Health Hacks That Ac­tu­ally Work

Reader's Digest International - - Contents - BY TERESA DUMAIN

Crack­ing Up with Friends In­creases Pain Tol­er­ance

Gen­uine, feel-it-in-your-gut laugh­ter trig­gers the re­lease of mood-boost­ing en­dor­phins, which leads to a higher tol­er­ance for pain. Re­searchers at Ox­ford Univer­sity, Eng­land put frozen wine-chiller sleeves around vol­un­teers’ arms both be­fore and af­ter hav­ing them watch funny sit­coms, stand-up com­edy rou­tines, or se­ri­ous doc­u­men­taries. Those who laughed could with­stand pain longer, and laugh­ing along with oth­ers re­lieved pain bet­ter than did chuck­ling alone.

Singing Pre­vents a Cold

The catch: You have to belt it out with other peo­ple. Group singing in­creases lev­els of SIGA, or se­cre­tory im­munoglob­u­lin A—the fancy name for an an­ti­body that serves as the first line of de­fense against bac­te­rial

and vi­ral in­fec­tions. Stud­ies found that choir singers have lower lev­els of the stress hor­mone cor­ti­sol and bet­ter moods over­all, which prob­a­bly plays a role in the im­mune sys­tem boost. “There’s some­thing about hav­ing to co­or­di­nate your ac­tions with those of oth­ers that brings par­tic­u­lar health ben­e­fits,” says Daniel Levitin, PhD, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy, neu­ro­science, and mu­sic at McGill Univer­sity in Mon­treal, Canada.

Chew­ing Gum Sharp­ens Your Wits

The same habit that ir­ri­tates eti­quette stick­lers may help you con­cen­trate bet­ter. Bri­tish re­searchers had two groups of peo­ple lis­ten to ran­dom lists of num­bers and re­mem­ber cer­tain se­quences; gum chew­ers had higher ac­cu­racy rates and faster re­ac­tion times than did non–gum chew­ers, es­pe­cially to­wards the end. Other re­search sug­gests gum chew­ing may im­prove a va­ri­ety of cog­ni­tive func­tions, in­clud­ing mem­ory, alert­ness and at­ten­tion, and en­hance per­for­mance on in­tel­li­gence and math tests.

Watch­ing Re­runs Re­stores Men­tal En­ergy

You know that lit­tle voice in your head that makes you feel bad for get­ting sucked into Se­in­feld again? Ig­nore it. Ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists at the Univer­sity of Buf­falo, USA, re­runs can jump-start your en­ergy. Test sub­jects who watched a re­run of their fa­vorite tele­vi­sion show af­ter com­plet­ing an ex­haust­ing cog­ni­tive task felt more en­er­gized. The rea­son: Re­runs don’t re­quire much men­tal ef­fort (since you al­ready know the plot­line) and of­fer in­di­rect so­cial time with beloved char­ac­ters with­out the en­ergy-drain­ing ef­fects of in­ter­act­ing with a real per­son. This com­bi­na­tion, re­searchers spec­u­late, al­lows men­tal re­sources to build back up so you feel re­plen­ished.

Wear­ing Socks to Bed Im­proves Sex

How Dutch sex re­searchers fig­ured this one out is prob­a­bly the most in­ter­est­ing part. They had mem­bers of 13 cou­ples take turns ly­ing with their heads in a scan­ner while their part­ners… uh, ex­cited them… so the sci­en­tists could com­pare brain ac­tiv­ity in dif­fer­ent states, from sim­ply rest­ing to or­gasm. About half the women couldn’t cli­max—but the prob­lem was that their feet were cold. The brain re­gions re­spon­si­ble for anx­i­ety and fear (the amyg­dala and pre­frontal cor­tex) need to be de­ac­ti­vated for women to suc­cess­fully reach cli­max. A pleas­ant en­vi­ron­ment, which in­cludes room tem­per­a­ture, is an im­por­tant part of mak­ing women feel safe and se­cure. When sci­en­tists doled out socks to in­crease sub­jects’ body tem­per­a­tures—mak­ing them more com­fort­able—80 per­cent reached or­gasm.

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