history and habits are setting you up for the disease here. If the quiz puts you in the danger zone, make a game plan with your doctor to change course. Simple habits like walking for 30 minutes five days a week and piling more produce onto your plate may help reverse your risk.
9. Say Cheese
Do like the French and tuck into a little fromage at the end of dinner. You could stave off trips to the dentist: One study found that finishing a meal with a piece of cheddar raises the pH level in the mouth and helps to lower the chance of cavities. Plus, certain minerals in cheese (calcium and phosphorus) may stick to the enamel of your teeth, protecting them from acid erosion.
10. Shake Down Sodium
Stealth swap: Set a bowl of lemon wedges on the dinner table in place of the saltshaker and use a squeeze to bring out the flavor of foods. Research found that taste testers actually preferred dishes like veggies, pork, and fish when lemon juice replaced up to 75 percent of the salt.
11. Get Better Sleep Tonight
Quality z's help you control weight, improve mood, and cut dementia risk, yet 58 percent of people wish they knew more about getting truly restful sleep. Wish granted.
Skip the Sheep: Zip off to dreamland by counting down by threes from 300 in your head. It helps because you have to give it your full attention, which distracts you from the bills-are-due-tomorrow bogeyman or whatever else is keeping you up. Three hundred, 297, 294, 291...
Get Juiced: Fact: Your ceiling is no fun to stare at — especially at 1 A.M. End the trend with tart cherry juice, which is a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles. One small study found that drinking 8 ounces both morning and evening may gift insomniacs with an extra 85 minutes of shut-eye.
Switch Sides: Acid reflux keeping you up? Try sleeping on your left side. When you snooze on your right, the valve that keeps stomach acid out of your esophagus tends to relax, which lets that burning stuff wander up — burp — where it doesn't belong. (Remember it this way: Right is wrong!)
Go Bananas: Eat a tablespoon of almond butter and a small banana a few hours before going to sleep for a double-whammy bedtime snack. Almonds and bananas contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which the body converts to melatonin. They also boost levels of serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter that helps to relax you.
12. Be Prepared for Paper Cuts...
...and splinters, headaches, etc. Fill an empty pill bottle with a couple of bandages, an antiseptic wipe, travel-size tweezers, and a packet of pain relief pills. Toss the pint-size kit in your purse and you'll be ready for any mini emergency.
13. Exercise Anywhere
Easy, effective, and efficient — that's the Oz way!
Start a Routine: Linking a mini-workout regimen with something you do each day helps it become automatic. As the coffee brews, for example, hold a plank for 60 seconds.
Boost Balance as You Blow-Dry: Do knee lifts while you're styling your hair to improve stability and tone your abs. Stand on your left leg and raise your right knee, turning it out to the side. Pulse the knee up and down 10 times. Switch legs.
Take This Chat Challenge: When you're on the phone, work your glutes, quads, and calves with a wall sit. Press your back up against a wall, walk feet out about a foot, slide your back down the wall until your knees are at a 90-degree angle, and hold. Good gossip will help you hang in there!
14. Check Your Heart
You may feel young, but your ticker could be on the fast track to retirement, since habits and family history can age it. Find out how old your heart is at heartage.me, then use the site's tips to help turn back the cardiovascular clock.
15. Sleep in Your Workout Duds
Yes, it sounds crazy, but hear us out: Waking up dressed for the gym means there's one less hurdle standing between you and your jog or yoga class. Choose seamless, wicking pieces — they're comfy in bed and can help keep you cool. All you'll need to do in the A.M. is slip on a sports bra, socks, and your sneakers. Simple.
16. Silence Stress
Frazzled, frantic, or just plain furious? Steal a moment of calm with the Three Minute Mindfulness app, which walks you through breathing exercises. Researchers say that mindfulness-based stress reduction may lower blood pressure — a good reminder that there's no place like om. Phone not nearby? Try this practice instead: Sit with a straight but relaxed back, close your eyes, and just breathe. Focus on the way the air passes in and out of your nostrils, allowing all of your thoughts and worries to float up, up, and away.
17. Conquer Pain, DIY-Style
All-natural relief means that the only side effect is feeling better fast.
Nix Tightness: Press a small rubber ball or tennis ball into any muscle knot to relieve tension. If the tight spot is in your back, scooch the ball between you and a wall, dig in, and hold.
Soothe Feet: Plagued by plantar fasciitis? Fill a paper cup with water, freeze, then peel away the top half of the cup to expose the ice. Massage on the heel and arch: The ice decreases inflammation and the rubbing action may help break up scar tissue — something an ice pack just can't do.
Zap Cramps: Fill a large sock with rice, tie at the top, and microwave for two minutes or until the sock is warm (but not hot) to the touch. Then cuddle up. Experts have found that heat eases menstrual discomfort, possibly by increasing blood flow to the uterus.
18. Be Sketchy
Fight forgetfulness with a pen and paper. A study found that drawing what you want to remember improves recollection of, say, names and events, even if you have just a few seconds to scribble. And don't worry if you're no Picasso — the quality of the sketch doesn't matter.
19. Stop Hating Sit-Ups
Something trainers know: When doing a crunch, keep the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth to put the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) in the right position and relieve ouchy neck tension.
20. Buy Fruit. Put in Bowl. Lose Weight.
It doesn't get any easier. People who leave fruit and veggies out on the counter have a lower BMI compared with those who have no produce in sight. Plus, a pretty dish of oranges, cherries, and other beauties gives your kitchen a sweet makeover.
This story originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.
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