That was my first reaction when I read about some of the weird health boosters described below. Many sounded too good to be true or just plain improbable. But when I thought about them further, I had to admit that they made good sense.
Do YOU have any of these stranger-than-fiction health boosters in your life? Here they are:
2. Telling the truth. I kid you not when I say that a recent study by PT blogger Dr. Anita Kelly and her colleagues revealed that honesty is the best policy when it comes to health. In this study, participants were divided into two groups, the Sincerity Group and the Control Group. The Sincerity Group were given these instructions:
“Throughout every day of the next 5 weeks, you must speak honestly, truthfully, and sincerely—not only about the big things, but also about the small things, such as why you were late…. While you certainly can choose not to answer questions, you must always mean what you say.”
The results? The members of the Sincerity Group experienced an average of 7 fewer sickness symptoms—such as headache, sore throat, or nausea–during the 5 weeks of the study. Although based on only 70 participants, I’m inclined to believe the study results. Lying is stressful, because, to paraphrase Mark Twain, it requires a better memory. I must admit that I enjoy the idea that virtue is not just its own reward but has health benefits, too!
3. Windows in your workplace. A small study compared 27 workers in windowless offices with 22 in workplaces with windows. The office workers with more light exposure had better sleep quality, longer sleep duration, were more active, and had better quality of life than those workers without windows. Exposure to light, especially in the morning, had beneficial effects on mood, alertness, and metabolism, according to one of the study authors, because light is a powerful agent for synchronizing biorhythms.
4. Green plants. And speaking of the workplace, offices enriched with green plants not only increased workers’ productivity (by 15%), but also made them happier. The simple act of adding attractive greenery made workers feel more engaged with work, better able to concentrate, and healthier. This study is part of a larger body of work that suggests that plants in the workplace can lower stress, increase attention span, improve air quality, and boost emotional well-being.
5. Blue water. A swimmer I’m not. I’m content to be a land mammal. So I was a bit skeptical when I heard about the new book, Blue Mind, which argues that water—being in it, on it, near it, or under it—can calm a frazzled mind and make a body healthier. But author W.J. Nichols amasses oceans of scientific information to make his point that cultivating a “blue mind” can benefit our health. Major health benefits include stress reduction; increased physical activity; better mental health; a calm state of mind; and rejuvenation for an over-stimulated brain. Stress reduction alone brings a host of health benefits in its wake–less damage to all our bodily systems, decreased risk of premature mortality, better memory, and better self-control. So, just looking at a body of water can be good for the body—as well as the mind. As I pondered Nichols’ argument, I recalled wonderful vacations near the water–and realized that I still use photos from those vacations as my desktop background. Hmm…
6. Relating to nature. Let’s see…natural light, green plants, blue water, better air quality…hey! That sounds like being out in nature. Indeed, there are now numerous studies showing that if you spend time in nature, you are likely to be happier, less stressed, and healthier. “Nature relatedness” also contributes to maintaining positive mental health. This well-researched blog by PT blogger Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell can point you to some excellent, well-controlled studies that highlight these conclusions. (Exception: Woody Allen, who is reputed to have said, “I am at two with nature.”)
7. Moderate worrying. In their book, The Longevity Factor, authors Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin, discovered that moderate worriers were likely to live longer, healthier lives because they can envision the worst and prepare for it. They are also less prone to taking foolish risks. This counter-intuitive conclusion was based on a long-term study of over 1500 people.Of course, good health has to be built on a strong foundation of basic building blocks—good nutrition, exercise, sleep, supportive relationships, and various other good habits like daily sunscreen and flossing. Still, these odd health promoters are pleasant surprises. What else out there is contributing to our good health–or robbing us of it–without us fully realizing it.
Meg Selig is the author of Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success (Routledge, 2009). Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.