1. Predict the weather (and avoid migraines)
Seeing the future would be pretty cool, right? It turns out that our bodies do sense the future, at least related to the weather, and they can alert us with migraines. Sudden changes of weather, especially dropping into colder temperatures or rising quickly into hotter temperatures, can sometimes cause imbalances in the chemicals in our brains.
These chemical imbalances (usually, imbalances in serotonin) can lead to migraines. People who get headaches a lot, scientists say, probably have a higher sensitivity to the weather. To keep those headaches at bay, you can try to stabilize your surrounding temperature. Staying in an environment that’s not too hot and not too cold can help prevent those chemical imbalances.
2. Prevent brain freeze
On a hot summer day when you’re dying for something to help you cool off, munching down on a giant ice cream cone might sound like the best idea in the world—until you get the brain freeze that comes with it. Unfortunately for us, eating or drinking something super cold super fast almost always results in one of those terrible brain freezes.
Luckily for us, though, there’s a quick and easy defense mechanism that our body has against those terrible summer (or winter, for those of us brave enough to slurp down a slushy in the middle of December) brain pains. Simply press your tongue up against the roof of your mouth, and voila! Your brain freeze is gone.
3. Access your super-hearing
Okay, so it’s not really “super” hearing. But our ears do work in cooler and weirder ways than most of us probably realize. For example, if you’re in a super noisy place and need to focus on one sound specifically (like listening to your friend talk), you should turn your right ear towards them. If you’re trying to figure out what song is playing on the radio, you should listen with your left ear.
Different sides of our brain are better at listening for different things; so are our ears. Our right ear is better at listening to active talking, and our left ear is better for hearing music. That’s why you should give your right ear to someone when you want to hear what they’re saying.
4. Clear your nasal passages
As of right now, we don’t yet have a cure for the common cold. What we do have, however, is a surprising method to help clear our nasal passages during those days when our nose is so stuffy we feel like we can’t even breathe. And, happily, it doesn’t involve paying a lot of money for special decongestants.
All you need to do is push your tongue against the roof of your mouth, and flick the area between your eyebrows. This may sound rather odd, but it causes the bone in your nose to move, which can help temporarily clear your nasal passages.
5. Avoid pain during an injection
We’d all like to avoid the pain of getting a shot, right? No-one likes the feeling of being stuck with a needle, even if it’s for an important vaccine or other medical necessity. Luckily, though, there’s a super weird trick we can use to help lessen the pain when we get those injections.
Scientists have discovered that coughing while getting an injection can lessen the pain. Coughing causes a sudden rise in pressure in your chest, as well as in your spinal canal, which can inhibit the pain-conducting structures in your spinal cord. So next time you go to get your flu shot, consider coughing to help get you through.
6. Let everyone know when you’re scared
This may seem a little unfair, but it is something we should be aware of when our body reacts to various situations. A long time ago, when our ancestors had a lot more hair on their bodies, in situations when they were scared their hair would stand on end, making them appear larger and scarier to potential predators as a way to scare them off.
Nowadays, though, we don’t have or need all that extra hair; but our biological response to fear still remains. That’s why we get goosebumps, and those goosebumps can betray our feelings of fear even when we’re trying to play it cool. It’s also a way to alert us to nearby danger, even if we haven’t consciously picked up on it yet; so pay attention to your skin.
7. Keep yourself warm, even in the cold
There’s a story of a group of Tibetan monks that can dry sheets, even in freezing weather, simply by wrapping the sheets around themselves and raising their core temperature. Sounds a bit like magic, right? Well, there’s actually some truth to it.
Scientists recreated the scenario, and while the participants of the study couldn’t successfully dry sheets, they were able to regulate their body temperature, even while simply sitting still and concentrating. In another study, participants were able to raise their core body temperature by practicing a meditating technique and following certain breathing patterns. “Mind over matter” never felt so real!
8. Synchronize with music
Music may be more beneficial for our health than we realize. Studies have shown that when participants listen to music with grand crescendos, like classical pieces by Beethoven, their heartbeat, blood pressure, and respiration increased with the crescendos of the music, slowing down again during calmer portions of the music.
During some sections of the music, participants’ heartbeats even synchronized with the music. So those emotions you feel when you listen to your favorite rock’n roll music, or the cheeriness you feel when listening to Christmas music, are very real responses to the music. Next time you’re feeling a little stressed, try putting on some calm music—it might help more than you realize.
9. Tell you when spring is coming
We would all love to know exactly when spring is going to get here. Who needs Groundhog day when we have our very own human body to tell us when spring is around the corner? If you have allergies, chances are you’re familiar with the watery, itchy eyes that come with pollen spreading in the air as the seasons change.
If your eyes start getting watery and itchy when it’s still cold out, however that’s a sign that spring is almost here! Your body can alert you to the upcoming change in seasons even before the rest of the world can see it.
10. Slow down your heartbeat
When we’re nervous or scared, our hearts start to beat faster; it’s a mechanism to make sure we’re getting enough oxygen to the rest of our body when we’re in a dangerous situation. But we don’t always want to be feeling like that, especially if we’re just going into an office meeting or giving a speech to a group of peers; we’d rather be calm.
There’s a surprising way to get our heartbeat to go down almost immediately, even when you’re feeling stressed: just blow on your thumb. It may sound crazy, but there’s science to back up this theory. There’s a nerve in our thumb that’s connected to our heartbeat, and by blowing on it, we can help slow our breathing, which in turn helps regulate our heartbeat and gets it back down to a normal pace.
11. Create a near-photographic memory
While some people are born with the ability to remember everything that’s ever happened to them (it’s rare, but it definitely exists) most of us have to struggle along through life with our average memories. But it turns out that with practice, we can retrain our brains to remember things almost perfectly.
Using simple techniques like mnemonic devices and practicing different encoding techniques, we can improve our memory drastically. One man spent a year training his memory and entered a national Memory Championship—which he then won, setting a new world record while he was there. Our brains have the capacity for amazing things if we only train them.
12. Accidentally heighten your sense of bitterness
Some of us may think we’re already pretty aware of the bitter things in our life, thank you very much. But there’s an actual biological change that can happen in our mouths that can make us hyper-aware of the bitter taste of things. We’ve all tried to drink orange juice after brushing our teeth and realized that’s just about the worst combination in the world, right?
The reason for that is that the chemicals in our toothpaste temporarily alter our sense of taste. It suppresses the taste buds that are sensitive to sweet things while heightening our sense of bitter things. So if you want to actually taste things properly in the morning, you might want to wait a bit after brushing your teeth.
13. Sixth sense
Before you blow on your thumb to get your heartbeat back down to normal, you might want to think about what’s going on around you. Our heartbeat increases for a reason; normally for things we can see or feel, that would make us scared or nervous, or even excited. Sometimes, however, our heartbeat seems to increase for no reason at all.
Scientists have recently discovered, though, that when our heartbeat goes up for no reason, sometimes there actually is a reason—it just hasn’t happened yet. Yes, you read that right: our heart will start reacting to something before we even know it’s there. So if your heart starts going crazy, maybe don’t blow on your thumb right away. Instead, take a look around and try to figure out what your heart’s trying to tell you.
14. Beat dizziness
Feeling dizzy sucks. Sometimes you feel dizzy because you spun around too many times (not everyone can handle the teacup rides at the happiest place on earth), but sometimes you can feel dizzy for other reasons, too; like having a few too many sugary drinks or coffees (or, yeah, a few too many alcoholic beverages).
The part of your ear responsible for balance can be thrown off by things like too much alcohol, as the alcohol dilutes the blood and causes the cupula (the thing in your ear that keeps you on-balance) to become less dense and start moving around, causing you to feel dizzy. If you put your hand on something stable, it tricks your brain into thinking you’re stable, too, and you can feel less dizzy.
15. Prevent nighttime acid reflux
If you suffer from this and constantly wake up needing to ease the heartburn, there’s actually a super simple trick you can use to help prevent the issue from even arising. All you need to do is sleep on your left side, instead of your right. If you’re already a side-sleeper, this body hack will already be a breeze for you.
This works because, since your stomach and esophagus are tied at an angle, sleeping on your left side keeps your stomach below your esophagus. If you sleep on your right side, however, your stomach is higher than your esophagus, which can allow stomach acids to trickle into your esophagus, causing the acid reflux.
16. Cure a toothache with your thumb
Yes, you read that right. It turns out that to cure a toothache, you don’t need expensive medicines or pain relievers (well, for small toothaches, anyway; always check with a medical professional if you’re having serious pain). All you need is your own hand and some ice.
For this technique, simply take an ice cube, and rub it on the area between your thumb and your forefinger. This may sound crazy, but the neural pathway that keeps pain from going to your face is located there. Rubbing ice there can help relieve pain in your face, even for those pesky toothaches.
17. Predict the weather some more
Remember that old myth that you probably heard your grandparents tell you, that when their joints were aching it was probably going to rain? It may actually have some truth to it. When the temperature drops and cold weather arrives (such as the sudden drop right before the rain comes), the atmospheric pressure drops, too, which can increase joint pain in those that are already experiencing it.
Scientists conducted a study and concluded that patients with chronic pain could often feel increased levels of pain in their joints a full day before a storm arrived in their area, due to the changes in atmospheric pressure. So the next time someone tells you their bones and joints are aching, you might want to grab an umbrella.
18. Increase alcohol tolerance
Most of us are pretty aware of our alcohol tolerance—but did you know it can change based on where you’re drinking? Studies have proven that if you drink regularly at one place, your central nervous system, upon recognizing the place (with familiar sounds, smells, and other cues) will start to accommodate for the drinks you’re about to have, allowing you to build a higher tolerance.
If you go to a new place, however, your central nervous system won’t kick into gear until after you’ve started drinking, so your tolerance can drop drastically. Good to remember the next time you plan to drink in a new place!
19. Regulate your brain temperature
This might seem like a weird thing to do, but you’re already doing it without even realizing it—and you’re doing it with a yawn. You probably associate yawning with being tired, and, in a way, you’re right, but probably not for the reasons you think.
When you’re tired and starting to fall asleep, your body temperature starts to drop. Yawning, and breathing in larger-than-normal amounts of air, increases blood flow to our brains and cools down the temperature of that blood flow by breathing in cooler air. This can help speed up the process of cooling our body down as we get ready to sleep.
20. Turn off the pain switch
While normally our body does (and should) alert us to injuries by letting us feel pain, sometimes our brain can prevent us from feeling pain—almost like turning off a switch. This might sound counterproductive, but it can actually be useful in some situations. You can’t control when it happens, though.
Usually, our brains will shut off pain receptors when we’re in a state of shock, or trauma; this allows us to deal with the shock, or get ourselves out of a dangerous situation before we start to feel the pain that might otherwise incapacitate us. While this is helpful in getting us to safety, you should also be aware that if you’re in a dangerous situation, your injury might be a lot more serious than you think—your brain might just not be letting you feel it yet.
21. Get rid of the stitch in your side
If you’ve ever exercised before, especially going for a run outside or on a treadmill, you know getting a stitch in your side is pretty much just the worst. It hurts like none other, and there’s not really a way to get rid of it. Or is there?
It turns out, scientists say, that getting a stitch in your side is usually caused by exhaling as your right foot hits the pavement (or treadmill). This puts a downward pressure on your liver, which is on the right side of your body, which then pulls down at your diaphragm, creating the stitch. So, to prevent a stitch, or to help with one that you just got, try exhaling as your left foot hits the ground instead. It’s a little trick that can go a long way.
22. Reveal you’re in love with someone
While you might think of this as a bad thing (who wants everyone to know who you’re in love with, right?) it’s still a pretty cool function that our body can perform, normally without us even realizing it. When you’re in love with someone, or at least when you’re attracted to them, your pupils tend to dilate when you’re looking at them.
When we’re focused on an attractive individual or loved one, our dopamine levels rise and sensory receptors are heightened, so our eyes allow for more light (and thus, information) to enter. Our eyes are windows to our soul, after all. So if you want to hide the fact that you’re crushing on someone, you might want to avoid eye contact for a while.
23. Warn you of oncoming hypothermia
While going out skiing or sledding during the winter months isn’t likely to cause you any long-term damage, the cold can be pretty dangerous if you expose yourself to it for too long. If you’re out in the cold for too long and your body temperature drops too much, hypothermia can set in, which is extremely dangerous. Our body has a way of warning us that it’s coming, though.
To save energy as your body temperature is dropping, your eyes will constrict, which can cause temporary blindness. This may sound pretty scary, but it’s also a warning to you that hypothermia is going to set in soon, so you need to get warm as soon as you can. It’s also something to look out for in your friends; if they suddenly say they can’t see, you need to make sure they get warm.
24. Help with a burn
We’ve all accidentally burned ourselves on something, whether it’s a candle, a hair straightener, or something that just came out of the oven. It’s not a pleasant sensation, to say the least. A lot of us would probably run to grab an ice pack or some ice cubes to put on the burn, but science says that’s actually a bad idea; all you need is your own two hands.
What you should do instead is to apply light pressure to the burn area with your unburned fingers and hand. This will help return your skin to a normal temperature, while ice will actually increase your pain faster. Using your own hand instead of ice will also reduce the risk of blisters forming.
25. Alert you to nerve disturbances
Your body will often find ways to alert you that something’s wrong, if only you know what to look for. One of the ways it tells you that something’s not quite right is through hiccups. When you breathe, your diaphragm contracts, making room for the air you’re bringing in. Sometimes this process is interrupted with hiccups. They might seem random, but, biologically, they’re actually far from it.
Hiccups occur when there’s a disturbance in the nerves connecting your brain to your diaphragm. This can happen if you’re eating too quickly, swallowing too much air, or even experiencing anxiety. It causes a spasm in your diaphragm, which you experience as a hiccup. Focusing on your breathing (which can also help you calm down when you’re anxious) regulates your air intake once more and stops the spasms.
26. Heal a tickling throat
A sore throat may be painful, but having an unshakeable tickle in your throat is probably a close second for discomforts that you’d really rather be rid of. Our bodies have a defense mechanism against this uncomfortable sensation, though, even if it’s a bit of a weird one.
If you have a tickle in your throat, all you need to do is scratch your ear! It may sound crazy, but doctors have backed it up. When the nerves in your ear are stimulated, it can cause a reflex in your throat that can create a muscle spasm, which in turn relieves the tickling feeling. Our body is connected in more ways than we realize sometimes.
27. Save your ears when you’re on a plane
If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you’re probably familiar with the terribly uncomfortable sensation of the pressure in your ears once you get up to a high enough altitude. It may feel like our body is betraying us at that moment, but it also has a cure for the sensation ready to go!
One way to combat our terrible ear pressure is to chew something—gum is a good option. Forcing yourself to continually swallow helps push air up the eustachian tube (which connects your throat and nasal cavity to your ears) to relieve the pressure. You can also take a big breath, close your mouth, pinch your nose, and try to breath out again; this forces air back up the eustachian tube too, and can help relieve the pressure in your ears.
28. Destress with laughter
“Laughter is the best medicine” is a pretty well-known mantra. But how much can laughing actually help you? It turns out this old-wives’-tale-sounding mantra is backed up by science, and laughter can help a lot when you’re stressed out or worried about something. We naturally feel good when laughing, especially as a group, but from a scientific vantage point, why is this?
When you laugh, your body releases endorphins that make you feel happier. Additionally, laughter increases your blood flow. Both of these things can lower your stress levels and make you feel a lot better, even after just a few minutes. So if you’re having a stressful day at work or at home, queue up your favorite video and get to cackling.
29. Become a superhero (sort of)
Most of us have probably heard a story about someone performing some superhuman feat when they or a loved one was in danger (for example, a woman who lifted a car to save her child that was trapped underneath). They are stronger and faster than they ever were before, and than they should ever be able to be. This could happen to you, too.
When you feel yourself to be in danger, adrenaline will start pumping through your system, causing a whole host of chain reactions throughout your body. Your heart will beat faster, you’ll start to sweat, and your digestive system even shuts down for a while. This causes your muscles to contract, giving you extra strength for the duration of the emergency. Our bodies may be human, but with them, sometimes, we can be superhuman.