The human body is truly incredible, but even the most well-evolved system has its pitfalls. We still get colds, feel tired by midday, suffer from toothaches and flinch when our doctors give us shots. But we can work around these and other inconveniences with a few body hacks: here are 40 to keep in your back pocket.
40. Brush away leg pain
After a long day on your feet – whether you’re in comfortable shoes or not – your legs will probably be aching. If you have a hairbrush to hand, though, you can help alleviate some of the pain. Rub the bristles on your leg in a circular motion to help assuage some of the fatigue you feel.
39. Hone memory by reading at night
Do you have a big speech to make or an important presentation to give? You will probably practice and try to memorize your words during the day, but don’t skip out on a bedtime reading. That pre-sleep skim will help you remember it much more clearly in the morning.
38. Put an ice cube on your neck for period pain
The point on your neck where it meets the base of your skull is called feng fu in Chinese medicine. Practitioners believe that activating this area can impart a slew of health benefits. If you lay on your belly and let an ice cube lay on the spot for 20 minutes, it can alleviate PMS pain.
37. Breathe on your upturned thumb to soothe anxiety
Give yourself a thumbs up – not only because you deserve it, but also because it can fight anxiety. Raise your thumb and exhale strongly on the back of the digit. Because it has its own pulse, breathing cold air onto this particular finger can help relax you.
36. Cool down a mouth burn – without ice
Sometimes, dinner’s too hot to start eating, but… it looks so delicious that you just can’t wait. That’s how you end up burning your mouth – and if you do it again, remember this body hack. Resist the urge to stick an ice cube into the singed area, as the change of temperature can traumatize your flesh. Instead, opt for a cool-water swish to take down the heat without overdoing it.
35. Stare at something green to boost your creativity
A 2012 paper first aired in the scientific journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has mooted this hack: looking at something green will somehow spark your creativity. The effects were minimal, but worth trying if you’ve got writer’s block or another stoppage in the creative process. And, if that doesn’t work, try another science-backed method: raise your eyebrows, as in a University of Maryland study, researchers reportedly found evidence that it helped broaden perspective.
34. Fight the urge to gag with a tightened fist
Maybe a gory movie scene on TV has your stomach in knots. Or maybe you’re on a bumpy boat ride and feel sick. You can apparently stop yourself from gagging just by squeezing your left thumb. Some say it provides near-instant relief, although scientists have no explanation as to why.
33. Pull your hair to combat fatigue
Afternoons can be a drag, especially if you can’t give into your fatigue and take a nap. Luckily, you can rev yourself back up with this body hack. Grab two handfuls of hair on your head and rotate them in circles. This stimulates blood flow to the head, thus helping you fight back against tiredness.
32. Calm burned skin with honey
There are plenty of folk remedies out there for burns – and not all of the old wives’ tales will help you. One natural spread could well quell scorched skin, though. Putting a bit of honey on the affected skin can expedite healing and prevent infection, according to a 2004 New Zealand study, so it’s worth keeping some on hand for more than just the sweetness.
31. Push your forehead and raise your tongue to relieve congestion
Having a nose so stuffy that you can’t breathe is not a good feeling. Keep this hack in your back pocket for your next bout with the common cold. Push on your forehead with your hand while raising your tongue to press on the roof of your mouth. It’s been anecdotally suggested that this move can manipulate the vomer bone, which splits your naval cavity, releasing pent-up mucus and helping you breathe more easily.
30. Use your teeth to stop a sneeze
Perhaps you’re in the library or in a quiet office or on a date – all inopportune places to let out a loud sneeze. It’s said that you can stop it, though, if you remember this hack. When you feel the sneeze brewing, push your tongue against the back of your teeth. Somehow, this move reportedly stops the forceful exhale.
29. Slow your heart rate with blocked breathing
It sounds counterintuitive that labored breathing would help you relax. But you can slow your heart rate if you exhale against a blocked airway. You’ll close your mouth and pinch your nose, while still attempting to expel air out of the latter. Because the nostrils will be squeezed shut, air will instead inflate your lungs and as a result, the pressure in your chest will trigger a response in something called the vagus nerve, automatically slowing your heart rate.
28. Make yourself tired with a few winks
You’ve tried everything: camomile tea, lavender pillow spray, counting sheep. And yet, you still can’t get yourself to doze off to sleep. Of course, there’s a body hack for that. It’s suggested that if you just blink as many times as you can in a minute to help your eyes grow tired, and the rest of you will soon follow.
27. Have hiccups? Bend over.
There are so many remedies out there for hiccups, but Georgetown University Medical Center professor James Giordano confirmed to website Urbo that one of them is scientifically proven to work. He said, “You want to sit down and bend forward at the waist, and I mean really bend forward. Then, drink a room-temperature, non-carbonated fluid for ten seconds straight, or eight to ten swallows of fluid. Stay in that position until you’re finished, then slowly sit up.”
26. Scratch your throat via the ear
If you have an itch in your throat, you might want to try scratching it – by way of your ear. As it turns out, the ear hides nerves that, when touched, will trigger a bit of a spasm in your throat. Those shakes are often enough to soothe the itch that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach.
25. Hyperventilate to hold your breath longer
Here’s another counterintuitive body hack for you: repeatedly breathing in and out clears carbon dioxide from your system. That way, you can hold your breath for longer. Experts warn that this method can be dangerous, though, so deploy it only when you need it.
24. Feel less dizzy with a foot on the ground
If you start feeling like the room’s spinning, your instinct might be to lay down. That move can, indeed, help with dizziness. But if you’re horizontal and still feeling woozy, try this hack: put one of your feet on the floor. This allows your body to better understand its position and recover while you stay supine.
23. Boost test-taking skills by chewing gum
Need to get your brain moving before a big test? Try popping a piece of gum in your mouth. Appetite, a scientific journal, shared study results in 2011 that confirmed the chewy stuff’s power. Participants showed improved exam-time skills while they chomped away, an action that drew more blood to the brain.
22. Ward off migraines with wet hands
Thirty-nine million Americans – and 1 billion people across the globe – suffer from migraines. If you’re one of them, keep this body hack in mind when you feel the next one coming on. Apparently, if you plunge your hands into a bowl of ice water and flex them, it helps ease the pain.
21. Use your tongue to stop brain freeze
An ice cream sundae looks good enough to eat – until you bite in and immediately experience brain freeze. As it turns out, there’s a nerve at the back of the mouth that reacts to extra-cold eats. If you warm up the area by pressing your tongue up against the roof of your mouth, though, you can fight the sensation.
20. Have a toothache? Use ice – on your hand
If you have an achy tooth, your instinct might be to grab ice, put it in a bag and hold it up to your throbbing chomper. But this body hack reveals that you only need one piece of ice that you’ll rub on your hand instead. Oddly, research conducted in Canada found that icing the v-shaped, back-of-the-hand area between your index finger and thumb can cut toothache pain in half.
19. Scratch your calf ‘til you can get to a bathroom
We’ve all been in the position where nature calls, but we can’t get to a bathroom right away. There are plenty of methods for distracting ourselves, of course. But in 2006 an Australian physiotherapist, Janetta Webb, reportedly suggested that one works a bit better than others. Just scratch the back of your leg – make it a substantial jiggle – to take pressure off your bladder until you can get to a toilet.
18. Block a yawn with your hand
Whether you want to look alert on the job or in a dragging conversation with a loved one, you have to stop yourself from yawning. So, rather than, say, slurping down a ton of caffeine, try this hack. Touch the end of your tongue as soon as your mouth cracks open to start a yawn. Supposedly, this move stops the process.
17. Close one eye, see better in the dark
If you’ve ever turned on a lamp in the middle of the night, you know what happens when you switch it back off: you can’t see. Well, there’s a hack for that, too. Close one eye when you turn the light on, and switch to the other eye when you turn the light off again. This keeps your shut-eye pupil dilated, which allows it to see better when it all goes black again.
16. Stay awake by holding your breath
Most of us hit that mid-afternoon slump at work, and most of us reach for coffee to get through it. You could skip the caffeine – and miss out on side effects including insomnia – by simply holding your breath for as long as you can. Then, release the air as slowly as you can. This move will stoke your blood flow and heart rate, which energizes you just like that latte would have.
15. Spark a pent-up sneeze
Sometimes, you can feel a sneeze building up in your nose, but you can’t quite get it to trigger and release. If this happens again, try peering at the sun or another bright light around you. Scientists have no idea why it works, but it seems to do the trick pretty quickly for most people.
14. Cough, and your next shot won’t hurt
No one likes to get shots. And doctors know this – that’s why they always try and distract little ones who come in for their dreaded injections. Yet research has pinpointed one pain-fighting method, and it’s one the doctor can’t perform him or herself. Instead, you should cough as soon as the needle touches your skin. This reportedly boosts tension in the spine and chest, which, in turn, temporarily stalls your pain receptors.
13. Clarify your vision by closing your eyes
Many jobs require you to stare at a computer screen all day long, which, unfortunately, can cause nearsightedness. However, there’s a body hack to help you protect your peepers. Throughout the day, take a few seconds to shut your eyes, breathe in deeply and then flex all of your major muscles. All three moves done in tandem will apparently give your eyes the chance to relax.
12. Eavesdrop with the right ear
There’s nothing more frustrating than a juicy conversation happening just out of earshot. Luckily, you can adjust your frame to hear more of it. Apparently, research has shown that the left ear is better at hearing music and other ambient sounds. Meanwhile, your right ear hears speech more clearly. Try turning that ear toward the discussion to see if you can pick up on it better.
11. Hold a pencil between your teeth for a mood boost
Some days you can’t quite muster up a happy face, which only dampens the mood further. That’s because activating the muscles that create your grin simultaneously releases feel-good serotonin and dopamine in your brain. It’s said that if you hold a pencil with your teeth, though, you can mimic this effect and feel better, even if you don’t want to smile.
10. Take a power stance to increase your confidence
Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School professor, gave a much-discussed TED Talk in 2012. In it, she revealed that taking on a so-called power pose could make you more confident. She said that our attitudes take cues from how we act – so, standing up tall like Wonder Woman, for example, can translate into self-assuredness.
9. Breathe out on the correct foot to avoid running stitches
Many beginner runners will feel pain shooting from beneath their rib cage after hitting the track. Interestingly, it’s because they tend to exhale when their right foot meets the pavement. This puts stress on the liver, as it’s located on the right side of the body. But if you breathe out when your left foot hits the ground, you can sidestep this side-effect.
8. Keep tears at bay with a pinch
Crying doesn’t always start at opportune times. If you find yourself tearing up, say, after watching a puppy video at your desk, turn your gaze to the ceiling and take a deep breath. Sometimes, though, that won’t be enough, and you’ll need to pinch the bridge of your nose. The pressure stops the waterworks from escaping your tear ducts, saving you from having to tell your co-workers what you’re watching.
7. Quell queasiness by pressing your inner wrist
The inside of your wrist hides a powerful, nausea-fighting pressure point. The spot to press is three finger-lengths beneath the base of your palm. Flip one hand over and use the other to measure the right distance. Use your thumb to mark the edge of the phalange trio: you should feel two tendons underneath. Then, press and start to feel less queasy.
6. Read backwards and become more limber
Not all of us can touch our toes, but this hack can supposedly help you get closer. First, do a control round: bend over with legs straight and see if you can reach your feet. Then, find some reading material and skim a handful of sentences backwards. After that, try the stretch again and marvel at your improved flexibility. Unsurprisingly, there’s not much of an explanation as to why this trick works.
5. Open airways with an onion
Some people say that you can cure a stuffed-up nose just by peeling, slicing and sniffing an onion. The vegetable’s aroma stokes the production of a nasal liquid that clears out the whole thing. Perhaps that’s why some suggest sleeping with an onion next to your bed if you have congestion as that, too, can unblock your schnoz.
4. Stop laughing in a – and with a – pinch
There’s nothing more awkward than laughing at an inopportune moment. If you find a giggle coming on when it shouldn’t, a quick distraction can help you calm down. Pinch yourself hard enough, and the momentary pain will be enough to shift your focus away from what you find funny.
3. Swear the pain away
If you’ve ever stubbed your toe or smashed your elbow on something, you’ve felt that sudden, sharp pain. It’s enough to make you shout a string of expletives and, according to research, you should let them fly. Somehow, shouting out swear words can remarkably lower the pain.
2. Eat marshmallows to soothe a sore throat
As if we need another excuse to eat marshmallows. As it turns out, the campfire staple can provide some relief if you have a sore throat. A 2019 study appearing on the website of science publishers Thieme reported that marshmallows containing their namesake root create a coating in your mouth that reduces swelling and irritation, thus assuaging a sore throat and other side effects of a respiratory condition.
1. Look at pictures of people coughing to build your immune system
The immune system has strengthened over time, keeping humankind alive in the face of a slew of deadly diseases and conditions. It has even grown to recognize the signs of sickness in others, building a defense if, say, someone around you sneezes or coughs. A 2010 report produced by a researcher at the University of British Columbia suggested that you can use this information to your advantage by Googling pictures of people doing such things to trigger an immune response, further bolstering your body against sickness.