Sometimes, doing things for your health feels like a chore. But, what if you could make yourself feel better and look younger while pampering your body and indulging in seemingly sinful treats? You can! These healthy tips for the year ahead feel a little naughty. Who said nothing good for you was fun?
Have more sex
Sex increases blood flow, which gives you a glowing complexion, brings oxygen and nutrients to the skin to fight wrinkles, feeds your hair for a thick, healthy mane, and relieves stress for hours (or even days!) at a time. As far as your arteries are concerned, sex is as good as a Zumba class, decreasing your chances of heart disease, cancer, and depression. Women with an average sex life are two to eight RealAge years younger.
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Have a drink each night
One glass of wine or a low to no-sugar cocktail each night increases your chances of living into old age without cancer or lung or heart disease. Keeping it to one alcoholic drink daily is heart healthy, increasing good cholesterol (HDL) by about 12 percent. This moderate alcohol intake also reduces blood clotting — by thinning the blood and dampening proteins that promote blood clots. Bonus: One study found that women who drink a glass of wine daily are thinner.
Take long walks
Besides helping you get to that ever-distant 10,000 steps a day, long walks give you something just as beneficial — time to yourself. Separating your body from the stressors of daily life gives you a chance to appreciate the world around you and take a break from tension. Do yourself a favor and leave the iPod at home. Mindfully take in your surroundings — the scenery, the smell of the air, the feel of wind on your skin — to reap the fullest mind-body benefits.
Make a weekly date night or friend night
Maintaining close relationships is a key to health and happiness. Your friends and family provide understanding and support that you can’t get anywhere else. Your wellbeing is important, so prioritize relationships and make time to see (or call) your closest compatriots. And, if you’re married or in a serious relationship, it’s especially important (and fun) to carve out time for togetherness to reinforce your bond.
If you’re going to have dessert, why not have something delicious that is also doing you a lot of favors? Dark chocolate — that is, with at least 70 percent cocoa, no added sugar and no (zero) milk fat — is a huge beauty boon. It supports circulation, which is good for skin and hair (and your heart, of course!). It’s also full of antioxidant flavanols that fight sun damage and wrinkles, and research shows that women who eat a little chocolate five times a week have lower BMIs.
Massage isn’t just a way to treat yourself on a special occasion (although a spa day is a great birthday present for yourself!). Massage produces measurable biological effects, including a decrease in hormones associated with blood pressure and water retention, and a possible increase in immune function. Aside from Swedish massage, hot stone, and other traditional back and full-body massages, we highly recommend a foot massage. It elevates oxytocin, the hormone that makes you feel warm and fuzzy, and helps flush waste from your system. It’s also great for foreplay (see our first tip).
Repaint your room
Thinking about giving your old drab walls a fresh coat? If you’re having trouble justifying the cost of this “superficial” endeavor, consider it a health and wellbeing expense. Color can impact your mood. Try hues in the blue-green range. Blue is a calming color that can help lower blood pressure. Green is a representation of nature and can put you in a relaxed or refreshed mood.
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Buy new clothes
Here’s another expense that you can write off for wellness (ever once in a while!). Invest in new duds to show off your shape — it’s a powerful statement to yourself that you appreciate your body’s natural curves and straightaways. When you dress for your body shape you’ll feel more confident, which is beautiful inside and out. (Not sure of your shape? Take our Body Shape Quiz.)
You can use makeup and hair techniques to boost self-esteem just like you can with clothes for your body shape. Play up your favorite features or balance out imperfections by learning the best colors and applications for your skin tone, face shape, hair type, lips, and eyes.
Sleep more and take naps
We know this will come as no surprise to most of you, but it bears repeating: You’re probably not getting enough sleep. The ideal amount of sleep is six and a half to eight hours per night. Whatever your optimal number, aim to make sure that you have at least that much time in bed — with the lights and television off! — before the alarm goes off. Factor in however long it usually takes you to fall asleep, too. And remember, good sleep hygiene is about more than hours. Keep technology out of the bedroom; the lights from gadgets keep you awake even after you power them off. The bedroom is for sleep and sex only. Feeling sluggish in the middle of the day? A 20-minute power nap is proven to revive you.
Jump on the bed
Okay, there’s one other thing you can do in the bedroom — jump! Let yourself go and allow your body to move, hop, wiggle, dance, and shake. Acting out “happy” movements lifts your spirits and gives you a brighter outlook on the future. Battle the blues with a one-woman dance party for an instant pick-me-up whenever you need it.