10 Life Hacks for Your Health Resolutions

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Real change is hard. Come January, we aim to start off with a game plan for a healthier year—but rather than starting a new fitness plan that you may lose interest in by February, try some of these life hacks in your everyday life and keep them all year long, if you dare. This article, along with others that explore mind, body and soul, is excerpted from a Newsweek Special Edition.

1) Puzzle It Out

A new study suggests those who read, write and do crosswords or other puzzles throughout their lives have significantly less beta-amyloid protein, a major component of the brain plaque that's a marker of Alzheimer's.

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2) Set Your Rhythm

People eat faster—and more—when there is fast-paced music playing, so lay off the rock during dinner. Also, using smaller plates makes portions look bigger. Switch to salad plates for the main course and you'll fool your brain into thinking you're eating more than you are.

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3) Walk On the Wild Side

A study released earlier this year indicates schoolchildren who are regularly exposed to nature perform better on cognitive tests of their memories. For adults, a study has shown that nature walks help reduce activity in the part of your brain associated with ruminative, self-destructive thoughts. So get out in the greenery for your own good.

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4) Swim for Success

As we get older, regular cardio exercise becomes even more important to maintain a healthy heart, but pounding the pavement can put stress on joints. One refreshing alternative is to take a few laps in the water. You gain all the benefits of a cardio exercise while taking it easy on the joints.

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5) Pet Protectors

Your furry, four-footed companions have your back when it comes to your health. A study of stockbrokers has shown just owning a dog or cat can lower blood pressure for people constantly under the gun, and Alzheimer's patients who have an animal at home seem less prone to out-of-control emotional tantrums.

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6) Feed Your Thirst

If you're sleep-deprived, opt for a glass of water. Sometimes thirst gets confused for hunger, and a recent study from the Mayo Clinic showed that people whose sleep was shortened by about a third ate more than 500 extra calories a day.

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7) Scent of Happiness

Your olfactory bulb has a direct connection with the areas in your brain scientists believe to be crucial in processing emotion and memory, which is why scents can trigger memories in a way a sight or sound don't. If you feel yourself feeling glum, take a whiff of whatever reminds you of happier times.

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8) Walk Backwards

Taking a walk engages scores of skeletal muscles and can strengthen your bones. Walking backward engages even more muscles to help build strength.

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9) Jot It Down

Sometimes, all you need to do to get yourself out of a funk is pen and paper. Experts have suggested that keeping a journal in which you record not just the day's events but also how you emotionally reacted to those events can help you move past your anxieties.

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10) Spice Is Nice

Some early studies suggest that turmeric, common in Indian cooking, and pomegranate juice may improve memory and other aspects of cognitive function.

This was excerpted from Newsweek's Special Edition, Your Amazing Body: Leading Experts Reveal the Science and Secrets Behind Living Longer and Better, by Issue Editor James Ellis. For 90+ more Life Hacks, pick up a copy today!

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Sciepro/Science Photo Library/Corbis. Digital Imaging by Eric Heintz
10 Life Hacks for Your Health Resolutions | Opinion