Use a healing touch
We're a touch-hungry society, one more inclined to sit glued to a screen than to reach out. But we do this at our peril: Studies at the University of Miami Medical School's Touch Research Institute show that a 30-minute massage boosts confidence, eases pain and relieves depression. When someone touches your skin, you release endorphins, feel-good hormones that boost immunity and lower stress hormones. Touching also spurs on the happiness hormone serotonin and oxytocin, the antidepressive chemical released during lovemaking.
- Look younger, too! Stroke your face it stimulates the making of collagen, the protein that keeps skin firm.
- Live in a touch-friendly home. Tactile fabrics like velvet and faux fur create pleasurable surroundings. Wearing silks and velvets heightens your sensuality and can help you relax.
Become a good listener
It seems like every day we're assaulted with sounds that disorient, jolt, frustrate and irritate. Instead of switching off completely, learn how to appreciate the noises that soothe such as a bird's song or the sound of softly falling rain. Or turn on some music you love. Music therapists believe melodic classical rhythms are more therapeutic than pounding pop beats, but any favorite tune can lift a blue mood.
- Make your own beautiful music. Singing and humming work just like an internal massage that vibrates and calms both body and mind, releasing stress and pent-up emotions, and boosting both your mood and your immune system.
- Laugh. It's the healthiest sound there is, says Desmond Morris, author of The Nature of Happiness. Just hearing yourself or someone else laugh makes for an instant de-stressor.
Taste the moment
Food is our fuel, but it's also our pleasure. Unfortunately, rushing through meals makes it hard to savor flavors (and leads to overeating). Ditch fast food for soul food and take time to enjoy delicious morsels you may even lose weight!
Although we have 2,000 taste buds, they only register five sensations sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savory (as in meat) while our sense of smell fills in the subtle flavors that let us relish food. If you pinch your nose and take a bite, then release it and take another, you'll see how different food can taste! You can fine-tune your taste buds. Give your jaded palate a fresh start with this weeklong, four-step detox plan. When the week is over, you may savor the simple tastes so much, you won't go back to supersaturated flavor.
- Don't swamp your tongue. Cut down on foods that are overwhelmingly salty or sugary.
- Keep it fresh. Toss refined and processed foods in favor of natural, healthy whole foods.
- Keep it simple. Stick to fresh, seasonal, homegrown produce where you can.
- Keep it clean. Cut out tea, coffee, alcohol and carbonated drinks, and ease up on spices so you can develop a palate that appreciates a wider range of delicate flavors.
Look at what's around you. Whether it's the face of someone you love or a beautiful vase that catches your eye, what matters is your ability to absorb the scene and to let it inspire you.
- Color yourself calm. Interior decorators know that certain nature-related colors soothe hues like blue (reminiscent of sky and ocean), green (grass and leaves) and brown (earth). To relax fast, look up at the sky or out on some grass. Or just shut your eyes and imagine a color you love.
- Ease eye strain. Place your palms over closed lids so they block out the light. You'll see color swirls at first, then soothing black as your eyes relax.
Wake Up and Smell the Roses
Smell is our most primitive sense and is key to how we interpret the world. There's a connection between odors and the brain region that governs emotions, according to Alan Hirsch, M.D., founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. Bad smells can alert us to danger, while familiar scents mean food, comfort even love.
•Use scents to boost your mood. Studies suggest that different scents stimulate us in different ways: Lemon helps you become better at detail work; peppermint aids concentration; pine relieves anxiety; vanilla comforts. Smelling lavender can improve your ability to add figures, and can also relax you and help you go to sleep.
•Sniff little, sniff often. Our noses tire easily, so it's best to smell in moderation smell for two seconds, pause for 20 seconds, then smell again. Sniff different scents alternately to intensify their specific qualities. Then stop and rest your nose by quickly breathing in and out through your nose before continuing.