Unusual wellness hacks are—and always have been—ubiquitous. From the buttermilk diet of the 1960s to the shake weight to the Beyonce-approved (sort of) master cleanse, we humans love a random health tip. In recent years, though, the trends have become almost hack-like: add charcoal power to your lemonade for better liver function, use a jade egg for feminine health.
Instead of large-scale lifestyle overhauls, focusing on little tweaks allows us to feel accomplished without the sacrifice. And while there is evidence that making small changes rather than life-altering ones is much better for us in terms of long-term health goals, we want to avoid indulging (and investing) in a wellness hack that’s nothing more than a wellness hoax. That’s where the pros come in.
We spoke to nutritionists, physicians, and other wellness and health experts to find weird wellness hacks that actually work. Read on for their seemingly strange tips.
1. Hold a Pencil with Your Teeth to Boost Happiness
“By holding the pencil between your teeth you’re forced to activate the same muscles that are used to smile. Your brain interprets this as you actually smiling and releases a bit of dopamine. Plus you’ll inevitably end up having a chuckle at how ridiculous this practice is.”
2. Eat Your Way to Better Sleep
“Almonds, walnuts, and bananas are all rich in melatonin—the natural chemical responsible for sound sleep—and make excellent night time snacks to help promote a restful night’s sleep.
Simple carbs reduce serotonin in the brain, the chemical responsible for inducing sleep. These foods are typically processed convenience foods like pastries, crackers, chips, and pasta, avoiding these close to bedtime.”
3. Trade in Your Allergy Medicine for Local Honey
“Honey contains bee pollen which desensitizes your body to other pollens that may cause hay fever, a.k.a. seasonal allergies.”
4. Put Your Alarm Clock on the Other Side of the Room
“Place your alarm somewhere that you actually have to get up to turn off, because once you actually get out of bed to turn it off, you’re much more likely to wake up.”
5. Drink Water to Prevent Midday Munchies
“My favorite seemingly random, dietitian-approved health tip is to make sure you’re staying hydrated throughout the day! Sometimes the message for feeling thirsty can be mistaken for hunger, and can cause unwarranted snacking! Preventatively staying hydrated can help curb those cravings.”
6. Have Fun Breaking Bad Habits
“It can typically take over 400 repetitions of a behavior pattern to break a bad habit and form new synapses in the brain. When done through play, recent research has determined that 10 to 20 repetitions is all it takes! Therefore, the key to breaking bad habits is to do it joyfully! For example, when you feel like overeating, try doing something else that you would enjoy instead. It may be playing some music that gets you dancing and stretching, stepping outside to breathe in some nature, or calling someone lonely. Whatever fills your hungry soul works!”
7. Need to Relax? Tense Up First!
“Tightening and releasing your muscles as a way to help your body relax and feel centered and grounded.”
8. Work Out on an Empty Stomach
“There is emerging evidence that exercising in the morning on an empty stomach (while continuing your overnight fast) helps you burn more calories than doing the same workout after breakfast.
The reason appears to be because your body does a better job of mobilizing carbs and fats to burn for energy. It knows exactly where to go to burn off the fat. However, we think it is best to keep those workouts in Zone 2 (relatively light, cardio workouts). Heavy muscular workouts might best benefit from a light breakfast beforehand.”
9. Paint and Draw… Blindfolded.
“One of my favorite tips to boost your mental health and connect with your creativity is painting or drawing blindfolded. This takes away the critical factor of our conscious mind and heightens our sensory experience. A practice like this helps us find more joy, connects us to true self-expression, while improving our mental health and well-being, our creativity, memory, adaptability, focus, productivity, intuition and so much more.”
10. De-Stress with Chocolate
“It’s a known fact that magnesium reduces anxiety and stress. It’s also known that cacao, present in dark chocolate, is rich in magnesium. A 1-ounce serving of 70% dark chocolate contains about 64 mg of magnesium, which is about 15% of the daily RDA.”
11. Coffee with a Splash of… Mushrooms.
“People boast of big health benefits like reduced inflammation, better sleep, and enhanced immunity after switching out cream and sugar for nutrient-rich mushroom extract. While it may be a fad, adding mushroom extract from reputable sources to your coffee is worth giving a try.”
12. Get Gym Clothes That Make You Feel Good
“A survey done by Barbell Apparel of 2,000 regular gym goers found that 9 out of 10 people feel motivated to break a sweat just by putting on their workout gear. For 79 percent of people, owning ‘good’ gym clothes is a crucial step toward meeting their fitness goals. Thus, what you wear to move your body is proven to have a significant impact on motivation and self-image.”
13. Have a Pre-Nap Coffee
“It is believed that having about 20mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to two cups of coffee, right before having a 20-minute nap helps in making the nap work better. It may sound weird or strange because coffee has always been associated with alertness, but this tip has been proven to work effectively. A Japanese study examined people who took a nap right after having coffee and found them to perform better on a computer test than those who took a nap without having coffee.
The reason behind this is that a 20-minute helps the brain to refresh and coffee or caffeine also takes about 20 minutes to activate the brain by eliminating adenosine. Just when the mind refreshes through a nap, caffeine also starts to act, making the person more alert and better at performing a task. Try this the next time you have a nap.”