1. Give someone a hug. “Most modern-day health problems — digestive disorders, obesity, insomnia, mental fog, depression, premature aging, diabetes, cancer — are either caused or exacerbated by stress,” says Kayleigh Pleas, a certified holistic health coach who has a master’s degree in applied positive psychology and is associated with Tournesol Wellness, a holistic medical facility based in New York City. Luckily, humans are hardwired with a coping mechanism that’s activated by comforting physical contact: The body releases a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin tells your brain that you’re safe, which deactivates your fight-or-flight response to stress and lets your body focus on healing and maintaining its systems. So hug it out.
2. Touch yourself. While another person can trigger the release of oxytocin, you can always muster it up on your own: Just place a palm on your bare chest and feel the warmth, Pleas says.
3. Floss. Research suggests that questionable oral hygiene can lead to gum inflammation, sores, and ulcers, and leave your mouth open to infection, including HPV. Because floss removes food bits that your toothbrush can’t reach, it’s 100 percent necessary to get all up in there, between and around each tooth.
4. Wash your hands (like you mean it). It takes 20 seconds to properly wash your hands with soap and water, and 15 seconds to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, like Purell. “Keeping hands clean and free of germs is your first line of defense against illness,” says Dr. Roshini Raj, an attending physician at NYU Medical Center/ Tish Hospital.
5. Microwave your kitchen sponges. Kitchen sponges are notorious for harboring nasty germs, says Dr. Raj, and that can get into your food or hands, and make you sick. Microwave the sponges for 30 seconds to kill the germs every day, and replace them every two weeks.
6. Call your mom. Science says just hearing your mother’s voice makes your body produce extra oxytocin, which also helps heal your wounds — literally.
7. Prep whatever fruit is in your fridge. Even if you’re not hungry. “I rinse a carton of blueberries and put them in a bowl in the fridge or on the counter, so when I go to snack, I have a healthy option ready to go and am not tempted by unhealthy choices,” says The Biggest Loserhost Alison Sweeney, whose healthy habits helped her shrink from a size 12 to a 4.
8. Schedule your weekly workouts in advance. Take a minute to add a week’s worth of workouts to your calendar, Sweeney suggests. If you can make the time upfront, you’ll be less likely to make excuses later on.
9. Give yourself a breast exam. It’s not sexy, but it could tip you off to a potentially harmful lump. The best time of month to check things out is the week after your period. Here’s how to cop a feel. If anything feels off, call your doctor.
10. Press on your “positive points,” the area right above the pupils and halfway between the eyebrows and hairline, and press for about one minute, suggests occupational therapist Mari Miyoshi, who teaches a coping technique called Brain Gym at Tournesol Wellness. When you’re stressed, this exercise can bring the blood into the prefrontal cortex, which helps you make more thoughtful decisions to benefit the body and mind, Miyoshi says.
11. Think about flexing. A recent study suggests that just thinking about moving your muscles can help you maintain your strength when you can’t (or choose not) to exercise.
12. Chug a beer. Hops (an ingredient in beer that prevents it from spoiling and makes it taste bitter) contain an antioxidant that may fend off Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, according to a recent study. (You don’t have to drink a beer in 60 seconds to benefit. But you sure can, if you’d like!)
13. Stand up. The more you sit on your butt, the more likely you are to die from basically anything. Get up as often as you can, or better yet, arrange your workspace so you can stand while you work.
14. Open your hips with a stretch. When you sit for extended periods of time, your hips and torso get locked into one position, which causes tension, says Brooke Siler, certified Pilates instructor and author of The Pilates Body. For some sweet relief, lunge forward with your right foot, and place a blanket or pillow underneath your left knee. Keeping your hips squared to the front of the room, let your left knee sink down, squeeze your glutes, and draw your abs in to avoid tilting your pelvis forward. To increase this stretch, lift your left arm up and over your head, then lean toward the right. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side for the same amount of time.
15. Strengthen your feet. “The amount of time our poor feet spend stuffed into ill-fitting shoes is enough to cause issues right up the entire line of the leg, from the knee to the hip to the back,” Siler says. Practice this exercise for one minute to strengthen the arches of your feet and prevent pain: Come up to the balls of both your feet near a wall or railing, and hold on to help you balance. Squeeze your heels together as you lift them up off the floor. Keeping your shoulders stacked over your hips, bend your knees and open them out to the sides as you lower your butt a few inches toward the floor. Next, drop your heels to the ground and press up through the heels to straighten your legs and come up into a standing position. Continue for 30 seconds, then reverse the movement (start with your heels on the ground as you bend your knees, then lift your heels and press up through the soles of your feet) and repeat for 30 more seconds.
16. Lower your thermostat. Cold temperatures make your body’s unhealthy white fat act a little more like brown fat, which helps the body burn more calories at rest — a good thing if you need to lose weight for health purposes. While you’d need quite a bit of cold exposure to improve your health, every minute counts!
17. Pound a glass of water, suggests The Biggest Loser trainer Jennifer Widerstrom. When you drink too little, you abuse your body in a few different ways: You slow digestion, make it more difficult for your kidney to filter toxins from the blood, provoke headaches, and dry out your skin. (And that’s just the short list.) Your mind suffers too: You get moody, you don’t think as clearly, and you might mistake hunger for thirst. Thank god there’s an easy fix that’s free and fits in a glass!
18. Take some belly breaths. Place your hand on your stomach, and feel it rise and fall with your breath. Try to make each inhalation and exhalation longer than the one before for five rounds. It alleviates stress, and ~bonus~ helps release neck and shoulder pain, Widerstrom says.
19. Google “adorable puppies.” According to a Michigan State University study in which researchers monitored female bus drivers for two weeks, faking a smile at work can worsen your mood, which can, over time, stress you out. However, thinking about happy things that make you smile for real can improve your mood and, in turn, reduce stress — even if your puppy porn session only lasts a minute.
20. Refill your coffee cup. New science on the benefits of coffee crop up almost daily. The latest suggests that java could ward off skin cancer — particularly among people who drink insane amounts.