We are into the flu season and there will be lots of advice on how to avoid and treat the common cold and flu, but did you know that the health of your mind affects your immune system?
Rather than go over the traditional wash your hands kind of advice let’s look at how to enhance and boost your immune system through your mental and emotional health.
Scientists once believed that the mind and the body were separate and didn’t influence each other. However, ancient practices and medicine systems like yoga and Traditional Chinese Medicine, have always purported the interconnection of mind, body, emotions and now, modern-day science has finally caught up.
Your stress levels and general mental state can have a profound effect on the strength of your immune system.
Stress has also been shown to increase the risk of developing immune-based diseases. These include arthritis, psoriasis, eczema, asthma, and lupus.
How does it happen?
When you are stressed your body releases a hormone called cortisol and during times of stress, the level of cortisol rises in the body which triggers the fight or flight system of the body. When this happens, the body responds by limiting certain body functions which include the immune system.
Prolonged stress and elevated cortisol levels, therefore, keeps the immune system in a compromised state, which increases the likelihood of getting sick.
However, the opposite is also true!
Leading a Healthy Lifestyle and Having a Positive Outlook Strengthens Immunity.
The more time we spend engaging in relaxing and fun activities, the more we can strengthen our immune system.
Let’s take a look at simple everyday ways we strengthen and boost our immune system:
1. Engage in positive social interaction.
Enjoying time with others has been shown to lower stress hormones and boost immune activity for several hours afterward. Spend time with people you enjoy being around, get out of the house and spend time engaging in fun activities.
2. Listen to relaxing music or getting a massage is also proven to be beneficial.
Anything that’s relaxing, without being harmful (e.g. drugs, too much alcohol), seems to have a positive impact on immune function.
Make a list of the activities that you find relaxing and/or calming and add to that list any products or drinks that help soothe such as essential oils and herbal tea.
Try to do a few of the items on your list each day. Ensure that you find a few items you can do in the car and at work.
Book yourself in for a regular massage or body treatment – you deserve it.
3. Laughter has a powerful impact on immune function.
Record comedy shows that make you laugh and try to watch them during the week.
Read a few jokes from a book or online during your breaks at work.
Spend time with funny people! You’ll get the benefit of positive social interaction and laughter.
4. Practice gratitude.
Giving yourself a little reminder of the great things in your life will boost your mood and your ability to fight disease. This is a quick exercise that can turn your mindset around quickly.
At the end of the day or first thing in the morning, write down 3 things that you are grateful for.
5. Use positive affirmations to enhance your mood.
Make a list of positive affirmations that resonate with you. Positive thoughts lead to positive feelings. Repeat positive affirmations on a regular basis, especially during periods of stress. Keep your mind occupied with something positive.
6. Set Goals
Boost self-esteem by setting goals you can reach. Big, audacious goals are great, but be sure to have a few easier goals, too. Be happy with your small successes. Your immune system will reward you, too.
7. Exercise patience.
Impatience creates stress. Breathe, try to relax and instead make good use of the extra time. The time will pass regardless of how you spend so, take advantage of it and stay calm.
8. Be happy!
What makes you happy? Figure it out and spend more time doing it. What activity makes the time fly by? Read, knit, dance, meditate, cook, explore new places, go on a picnic. These aren’t frivolous things but they help to make life enjoyable and keep you healthy.
Exercise is not only a great stress reliever but by getting sweaty and out of breath you are also helping the body to detox giving the immune system a helping hand.
10. Help others
It can be all too easy to get swamped down with your own problems so give your mind a break and put it towards helping others. You could simply have a clear-out and donate to charity, bake a cake for a friend or neighbour in need, send a thank you card… the list is endless but kindness and helping others is a mood booster.
Don't underestimate the impact your mood and mindset can have on your immune system. The thoughts you have about yourself, affect the strength of your immunity. If you feel good about yourself your immune system will fight for you.
Optimism, happiness, fun, love, and success keep your immune system in good working order. Being happy and positive doesn’t just feel good, it also strengthens your health.
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