6 Surprising and Fun Habits to Improve Your Health

Whether it's taking a vacation or having a good laugh, here are several tips on living a healthy life.

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- Posted on Nov 7, 2017

A happy family having a lot fun at the beach while taking pictures.

The typical prescription for living a longer, healthier life doesn’t necessarily sound exciting: eat well, get adequate sleep, find purpose, and give back. Guess what? There are actually easy and fun things to do to improve your health. Here are a handful of happy habits you can work into your week that will help keep you healthy for years to come.

Own a pet. Sure, they can be a lot of work, but a volume of studies point to the extensive health benefits of pets: the reduction of stress hormones, improvement in immune system functioning and pain management, and an increase in levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. According to a study published in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology, owning a cat dramatically reduced a person’s chance of dying from heart disease. People who owned cats were 30 percent less likely to suffer from a heart attack.

Take vacations. Over the past 15 years, Americans have been taking less and less vacation. What we may not realize is that our pursuit of productivity comes with a health price tag. A volume of studies suggest that travel and leisure contribute to positive health and actually help us live longer. One study published in Psychosomatic Medicine recruited a group of middle-age men at high risk for coronary heart disease and followed them for a nine-year period. Researchers concluded that the frequency of annual vacations was associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality, and, more specifically, for mortality attributed to coronary heart disease.

Sing in the shower. Actually, you can sing wherever you like, but just sing. Music, in general, offers great health benefits: it improves blood vessel health, lowers heart rates, soothes the nervous system, and improves cognitive functions. Singing has also been found to help immune function in cancer patients. One study followed 193 participants affected by cancer (caregivers, bereaved caregivers, and patients) who were regular participants in five choirs and took part in one hour of group singing. In all participant groups, singing was associated with reductions in cortisol, the stress hormone. Not only does singing improve mood, but it strengthens the immune system. So sing your heart out.

Belly Laugh. Getting healthy doesn’t have to be a serious endeavor. In fact, it’s best if you loosen up and allow yourself a few good belly laughs each day. Laughter helps us fight off disease, because it aids our immune system. When we laugh, we breathe with our diaphragm, which stimulates the cleansing of the lymphatic system, helping to eliminate toxins. It also decreases inflammation. In a 1996 Japanese study of 41 people with rheumatoid arthritis and 23 healthy subjects, researchers demonstrated that laughter reduced levels of inflammation-triggering cytokines in the people with rheumatoid arthritis. Laughter could help protect you against a heart attack, according to a study presented at the American College of Cardiology meeting in 2000 by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM) in Baltimore. It also regulates blood pressure and increases oxygen-rich blood flow throughout our body, both of which are critical to heart health.

Spice it up. You think aging means adopting a diet of bland, boring foods? You’re better off spicing up your dinner plate with turmeric, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, and ginger. The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric can slow down the aging process and positive health in a variety of ways. One study published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science found that an antioxidant in turmeric might extend lifespan. Rosemary produces compounds called heterocyclic amines that help reduce risk of cancer. Cinnamon may help lower blood sugar and fight diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity. Ginger can promote attention span and memory. Oregano has one of the highest antioxidant ratings, containing rosmarinic acid that supports immune system health.

Untidy Your Bed. Your mom meant well when she implored you to make your bed in the morning, but new research says that an untidy bed may keep the dust mites away that are thought to cause asthma and allergies. A Kingston University study discovered that these critters can’t survive in the dry conditions of an unmade bed. Researcher Dr. Stephen Pretiove said, "Something as simple as leaving a bed unmade during the day can remove moisture from the sheets and mattress so the mites will dehydrate and eventually die." Reduce your risk of asthma and allergies by leaving a messy bed.

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