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10-Minute Health Hacks

10-Minute Health Hacks

By Sheryl Kraft

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So many people say they don't have time for wellness. Their days are busy, filled with overflowing to-do lists which morph into tomorrow's undone chores and even more responsibilities.

And by week's end that list seems to take over like an out-of-control weed, with wellness slipping further out of reach.

But there are many things that don't take much time at all—and it'll take you less than 10 minutes to read all about them.

  1. Nap for 10 minutes. A daily nap would benefit all of us. As Michael Breus, PhD, aka "The Sleep Doctor" writes in his book The Power of When: "Most of us were designed by evolution to sleep for seven or eight hours a night and to nap briefly at midday … if we grab forty winks, we work, think and feel better." Hard to argue with, and proven by science.

    But the reality is that the culture has not kept up with the science, he says. And a lot of us feel we don't have time to nap or insist that if and when we do nap, we wake up groggy, so it's not worth it.

    But here's the good news: When researchers studied five groups of nappers, they found that those in the 10-minute group won hands-down. A five-minute nap is not beneficial; but a solid 10-minute nap? That's enough to restore focus and productivity. You may be tempted to sleep longer (naps can feel so, so good, can't they?), but resist the urge to stay put or you risk falling into a deeper sleep and waking up feeling groggy and disoriented (known as sleep inertia).

  2. Walk gently for 10 minutes. Just 10 minutes of gentle or easy walking helps the brain, according to new research. It's already known that new brain cells develop when we exercise, but that involves moderate or vigorous exercise (like brisk walking or jogging) for prolonged periods (weeks or months).

    This new research found changes in brain function associated with learning immediately following just 10 minutes of gentle exercise like a short walk or an easy session of yoga or tai chi. It's no wonder I get my best ideas when I'm outside walking.

  3. Move 10 minutes out of every hour. Sounds easy, but this often goes by the wayside as we get too busy or focused at work. (That's why it's a good idea to write the reminder on a post-it and stick it onto your computer or put a reminder into your phone.) Most of us have heard that "sitting is the new smoking." Yes, too much sitting is bad for your health. Anything that gets you out of your sitting position and up and moving is beneficial to your mind and body and your productivity, too. Do some gentle stretching, a few yoga poses or some jumping jacks or push-ups: they're all healthy, not to mention energizing and life-affirming.

  4. Do something you love for 10 minutes each day. This is usually last on our list, but taking just 10 minutes to do something you love each day will yield much more than 10 minutes of pleasure. This type of indulgence is incredibly powerful and healing and well-deserved, no doubt. Whether it be soaking in a bubble bath, leafing through a magazine or taking out your crayons and coloring book, you'll get great pleasure out of doing something just for you.

  5. Take a 10-minute time out. Do something that is more like doing nothing: Meditate, breathe deeply or just sit quietly. At times, life can certainly get overwhelming or, at the other extreme, seem like drudgery. A quick escape can help combat stress, chronic pain, anxiety and even insomnia. And while you're at it, you might want to sniff some lavender. A new study has found that linalool (an alcohol component of lavender odor) has similar effects on a mouse's brain as Valium (without the side effects).

  6. Eat mindfully for 10 minutes. If you're the type to plow through a meal or read or watch television while you're eating, chances are you're missing out on what you're eating or maybe even eating too much, past the point of fullness. Taking time out to be mindful of the experience and engaging all your senses—slowing down, noticing the flavors and textures, shutting out distractions and embracing food as an experience rather than just sustenance—can have a multitude of positive health effects and can even promote weight loss.

  7. Listen to music for 10 minutes. Listening to music is not only relaxing (providing you listen to the right music) but also beneficial for your brain. Known as the "Mozart effect," when researchers at the University of California, Irvine, studied three groups of students, they found that those who had listened to a Mozart piano sonata for 10 minutes (as opposed to those who had listened to a relaxation tape and the group that waited in silence), had higher IQ test scores.