TO Sometimes a few seconds are all it takes to do yourself some good (and also to do some harm, to tell the truth). In a world overcrowded with wellness offers, with wellness gurus, machines, courses and smartphone applications, it is interesting to rediscover how small gestures can lead to significant benefits.

Microhabits to improve metabolism, protect your eyes or avoid back pain. Without too many frills. Take as many deep breaths as you can count on the fingers of one hand, get up from the chair and stop working at the desk, look out the window.

And take a short walk after eating: a review of seven studies, just published in the journal Sports Medicineshows that walking for just two minutes at the end of a meal already lowers blood sugar.

“One swallow does not make a summer”, and the proverb is right, but many swallows do. Here are five well-being ideas within reach of those who wonder where to find the time, those who want to earn time and those who don’t want to lose it.

Among the many beneficial effects of books is that of reducing stress (photo Getty Images).

Six minutes of reading as an anti-stress

Immersing yourself in reading captivates the mind and there are books that change your life. Literary neuroscience attempts to discover what happens in the brain when we read and, among the measurable effects, the power to relax emerges, which is almost immediate.

From research by a group of psychologists at the University of Sussex in England, it appears that it would be It’s enough to dedicate even just six minutes to a book to feel calmer afterwards. It’s likely because the mind focuses on the page, a form of escape from reality that distracts from worries, easing muscle tension and modulating the heart rate.

According to the study, reading could work as a stress reliever better than other classic methods: it would reduce tension levels by 68 percent, while music does it by 61 percent and a walk by 42.

These are the survey data and should be judged as an attempt to translate into numbers a specific type of positive influence that reading can have on average.

They do not exhaust the vastness of the references of a novel, an essay, a story. Books are not simple devices against tensionbut “reserves of grain to be amassed for the winter of the spirit”, quoting Marguerite Yourcenar.

Two minute walk after eating to lower blood sugar

Reading and studying always reserve some surprises. The Salerno School, the first European medical institution of the Middle Ages, was responsible for the motto: «Post prandium aut stare aut slow pede deambulare». It is an invitation to stand or walk slowly after lunch.

The meaning is not to make excessive efforts to allow good digestion, but it can also be understood as an exhortation not to remain sitting or lying down at the end of a meal.

Current research proves the doctors of a thousand years ago right. In the review of studies that appeared on Sports Medicinewe come to the conclusion that walking after eating has an impact on blood sugar.

It was a team from the University of Limerick, Ireland, that analyzed the seven studies on the topic and all seven demonstrated, with blood tests, that a light walk of just two to five minutes significantly improves blood sugar levels compared to sitting at a desk or lying on a sofa.

The reason is intuitive: working muscles consume glucose. Already in the past it had been seen that, after lunch and dinner, taking a walk for a quarter of an hour could help in the prevention of type 2 diabeteswhich can also develop due to continuous glycemic peaks, with excessive insulin secretion.

But, apparently, the benefits can already be seen in a very short time. The ideal is within an hour, an hour and a half after consuming a meal, because it is in that range that blood glucose tends to reach maximum levels. And if you don’t walk at all, standing for a while is better than sitting, with the muscles active to keep you upright.

A minute and a half with your arms up and down to feel less stiff

Moving is the most common advice in handbooks for good health. There’s no other way to not feel rusty as the years go by. Just think of what happens when we stay in the same position for too long, as William Docken, an American rheumatologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, points out: the muscles stiffen.

An easy remedy, to suggest to students, to those who work at a desk or even when watching television, is to get up every 20-30 minutes (setting an alarm if necessary) and move around for one to two minutes.

One idea is a march on the spot or an exercise to be repeated five to ten times: standing straight, with your feet together, inhale moving your arms to the side and towards the ceiling, then exhale bringing your arms back to your sides.

A minute of slow breathing to regain calm

Inhaling and exhaling slowly induces calm, lightens the mood, slows the heartbeat (photo Getty Images).

Another exercise, indicated in the guides of many medical institutions, concerns deep breathing. The breaths of stress are short, superficial, they undermine serenity. While inhaling and exhaling more slowly induces calm, lightens the mood, slows the heartbeat and manages to modulate blood pressure, as many studies prove.

In less than a minute you can repeat the combination of inhalation five to six times, counting from 1001 to 1005, with the air entering through the nostrils, and long exhalation, through the nose or mouth.

The most important respiratory muscle is the diaphragm, under the lungs: it descends downwards, to help introduce oxygenated air, and then pushes upwards, to expel carbon dioxide.

To make sure it works, during the exercise it is best to place your fingers just below the navel, feeling that the hand rises and falls approximately one centimeter as you inhale and exhale.

Twenty seconds at the window to regenerate your eyes

If the eye points at something in the distance, the lens flattens and the eye relaxes (photo Getty Images).

Another wellness recommendation in microdoses comes from ophthalmologists: they recommend that those who spend hours in front of an electronic screen take care of their vision for at least twenty seconds.

It’s called the rule of twenty: after twenty minutes on the computer, stop and look beyond twenty meters away (looking out the window, for example) for at least twenty seconds.

A first reason is that the eyes get dry when working on the PC or fiddling with the mobile phone, because the attention paid to looking at a screen it reduces the frequency with which the eyelids close and consequently the distribution of the tear film.

Less fluid can mean burning, itching and redness. There is even pediatric dry eye syndrome, related to children’s excessive use of electronic devices.

But there is another problem: distance. If the eye points at something in the distance, the lens flattenswhile if the object is close it becomes more convex.

When we force our internal lens to maintain the same curvature for a long time because we only see monitors and walls at home, it is as if we kept a perpetually contracted bicep. The eyes, like the muscles, get tired.

Five seconds for a smile in search of joy

As Mordecai Richler wrote in his penultimate novel, Solomon Gursky was here: “It takes seventy-two muscles to pout but only twelve to smile.”

And it tires the mind. It would do us good to go hunting for smiles every day. The hypothesis strengthened by many studies is that facial expression influences emotions: the face folded in a sad grimace intensifies the mental pain, while the manifestation of joy vivifies the joy itself and revives the mood.

A smile takes about five seconds. It doesn’t take much, as Mordecai Richler wrote in his penultimate novel, Solomon Gursky was here: “It takes seventy-two muscles to pout but only twelve to smile.”

Eliana Liotta (photo by Carlo Furgeri Gilbert).

Eliana Liotta is a journalist, writer and science communicator. On and on the main platforms (Spreaker, Spotify, Apple Podcast and Google Podcast) you can find his podcast series The good that I want.