Sometimes it can seem as if getting healthy--both physically and mentally--necessitates making big life changes such as working out every day or meditating for 20 minutes every morning. While these practices certainly will do you a world of good, you can take baby steps which involve a much smaller commitment of time. Check out what researchers have found regarding tiny habits which can have a huge effect on your health and well-being.
Slow breathing can change your life
That's according to a scientific literature review published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience which scoured 2,461 research abstracts, pulling 15 of the most rigorous studies to analyze. The studies provided data arising from Electroencephalography (EEG) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), as well as Heart Rate Variability (HRV), Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA), and Cardio-Respiratory Synchronization. Data from the studies show that slow breathing techniques affect the autonomic and central nervous systems to increase relaxation and alertness and decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression and anger.
If you'd like to try slow breathing, but aren't sure how to do it, check out the 4-7-8 method developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. Essentially, you keep the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth right behind your top front teeth, breath in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and blow out audibly through your mouth for eight seconds. Dr. Weil recommends doing this for four breath cycles, twice a day. After doing this daily for four to six weeks he says you can use the method before reacting to a negative situation, to reduce cravings and to fall asleep faster. After two months you can experience lowered heart rate and blood pressure, better digestion and a reduction in anxiety symptoms, Dr. Weil posits.
Sit up straight for improved thinking
Researchers in California and Taiwan split a group of 125 students into two groups and asked the first to sit erect and the other to slouch while both subtracted 7 from 964 for 30 seconds. The researchers then reversed the groups and asked each to start subtracting at 834. With experience doing this math with good and bad posture, students rated the task as much more difficult when slouching, compared with when sitting straight up.
Sleep better by turning off the lights before bed
If sleep is an issue for you, you probably know that artificial light and the blue light emitted from electronics mess with your circadian rhythm, or the internal clock which keeps your body working properly. When the circadian rhythm is disrupted, insomnia can ensue, as can many other health issues including impaired cognition, cancer and obesity. But researchers at the Salk Institute just published a paper which explains one process by which this unhealthy disruption happens. Within the eye's retina are light-sensitive cells which behave like pixels in a digital image. When they're exposed to artificial and ongoing light they regenerate the protein melanopsin which suppresses the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. So, if you want to sleep better, make your evenings darker and shut down any electronic devices well before bedtime.