13 Body Hacks, Evaluated: What Science Says About Shortcuts To Health And Wellness

13 Body Hacks, Evaluated: What Science Says About Shortcuts To Health And Wellness

We hate to say it, but at this point in our lives, we’re starting to accept the fact that we’ll never become superheroes. We’re stuck with boring human bodies without adamantium claws, laser eyes, or any of the other awesome anatomical features we’ve been praying for since we were six (we’re 30 now, by the way—not that that matters). istock.com/RyanJLane The good news is that, thanks to the internet, we’ve learned about dozens of “life hacks,” purportedly backed by science, that will let us unlock the secrets of our (horrible, boring) bodies. The bad news is that some of those hacks are, well, slightly misleading.

We decided to take a closer look at some of the stranger examples floating around the internet. Some of them are pretty awesome body hacks—others are more like “writing hacks.” 1. Looking at the color green can make you more creative.

Need to sit down and write an essay? Looking for inspiration for your latest play? Are you a professional wrestler and you’re running out of fresh ideas for your armbar? Just look at a big green rectangle, and you’ll somehow trick your brain into jump-starting its creativity circuits, hackers purport. istock.com/ArturNyk This hack actually has some basis in science. A 2012 study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that the color green can aid creative tasks, although the authors were careful to note that the effect was limited. Researchers provided study participants with a “brief glimpse of green,” then asked them to perform various “creativity challenges.”

For instance, in one experiment, participants were asked to come up with various uses for a tin can, at which point their responses were graded by a tester. Participants who saw a green rectangle performed more creatively than those who saw a white rectangle. istock.com/Slavica “Green may serve as a cue that evokes the motivation to strive for improvement and task mastery, which in turn may facilitate growth,” researcher Stephanie Lichtenfeld, PhD, said in a 2012 interview.

However, Lichtenfeld also characterized the effect as subtle. If you’re really looking to boost your creativity, you’re better off building a creative routine, according to the American Psychological Association . You’ll also want to minimize stress, get plenty of sleep, and collaborate with others—if you want to do so in an all-green room, all the better. 2. Rubbing “pressure points” on your body can prevent migraines.

This hack comes from a piece on Livestrong , which references some…unscientific sources. It’s based on pressure point therapy, a somewhat dubious interpretation of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and an ebook that apparently came from an online health food store (not exactly the New England Journal of Medicine ).

Activating those “pressure points” can actually reduce the symptoms of a migraine, and some researchers recommend massage and acupuncture (another pressure-therapy) as a first-line course of treatment for migraine sufferers. istock.com/ChristianNasca However, there are some crucial caveats. For starters, we’re not really sure if pressure point therapy really needs the, uh, pressure points. One study notes that the positive effects “can be achieved even if point selection is not as dogmatic and precise as proposed by the Chinese system.” Rather than trying to find the one inch of your body that holds all of your Chi , you might be able to just rub for a while and get the same results.

And since the placebo effect is more pronounced in people suffering from migraine pain, it’s also possible that pressure-point therapies provide a sort of enhanced placebo effect. One study found that trigger-point massage, while effective at limiting migraine pain, was no more effective than a placebo.

If you suffer from migraines, you’re better off increasing your intake of folic acid, getting regular exercise, and seeing a physician if the headaches are occurring regularly. Don’t expect to cure severe headaches simply by rubbing the webbing between your fingers—but with that said, if you feel like rubbing your finger-webs, go for it. You’re not doing any damage.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of possible placebos… 3. Use placebos to cure…lots of things.

Placebos aren’t just sugar pills. Well, okay, they are just sugar pills, but they’re powerful medicine.

“The placebo effect is more than positive thinking—believing a treatment or procedure will work,” explained Professor Ted Kaptchuk of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in a piece published on Harvard Health. “It’s about creating a stronger connection between the brain and body and how they work together.” iStock.com/Iryna Imago Kaptchuk’s research shows that placebos can be just as effective as other medical treatments. You’ve probably heard about that concept—it’s extremely well documented.

What you might not know is that the placebo effect has its own placebo effect; oddly enough, some placebos work even when people know that they’re placebos.

“People can still get a placebo response, even though they know they are on a placebo,” Kaptchuk said . “You don’t need deception or concealment for many conditions to get a significant and meaningful placebo effect.”

In one of his studies, Kaptchuk gave patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) “open-label” placebos. Half of the study’s volunteers received the pills and were explicitly told that they were in the placebo group, while half of them received nothing at all. The group who received the placebos experienced a “dramatic and significant improvement” in their symptoms. iStock.com/seb_ra How could that possibly work? Kaptchuk has some theories.

“People associate the ritual of taking medicine as a positive healing effect,” he said. “Even if they know it’s not medicine, the action itself can stimulate the brain into thinking the body is being healed.”

So, how can you turn this information into a superpower? Well, you can’t gain Wolverine-like healing abilities simply by scarfing down some sugar pills, but if you’ve got a condition in which pain or stress is a factor, try taking a harmless supplement and telling yourself that you’re treating the condition. As dumb as that might sound, the research shows that open-label placebos can work.

Oh, and if the placebo doesn’t do the trick, be sure to see […]

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