10 Killer Ways to Feel Like a Million Bucks (Even If Your Bank Account Says Otherwise)

Photo: bingbing

To get rich never risk your health. For it is true that health is the wealth of wealth.
-Richard Barker

He who enjoys good health is rich, though he knows it not.
-Italian proverb

The first wealth is health.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not convinced yet? There are plenty of studies tying health to wealth (and vice versa), on a national and a personal level. Rest assured, though, this isn't The Secret. If you really want to know a secret, here's one: thinking good thoughts about the universe will only make you more disappointed when they don't come true. But that's another thought for another post. Instead, here are some tried and true suggestions for feeling better.

1. Stretch and strengthen your hamstrings.

In a society where many of us sit for hours at a time, the hamstrings don't get either the exercise or the stretching that they need to hold it all together. Do you suffer from lower back pain? Mid-to upper back pain? Knee problems? Hip aches? Ankle soreness? All of these can be tied to weak and/or tight hamstrings. Here are some hamstring stretches and some ideas for strengthening your hamstrings at home. You should feel both the stretching and the strengthening immediately in your lower back, though it may take 2-3 weeks to see results other places.

2. Drink water.

I KNOW you've heard this a million times. I've heard it a million times. But it's true. We all know that drinking water helps flush toxins from the body and keeps the kidneys healthy, but did you know that staying hydrated will help eyes stay moist, sinuses drain, stomachs digest better, skin stay soft, nails and hair grow healthily, brain synapses connect better, and blood cells fight off infection?

3. Spend some time every day in silence.

Some people like to meditate, but some continue with their daily tasks, just without the noise. Most of us are so accustomed to the sounds aroud us — the air conditioning, the typing of the employees around us, people talking in meetings — that we don't realize how tired it makes us. Noise can make it harder to breathe and harder for the heart to beat. Noise can make it hard for us to sleep. It can even make us more aggressive. But a few minutes a day of silence helps our brain to relax and find equilibrium again.

4. Make yourself comfortable.

For me, this one is a little more intuitive than some of the others. Not only will we avoid repetitive stress injuries if we take the time to make our workstations ergonomically correct, but we will be happier if we are wearing clothes and shoes that are comfortable. And, as I'll detail later on, happines correlates positively with health. Apparently, we also may lose weight!

5. Tell yourself to be healthy.

Ok, so this sounds a little Secret-ish. But have you ever had an experience like this? You have a big project due on Wednesday. Many people around you are sick, but you tell yourself over and over that you can't get sick until after the project. You stay healthy, turn the project in, and wake up sick on Thursday morning. I know it's happened to me. So, apparently, what we tell ourselves really matters. On a larger scale, positive self-talk leads to reduced stress, which leads to better health.

6. Take a walk.

Human beings weren't made to sit for long periods of time. In fact, sitting for long periods of time (at work, on a plane, in a car, etc.) can cause all sorts of injuries, from the obvious back pain to the less obvious blood circulation to the less obvious reduced heart and lung efficiency. Scary! There are several series of slightly goofy-looking exercises you can do when you're in a situation where you have to sit for a long time, or you can just get up and walk. Walk around your cube, around the office, to the bathroom on the other side of the building. Just take the pressure off your spine and move around! In addition, walking is as effective (or more!) than running for physical fitness.

7. Relax your muscles the natural way.

Sure, muscle relaxants are good when you're in severe pain, but who wants to walk around like a zombie all the time? Ok, don't answer that! But there is a natural way to gently relax muscles. Quinine, generally given to combat malaria, also relaxes muscles. And the best part? It's available in tonic water (regular and diet) and bitter lemon, both of which you might have leftover as mixers from your last party. A glass of tonic water before bed can help your relax into your sleep.

8. Cultivate happiness.

Whatever makes you happy, do it (unless grisly murders make you grin — then consider your unhappiness a sacrifice for society's sake). Why? Because happiness has a strong correllation to health. No one seems to know quite why this is so, but studies show over and over that it is.

9. Relax your jaw.

Sort of like your hamstrings, your jaw is connected to lots of other parts of your body, though it particularly influences the muscles in your neck and shoulders. Relax the jaw and the tongue (make sure it's lying on the bottom of your mouth and not pressed up againt the top), and feel the muscles in your neck and shoulders let down. Apparently it's so effective, they're encouraging pregnant women to do it while in labor!

10. Avoid pollution.

Most pollution is toxic. It's made up of things that are bad for your body. Even if it doesn't cause cancer or something else life-threatening, a cough, a sneeze, or a runny nose all get in your way. It's true that you often don't know when you're around a pollutant if it's not bother you, but avoiding the ones you do know about is a great place to start. Look forward to improved respiration, circulation, and happier eyes and nasal passages.

As they say in Ireland, may you live a long life, full of gladness and health. With a pocket full of gold, as the least of your wealth.

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Jessica Okon's picture

But there has been lots of problems with quinine, for stuff other than malaria:

 From: http://www.itppeople.com/enews011807.htm:

Wall Street Journal, December 20, 2006, pg D4

The FDA has ordered the removal of unapproved drug products containing quinine. The only quinine product currently approved by the FDA is called Qualaquin, by Mutual Pharmaceutical Compny. It is indicated for the treatment of a specific type of malaria. But it is often prescribed to treat leg cramps and similar conditions, despite drug labeling that the risks associated with its use in this setting outweigh the potential benefits.
Close monitoring may be required for patients with liver or kidney problems. Serious adverse events include cardiac arrhythmias, thrombocytopenia, and severe hypersensitivity reactions; potentially serious interactions with other drugs are also possible.

BUT I love the article regardless. It made me think of my dad drinking gin & "quinine water" when i was a little girl.

Jessica Okon's picture


However, most tonic water today contains a medically insignificant amount of quinine, and is thus used for its flavor only. It is consequently less bitter, and is also usually sweetened. Some manufacturers also produce diet tonic water. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration limits the quinine content in tonic water to 83 ppm (83 mg per liter if calculated by mass), which is one-half to one-quarter the concentration used in therapeutic tonic


Sarah Winfrey's picture

I found out about the quinine because my roommate's doctor? PT? suggested it to her when she was injured.  When I was doing research, the only problems seemed to be with people who already had conditions or pre-conditions which is what the article above seems to say, too. 

I also read several places that it's one of the only known things to help with RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome).  That sounds like a miserable condition...I think I'd take the risks then. 

I guess I'd advise people to be cautions, but to try it out if they're struggling to relax or sleep. 

Andrea Karim's picture

I have restless leg syndrome, among my myriad of other problems, so now I have a way to justify my all-day gin & tonics. Yes?

Great article, Sarah.

Jessica Okon's picture

I just play one on tv.

Jessica Okon's picture

I just play one on tv.

Sarah Winfrey's picture

I don't have RLS but I have something similar from a lower back injury...and tonic water helps me!

Andrea Karim's picture

But I'll take it! (slices up lime, leans back)


Will Chen's picture

When I reached "relax your jaw" I finally realized, hey wait a minute, my jaw IS cliched tighter than Andrea's grip on a pair of fabulous shoes. I didn't even realize I was that stressed!


Jessica Okon's picture

I have no qualms about having a nice g&t on a summers day, with two limes, crushed ice thank you.

Andrea Karim's picture

my jaw IS cliched tighter than Andrea's grip on a pair of fabulous shoes

See, if I wasn't so relaxed from my gin and quinine, I might help you unclench that jaw of yours with what I like to call "an acute knuckle massage". Not that you're wrong about the shoes, just that I find physical intimidationg fun.

I meant to add something about the jaw clenching, but I was taking a nap so I forgot. I'm a big clencher - I think most people are. And about three months ago, I was getting some really bad headaches - brought on by what was probably nighttime jaw clenching.

My dentist took one look at my (supposedly decent) bite and shaved down a few molars and the back of one of my canines. Apparently, when I was bitting down, one side of my mouth was making contact before the other, and this caused my jaw muscles to slide around in a weird way.

Insurance didn't cover the bite correction, but it only cost about $100, and it was worth it. The headaches went away, and I didn't even have to get one of those mouthguards for sleeping.

Will Chen's picture
Will Chen

Now you guys know why I'm so stressed.

Andrea Karim's picture

Can't you spell check my quotes? I'm not sober enough to do it on my own.

Sarah Winfrey's picture

and it's only 8:40.  Damn!  Isn't there a country song out there that says, "It's 5 o'clock somewhere!"  That's how today is going to be.

Guest's picture

Tonic water is my hangover reliever of choice. Never put it together that the quinine might be what helped, I just thought I was rehydrating myself tastily. Let's hear it for self-medication.

Will Chen's picture
Will Chen

It's the beating me up that stresses me out, not the spelling.  =)

Guest's picture

Am I the only one getting a "Page not found" error on that first hamstring link?

Andrea Karim's picture

Something weird going on there - Sarah's been notified. Thanks for pointing that out!

Sarah Winfrey's picture

Sorry!  All better now.

Tannaz Sassooni's picture

The beloved of the Almighty are the rich who have the humility of the poor, and the poor who have the magnanimity of the rich. -Saadi, poet (1213-1291)

it's one of my very favorites.

Guest's picture

Calcium supplements help some people with muscle cramps.

Guest's picture

Also don't forget the *ULTIMATE* muscle relaxer, Epsom Salt Baths. (It's the magnesium in it, innit?)

Magnesium is also THE stress relieving mineral.

Loved the article.