10 Key Moves to Live Your Best Life

Ten ways to unlock your best life—with a single action.

keys and mirror
Levi Brown

Smile… To Spread Happiness

“The simplest and most reliable way to make someone smile is to smile at him,” says Marianne LaFrance, a Yale University psychology professor and the author of the book Lip Service.

“Smiles are the most contagious kind of facial expression, even among people who don’t know each other,” LaFrance says. That’s because seeing a smile and showing a smile originate from the same area of the brain.

Skeptical you can change your world by just smiling more often? LaFrance suggests trying this experiment: For one day, vow to not smile at anyone. The next day, smile at everyone.

Then compare both days. Chances are the second day will be one of the best you’ve had in a long time.

Cooperate … To Foil A Mugging

Forget about every Clint Eastwood movie you’ve ever seen. According to former FBI agent Mark Safarik, studies conducted over the past 20 years have all concluded the same thing: To avoid injury or death, cooperate fully with the thief. Since the crook will likely cop your mobile phone or tablet, use technology to nab him later. (Just be sure to first download and activate the Find My iPhone app or the Avast! security and antitheft app for Android.)

If you’re fortunate enough to locate your stolen device, report the information to police, and let them play Eastwood.

Sleep Well for Seven Hours a Night … To Look Younger

Researchers at University Hospitals Case Medical Center have shown for the first time that poor sleep can contribute significantly to looking older. Women ages 30 to 49 who said they usually slept fitfully had more fine lines and wrinkles, uneven pigmentation, and reduced skin elasticity and recovery than those who said they regularly slept well for at least seven hours per night.

Sleep acts as a repair shop for the skin, according to Jeffrey Benabio, MD, physician director of healthcare transformation at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. While you’re snoozing, inflammation subsides, soothing conditions such as eczema and acne.
“Beyond using sunscreen and not smoking, the best thing anyone can do to preserve his or her looks is to get a healthy seven to nine hours of sleep every night,” explains Dr. Benabio.

Water from the Bottom … To Perk Up Plants

According to Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden on National Public Radio, the best way to water a plant is not from above but rather from below, by setting the pot in a sink with a couple of inches of water for an hour, so that the plant can drink through its roots. Afterward, note how much heavier the pot feels. When it feels light again, add water.

key and band aid
Levi Brown

Call 911 and Chew Aspirin … To Stop A Heart Attack

After you summon an ambulance, chew one 325 mg adult aspirin or four 81 mg low-dose tablets, advises emergency physician Ryan Stanton, MD. “Aspirin stops blood platelets from clumping together and enlarging the clot that’s causing the heart attack,” he explains. “Chewing helps the aspirin enter the bloodstream faster.” In fact, Dr. Stanton says, anyone with a family history of heart disease should always carry a bottle of aspirin with him. As the drug works its magic, which includes helping to dissolve the clot, lie down and try to remain calm. “When the heart is not getting enough oxygen, any additional stress will increase the demand for oxygen,” explains Dr. Stanton.

Start with a Strong Story … To Command Attention

That’s the advice from statistician Sebastian Wernicke, who analyzed 1,500 TED Talks in an effort to gauge their oratory lessons. For Reader’s Digest, he compared the opening lines of the ten most popular TED Talks of all time with the ten most average ones. He found that the former began with a very focused anecdote that related to the overall topic. Here is one example from a popular presentation called “Stroke of Insight” by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor: “I grew up to study the brain because I have a brother who was diagnosed with a brain disorder: schizophrenia. And as a sister and, later, as a scientist, I felt that I needed to understand, Why is it that I can take my dreams, I can connect them to my reality, and I can make my dreams come true? And what is it about my brother’s brain and his schizophrenia that he is unable to connect his dreams to a common, shared reality, so they instead become delusions?”

Shower … To Calm Down

Few places offer the opportunity to lower anxiety in as many ways as a shower stall, says Debbie Mandel, stress-reduction expert and the author of Addicted to Stress.

For instance, the act of showering soothes tense muscles, and if you sing in the shower, all the better—singing boosts levels of hydrocortisone (a stress-reducing hormone). Also, talk therapy has been proved to ease anxiety and can be done while showering: Imagine your boss, ex-spouse, or anyone else causing you angst is in there with you. Then tell him or her what’s bothering you. Speak your mind. Use the back scrubber to make a point. Just don’t get angry, shout, or throw the loofah.

key and rings
Levi Brown
Spread Positive Energy … To Have a Happy Marriage

To achieve wedded bliss, aim for a 5:1 ratio of positive-to-negative exchanges. That was the magic number that emerged from a 14-year study that examined how couples handle conflicts, by psychotherapist John Gottman.

According to Gottman, couples who divorce have a positive-to-negative ratio that’s nearly equal (0.8:1). Although that sounds like a good balance, it’s not. Negativity is corrosive to relationships. However, couples who are happily married uplift each other five times more often than they undercut.

Try Chin-ups Followed by Squats … To Get in Shape

Two or three times per week, do one or two sets (five to 15 apiece) of chin-ups (or perform dips with a chair if chin-ups are too hard), followed by one or two sets of squats. When done in tandem, these two exercises work nearly all the body’s muscles.

“To maximize strength, fatigue the muscles with 30 to 90 seconds of activity,” says Wayne Wescott, an exercise scientist for 42 years.

Research also shows that exercising in this way increases resting metabolism by about 5 percent for three full days after the workout, so you’ll burn fat as well as get fit.

Volunteer … To Live Longer

“About 30 studies link volunteer work to health and longevity,” says Greg O’Neill, director of the National Academy on an Aging Society.

Volunteermatch.org lists give-back opportunities that might interest you and need your unique talents.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest