You might think that boosting your immune system is all about taking vitamin pills and watching your blood pressure. The truth is that protecting yourself from illness depends on your mind as much as your body.
In fact, there’s a growing field of science called psychoneuroimmunology that’s devoted to how your personality and mood affect your immune system. Discover what you can do to cultivate traits that help you stay healthy.
Stress and Your Immune System
Chronic stress may be responsible for as much as 90% of all doctor visits in the U. S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When stress hormones like cortisol remain present for too long, they can cause disruptions that lead to premature aging, heart conditions, and other issues.
- Slow down. Take a deep breath when you find yourself rushing around. Stretch out and release the tension.
- Trim your to-do list. Look for items that you can scratch off your agenda. Maybe you can do laundry only once a week.
- Rest and relax. Refresh your body and mind with high quality sleep and effective relaxation. Go to bed and rise at the same time each day. Take a walk or meditate when you need a break.
Altruism and Your Immune System
Helping others causes physiological changes in your brain that make you happier and calmer. Good deeds strengthen your immune system and enhance your wellbeing.
- Volunteer your time. Even if money is tight, you can be generous with your time. Run errands for an elderly relative or sign up for a charity race. Again with the current situation regarding social distancing you could adapt your help to make sure you and everyone else is safe.
- Share your wisdom. Let others benefit from your expertise. If you’re a whiz at maths, tutor school children who are struggling with fractions. Post your recipe for your families favourite meal online.
- Offer praise. Brighten someone’s day with a kind word. Tell your postman or woman how much you appreciate their services. Compliment a stranger or say thank you to the person who serves you at the checkout in the local supermarket ;-).
Anger and Your Immune System
A Harvard University study found that hostility can decrease lung capacity, possibly due to stress hormones inflaming airways. While angry outbursts or bottling up emotions can be hard on your heart and immune system, there are more constructive approaches.
- Practice forgiveness. Choose to let go of resentments. Cultivate compassion for yourself and others. Remember how much better you’ll feel when you release the past.
- Count to ten. Pause before you say or do something you may regret. A few seconds maybe all you need to prevent a conflict with your boss or spouse.
- Laugh more. There are some issues worth battling for, and many others that you can safely overlook. See your housing association as entertaining rather than annoying when they try to dictate how many flowers you can plant ;-).
Loneliness and Your Immune System
Lack of social support can also undermine your immune system. Several studies have found higher levels of antibodies in participants who report being lonely, which suggests more viral activity.
- Schedule get-togethers. Prioritise time spent with friends. Set up a regular Tuesday morning coffee date or a Saturday afternoon pamper session at your local salon.
- Meet new friends. Is your social circle shrinking? Take an art class or join a gardening club where you can find others who share your interests.
- Leave home. If you’re feeling isolated working at home, take your laptop to an internet cafe. Strike up a conversation with someone or just enjoy
watching the crowd.
Of course at this moment in time with the current situation regarding social distancing you could make use of apps like Facetime, WhatsApp etc, even just a quick call or text.
Recognising the mind-body connection may help you to catch fewer colds and lower your risk for more serious illnesses. For a longer and healthier life, protect your immune system by managing stress and connecting with others.
Natural Methods That Boost Your Immune System
You depend on your immune system to fight off foreign substances that could make you sick and help you recover if any of them slip through. A healthy lifestyle strengthens your body’s defense network so you catch fewer colds and reduce your risk for many serious health conditions. Try these natural methods to boost your immune system and enjoy better health.
Foods and Eating Habits That Strengthen Your Immune System
- Fill up half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are what super foods are all about because they help prevent and repair cell damage. Eating a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables is the best way to meet your requirements for important nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E.
- Get enough zinc and selenium. Two other important antioxidants are zinc and selenium Good sources for zinc include seafood, beans, red meat, poultry, whole grains, nuts and dairy products. Selenium is also found in many foods like beef, poultry, tuna and whole grains.
- Watch your calories. Studies show that being overweight can depress your immune system. Excess fat cells are linked to chronic inflammation and decreased production of antibodies. Maintaining a healthy body weight can help fend off diabetes, heart disease and other threats.
- Limit sugars and fats. Diets high in sugar and saturated fats make your white blood cells less effective in guarding you against bacteria. Stick to sensible portions of healthy fats like olive oil and cut back on the soft drinks.
Other Constructive Lifestyle Changes
- Reduce stress. Chronic stress bombards your body with hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that interfere with your immune system. Find relaxation techniques that work for you like meditation or massage.
- Get adequate sleep and rest. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night to keep their immune functions in top shape. As much as possible, go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
- Indulge in healthy pleasures. During exercise and enjoyable activities, your brain releases chemicals that reinforce good feelings and help trigger the production of IGA proteins that boost your natural defenses.
- Cultivate friendships. Social connections are essential to our physical health. The quality of friendships is more important than the quantity, so focus on whatever arrangements make you feel loved.
- Engage in regular exercise. People who exercise regularly produce more leukocyte cells so they have a better chance of avoiding infection. Moderate exercise is all it takes, so go for a walk for a half hour at least three days a week.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. Repairing the damage from heavy drinking can weaken your immune system and make it more likely that you’ll succumb to any bug that’s going around. Play it safe by sticking to a daily maximum of two drinks for men and one for women.
- Consider herbal treatments. Medical experts caution that further research is needed, but people have been using herbs for centuries to promote good health. Work with an experienced practitioner, check references carefully and tell your doctor about any products you decide to take.
- Wash your hands frequently. The benefits of frequent and thorough hand washing are indisputable. Use soap and water or hand sanitizers to reduce the risk of infection for yourself and others.
Take care of yourself so your immune system can focus on unwanted invaders like germs and viruses especially during this pandemic. Simple steps like eating right and reducing stress will pay off in fewer sick days and may even extend your life by reducing your risk for cancer and other serious conditions. Add some of these immune-strengthening strategies to your life today.