6 Tricks for Living a Longer, Happier Life

By Nancy Rones,REDBOOK

Yeah, yeah, you know that exercising and eating right should be at the top of your daily to-do list. But let's face it: Some days there's barely enough time to sprint from the car to the pizza parlor to grab a pie to go. We're in no way suggesting you abandon those bigger long-term health goals, but we would like to help you by giving you these six simple, science-backed steps that you can take today-and every day-to live a longer, healthier, happier life. And don't let the small nature of these lifestyle tweaks fool you: They're proven to have a major impact on your health.

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1. Buy a bouquet: Looking at flowers can put you in a brighter mood, research from Rutgers suggests. In three different studies, receiving flowers was shown to have both immediate and long-term positive effects on emotional outlook.

2. Turn off the tube during dinner: You already know that watching television at mealtime can lead to mindless eating and subsequent weight gain. Now, a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that families glued to the TV at dinnertime eat fewer fruits and veggies during the meal. To protect your family's health-and their waistlines-move the TV out of the kitchen and put it near the treadmill instead.

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3. Treat yourself to dark chocolate: For years, experts have touted chocolate's ability to help fight cancer and protect your heart. The latest good news: Enjoying about 30 calories of dark chocolate a day (one or two dark chocolate Hershey's Kisses) can help lower your blood pressure enough to reduce your risk of dying from heart disease by 5 percent and of stroke by 8 percent, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

4. Wash your hands before going to the bathroom: Think of all the germs you touched while pushing that grocery shopping cart or handling toys at your child's preschool, says Ganem. To avoid transferring them to your private parts, he advises washing your hands thoroughly for at least 10 seconds before peeing.

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5. Floss: Cleaning between your teeth helps get rid of the bacteria-laden plaque that causes gum disease and possibly a plethora of other problems, including heart disease, stroke, and premature births.

6. Snuggle with your honey: Hugging your partner is linked with higher levels of oxytocin, a hormone believed to help form sexual and social bonds, plus it lowers your blood pressure, according to research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Need another excuse to get close? Research shows that women in strong, committed relationships lead happier, healthier lives.

Read more: Tricks for a Healthier Life - Redbook

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.