31 Ways to Boost Your Mood—and Health This Month
Pack your calendar with fast and fun ways to see your health and spirits soar.
1. Join a running club
In a new study, mice that "worked out" en masse lost 50 percent more abdominal fat than their solitary peers. According to lead researcher Matthew during, Ph.D., a professor of neuro- science at Ohio State university Medical Center, this evidence suggests that being more social can help people shape up faster.
2. Give in to pressure
An easy way to work the kinks out of your back: Place a tennis ball between your shoulder blades and the wall and do a few deep knee bends. Ahh!
3. Get a low-fat jolt
A Tall cup of Starbucks' new Skinny Peppermint Mocha latte packs 11 grams of lean protein and only 110 calories.
4. Make more whoopee
People who have sex once or twice a week have 30 percent more infection-fighting antibodies in their saliva than those who get busy less often.
5. Chat up a stranger
Make the most of waiting in long lines by talking to someone. Wake Forest University research found that acting extroverted makes people feel happier.
6. Wash your hands
In a recent analysis of 390 cellphones, 16 percent were contaminated with E.coli-likely transferred from germy hands.
7. Take a deep breath
To subdue stress, inhale deeply so that your belly balloons but your chest stays still. Slowly exhale through your mouth until your stomach empties, and repeat.
8. Sip wine with dinner
New research shows that moderate drinking (one glass per day) ups your chances of living a longer, healthier life.
9. Be a soft touch
Don't let this be the winter of your skin's discontent. "As temperatures and humidity levels plummet, you can experience flaking, cracking, and even eczema," says David Bank, M.D., a dermatologist in Mt. Kisco, NY. The most effective hydrators attract moisture to skin and seal it in place. Try Eucerin Daily + Strength Body Creme ($8; drugstores).
10. Start glowing
Place a milk- soaked washcloth over your face for 10 minutes.
11. Get a flu shotIt's not too late-flu season doesn't peak until January or February, and it only takes two weeks to build up immunity. All CVS stores offer the vaccine every day. Go to cvs.com to find a location near you.12. Trim the tree with garlands of popcornRepetitive actions like threading popcorn are very calming. And because you know you'll eat some too, opt for the air-popped version, which contains 1 gram of fiber and only 31 calories per cup. 13. Stand under the starsOn the nights of December 13 and 14, look up to the heavens and renew your sense of awe as you view the year's last meteor shower. 14. Fight rightAre you and your spouse at odds about what to bring the in-laws? Avoid making your case with sarcasm, insults, or put-downs, which research suggests may weaken your immune system. 15. Go hear Handel's Messiah Attending cultural events-the cinema, concerts, or art exhibits-is significantly associated with good health and life satisfaction. 16. Celebrate your cravingsEnjoy some dark chocolate–covered cherries ($9 for 1-lb bag; nutsonline.com) on December 16, national Chocolate-Covered anything day! 17. Eat a clementine (or two)One of these tiny oranges, which are in season now, packs half your daily requirement of vitamin C. Bonus: The scent provides calming aromatherapy and, in one study, even reduced anxiety in dental patients. 18. Put flowers on your wish listNo matter the variety or color, a few blooms always brighten the mood. The positive effect of receiving a bouquet lasts three full days, according to a Rutgers University study. 19. Get moving!Start your morning by marching in place while doing the "YMCA" dance with your arms, suggests Scott Danberg of Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami. 20. Rethink your holiday menuWhether you celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas, you'll find the recipes in Gluten-Free and Vegan Holidays ($25; amazon.com) utterly delectable. Purple potato latkes, anyone?
21. Keep your (tight) pants on
To avoid return trips to the buffet (and packing on extra pounds), wear a belt or a pair of skinny jeans as a reminder to keep yourself in check.
22. Welcome winter
To prevent the season's shorter days from getting you down, try spending more time outdoors in the a.m. and arranging your home and workplace to let in more sunlight.
23. Cool your heels
Pep up tired peds with a peppermint-based foot cream that also smoothes rough patches. Try Bliss Foot Patrol ($18; blissworld.com).
24. Don't wait up for Santa
Sleep-deprived people are perceived to be less attractive in photos than those who got a good night's rest.
25. Date your leftovers
When properly frozen, turkey keeps for four months; stuffing should be enjoyed within one. To stay safe, label the container-try the container store freezer labels ($5 for 100; containerstore.com)-and mark it with the date.
26. Hit the sales
Buy yourself a brightly colored fruit bowl. New research conducted by Cornell University's Brian Wansink, Ph.D., shows people are more likely to eat fruit if it's in a vibrant dish.
27. Create a family health tree
Ensure better medical care in the future by keeping important deets at hand. Use the My Family Health Portrait tool at familyhistory.hhs.gov.
28. Come to order
Living with clutter has been linked to over- eating. To cut down on the mess (and bad snack habits), start by organizing a corner of the office or one kitchen cupboard.
29. Sing your heart out
Whether you're belting out "Auld Lang Syne" or "I will Survive," singing causes a dip in stress hormones, says Graham Welch, Ph.D., chair of music education at the Institute of Education in London. "It can also promote a greater sense of self-worth."
30. Join a gym
Health clubs are eager to hit their numbers by the end of the year, so you're likely to get a great deal now.
31. Resolve to be a lark
Early risers are thinner, happier, and less stressed, research has found. Now that's something to look forward to in the new year!