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December Health Tips

1-Minute: Smile – even if you don’t feel like it! It may sound strange, but a forced smile can actually make you feel happy (and make others around you feel happy), even if your existing mood isn’t. What’s more, smiling comes with a long list of healthy benefits, including: lowering heart rate, reducing stress, increasing productivity, releasing endorphins that lessen pain, and more.

5-Minute: Replace your furnace filter. Not only will it extend the life of your furnace and help keep your energy costs down, but doing so maintains healthy air quality in your home. This is important in a home where a family member or holiday guest has asthma or allergies, especially if you have pets. Replace your filter at least every three months, and when shopping for a filter, look for the MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) number, which will range from 1 to 12. The higher the number, the better the filtration.

15-Minute: Give back. Did you know that when you donate to a charity or volunteer for a cause, your brain acts in a similar way to when you’re doing something you love or eating chocolate? Giving can actually make you happier, according to studies. Find some local volunteering opportunities or charities that speak to you that are in need of donations. You don’t need to give more time or money than you’re able to see the benefits.

30-Minute: Put your phone down for better sleep. The holidays can be stressful, and getting a good night’s rest can be crucial for maintaining a busy schedule and staving off illness. Studies have shown that engaging in screen time activities before bed (including watching TV) can be detrimental to sleep. One reason is that the light from the screen suppresses melatonin levels. Take 30 minutes or more before bed to meditate or read a book.

This article first appeared in the December 2015 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.