How to Boost Your Health in Less Than a Minute a Day

Filed in The Healthy Writer by on June 9, 2015 • views: 1488

Close Up Of Hand Holding StopwatchWe writers tend to beat ourselves up every day.

We sit too long. We snack on unhealthy things. We don’t make time for exercise. It’s not easy trying to manage a writing career, take care of our families, and do what’s good for ourselves at the same time.

The nice thing about self-care is that the smallest effort can snowball into big benefits. To that end, I’ve listed 10 things you can do in one minute or less that will benefit your health, creativity, and well-being.

Everyone has one minute, right?

1. Drink a full 8-ounce glass of water with a couple tablespoons lemon juice.

To begin with, most of us don’t drink enough water each day. We get busy and don’t think about it.

A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 36 percent of adults—over one-third—drank only 1-3 cups a day (the recommended amount is 8 cups). Yet water is one of the best ways to curb appetite, avoid headaches, improve mood, reduce stress, and even reduce risk of heart disease.

Meanwhile, even mild dehydration can make you tired, cause you to crave sweet foods, and make it more difficult to concentrate—bad things for a writer!

Adding a little lemon juice gives you a good dose of several key nutrients, and will also help reduce risk of kidney stones, stroke, and cancer. Lemons also boost the immune system and help you maintain a healthy complexion.

One minute. That’s all it takes to enjoy an ice-cold glass of lemon water.

2. Jump rope.

It’s so easy, and it’s so good for you!

First of all, it will make you feel like you’re a kid again. You can do it anywhere, as long as you have a rope handy and the ceilings aren’t too low. It will get your heart beating quicker than just about anything (unless you want to do 20 push-ups—another good option but less fun for many). You’ll burn a few calories—more if you extend it 3-5 minutes. It’s also one of the rare exercises that gets your lymph system flowing, which can help flush waste products out of the body.

Keep a rope handy. Jump for 60 seconds. You’ll wake up body and mind—just try it!

3. Look away from the screen.

We writers (and all office workers) are horrible to our eyes.

We stare at stare at the screen. Over time, this causes “computer vision syndrome,” a nasty modern-day disorder that according to the American Optometric Association, results from prolonged computer use. Symptoms include light sensitivity, blurred vision, dry eyes, itching and burning, headaches, and even neck and shoulder pain.

In fact, according to a Japanese study, staring at a computer screen for hours at a time can actually cause changes in the composition of your tears, increasing risk of full-blown dry eye syndrome.

So take a minute and look away from the screen. It’s best if you focus on something that’s a good distance away. Look out a window, if you can. Give your eyes a break from the work of focusing on things up close.

4. Eat a piece of real dark chocolate.

We all get the munchies at the keyboard, but we usually choose something unhealthy to eat. Get yourself some quality dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao) and use that. Just be sure to limit it to one square so you don’t go overboard on calories.

You may be surprised at how well it will satisfy your cravings. Research published in 2008, for example, found that dark chocolate provided long-lasting feelings of fullness and reduced cravings for unhealthy foods, whereas milk chocolate did the opposite.

Dark chocolate also reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, relieves stress, and boosts brainpower. A recent 2015 study found that dark chocolate improves attention and helped improve blood flow to the brain.

One minute—enjoy that piece of dark chocolate, and feel better when you go back to work.

5. Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea.

Both are extremely good for you. Coffee will not only wake you up, it may help reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. It may even help you live longer, according to studies.

Tea may be easier on your digestive system (not quite as acidic), but has just as many benefits. Enjoy a cup of your favorite flavor and you’ll likely clear up brain fog, chase away the blues, and even curb your appetite, if you choose fennel seed or licorice root varieties.

You may be hard-pressed to get the whole cup down in a minute, but you can certainly make the cup in 60 seconds and then sip on it while you go back to work.

6. Call a good friend.

A number of studies have found that having a circle of friends reduces stress, helps maintain healthy brain function, and even increase longevity. According to the Mayo Clinic, friends boost your confidence, increase your sense of belonging, and can even help encourage you to stick with your healthy habits.

One minute may seem like a short call, but you can do it. Tell your friend you’ve got only 60 seconds before a meeting, and you were just thinking of him or her and wanted to call. I double-dog dare you to do it. As long as you call a good friend, you’re likely to walk away feeling a lot better than you did just a minute before.

7. Watch a funny video.

We’ve always heard that laughter is the best medicine. Now, we have a good amount of scientific evidence to prove it. A 2014 study, for instance, found that participants who watched funny videos performed significantly better on memory recall than those who didn’t—43.6 percent, compared to 20.3 percent. The humor group also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their bloodstreams.

Other studies have shown that laughter can actually burn calories—about 40 for every 10-15 minutes of laughter—and may help reduce risk of heart disease.

So go ahead—pull up the YouTube cat videos (or whatever ones you find hilarious) for 60 seconds. It will do your mind and body good.

8. Daydream.

Your teachers may have admonished you in school for daydreaming, but that’s because they didn’t know how good it was for your mind.

According to the a 2012 study, daydreaming is actually a strong indicator of a well-equipped brain. More specifically, the wandering mind was said to have higher degrees of working memory—those who more frequently daydreamed were actually better at remembering a series of letters.

Another study found that allowing the mind to wander increased creative insight. “[E]ngaging in simple external tasks that allow the mind to wander may facilitate creative problem solving,” the researchers wrote.

If you can’t stare out the window, try one of those mesmerizing screen savers, or look at some inspiring photos and let your mind go. Even 60 seconds can give you a well-deserved break, and may help you more easily come up with creative solutions to problems you’re facing in your writing or elsewhere.

9. Take a series of deep breaths.

Most of us spend our days taking shallow breaths that use only a fraction of our lung capacity.

What’s the matter with this?

For one thing, shallow breaths increase your risk of anxiety. It can also cause you to feel tired, suffer from muscle cramps, and experience digestive problems.

“Short, shallow breathing causes a cascade of negative effects in the body, and the body associates that with the fight-or-flight response,” says Al Lee, co-author (with Don Campbell) of the 2009 book Perfect Breathing. He added that shallow breaths increase levels of adrenaline and cortisol, the stress chemicals.

Deep breathing, on the other hand, promotes a feeling of calm, improves mental focus, and can help control blood pressure.

Take just 60 seconds to close your eyes and focus on your breath. Try placing one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, and focus on moving your stomach more with each inhale. When you accomplish this, you’ll be using more of your lungs and taking in more oxygen than what you get with normal, shallow, chest breathing.

10. Stretch.

Writers absolutely must stretch as often as possible.

We’re simply too tense and stiff, sitting at the computer all day. You probably feel it in your neck, shoulders, and back on a regular basis. In addition to the discomfort, chronically tense and tight muscles can contribute to poor posture.

Have you ever heard about a “writer’s posture?” Think stooped over, hunched shoulders, caved-in chest—your standard hunchback image.

Even if you’re not into yoga or any of the other common stretching exercises, you can ease some discomfort and prevent muscle strain and injuries by taking a minute every hour to stretch. It increases blood flow to muscles, helps realign your spine (possibly preventing back pain down the road), and will likely even refresh your mind.

If you’re not sure where to start, Healthline has a great series of stretches for desk jockeys. A quick downward dog will work for yoga lovers.

Do you have other ideas for boosting health in 60 seconds? Please share your tips.


Sources
Alyson B. Goodman, et al., “Behaviors and Attitudes Associated with Low Drinking Water Intake Among U.S. Adults, Food Attitudes and Behaviors Survey, 2007,” Prev Chron Dis 2013; 10:120248, http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2013/12_0248.htm.

Yuichi Uchino, et al., “Alteration of Tear Mucin 5AC in Office Workers Using Visual Display Terminals: The Osaka Study,” JAMA Ophthalmol. 2014;132(8):985-992, http://archopht.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1878735.

“Chocolate,” The Cleveland Clinic, http://www.clevelandclinicwellness.com/Promos/Pages/Chocolate.aspx.

Michelle Montopoli, et al., “The Acute Electrocortical and Blood Pressure Effects of Chocolate,” Neuro Regulation, 2015; 2(1): http://www.neuroregulation.org/article/view/14652.

“Friendship: Enrich your life and improve your health,” Mayo Clinic, February 5, 2014, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/friendships/art-20044860.

Yagana Shaw, “New Study Proves that Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine,Huffington Post, April 22, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/laughter-and-memory_n_5192086.html.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Chere Hagopian says:

    Fabulous suggestions! I have been eating high-quality dark chocolate and finding that it really does curb my appetite. If only I had discovered it earlier in life!!

    Walking or running up and down stairs a few times every once in a while throughout the day really wakes up my brain too.

    • Colleen says:

      Good suggestion on the stairs, Chere—thanks! So glad the dark chocolate is living up to its reputation! (ha)

  2. I like taking a 1-min break to do the plank pose. It’s a great core workout, and a single minute is more than enough for you to feel it!