Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tips for optimizing your immunity
By: Marissa Anteby
Conventional wisdom dictates that in order to protect ourselves against germs we should be leery of many public situations, especially those involving close physical contact with others. At the very least, make an effort to avoid enclosed places with numerous people, or shaking hands. The truth is really the opposite for staving of such undesirable microorganisms. Social interactions are ideal for boosting immunity to common viruses. Your body's natural defense system is at it's peak performance when you have a sense of camaraderie, belonging, and support. For example, getting a hug from someone actually elevates antibody levels that guard against common ailments. The production of infection-fighting cells increases with each encounter you have. Your body follows the cues that your mind transmits. The more comfortable you are emotionally and mentally, the stronger your innate safeguard mechanisms develop.
Here's a list of some other non-traditional methods of staying healthy:
- Devote time to self-care: Making yourself a priority in your own life is of the utmost importance. When you neglect yourself, it's not solely your immune system that suffers. It's the beginning of a domino effect. On the other hand, eating right, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep, are not the only ways you should be taking care of yourself. Set aside time to relax and enjoy life, delineating definitive breaks to do as you please without responsibilities weighing on you. Examples of self-care are; walking in nature, getting a massage, reading a book, window shopping, taking a bath, turning the ringer off on your phone, putting a "Do Not Disturb" sign on your door, etc. It's not selfish to be considerate of your own needs.
- Express kindness: Showing compassion and gratitude towards yourself and others has physiological effects that support optimum health and well-being. Studies show that all parties involved in an act of kindness benefit with increased serotonin levels. This means not only the person doing a good deed, but the recipient and observers too!
Spending time reflecting on your admirable qualities and the positive aspects of your life, goes a long way in maintaining a healthy you. Letting go of anger, fear, pain, and other destructive emotions, will free up space in your mind and body for positive thoughts to flow. Learning from your mistakes and forgiveness go hand in hand with enhancing your immunity.
- Get a hobby: A hiatus from your usual work to do something leisurely will balance primary stress hormones; cortisol and adrenaline. Any downtime activity that calls upon your intellect will benefit your immune functions. For example, a card game of Bridge, which utilizes abstract thinking, planning, judgment, memory, and initiative, improves bacteria-fighting cell production, when needed.
- Play music: Listening to or making music produces vibrations that ripple through your body, breaking up any stagnant energy trapped inside. When you listen to music you like, the pleasure receptors in your brain are stimulated and fire in to action, sending out 'feel good' endorphin hormones that boost your immunity.
- Sleep in a pitch-black room: Closing all the lights signals your body that it's time to relax and unwind. Melatonin levels in your body increase in the dark, thereby giving you a better night's sleep and fortifying your natural defenses for your waking life.
- Eat foods you like: Provided your choices are not overly processed or contain genetically engineered ingredients, you don't have to limit your intake to certain food groups or calorie count. Your body will intuitively balance vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants, and regulate your cravings if you eat light small meals. Rounding out your diet with vegetables, fruits, protein, whole grains, nuts, and seeds will fortify your cellular armor. (Seek your doctor's advice for comprehensive nutrition planning.)
- Make up your own exercise: Even small bursts of exercise, like 15 minutes a day, have been proven to thwart infection and boost immunity. Any physical activity that makes you happy will do the trick. You can start slow and just plan to blow off some steam. Then gradually progress to a cardiovascular routine that elevates your heart rate. Serving as a buffer against disease, overall fitness creates a reserve capacity that also helps you recover more quickly from bouts of illness.
Incorporate ways to build up your immune system prior to getting stopped in your tracks by red flags warning you of being run down. Drink plenty of water and deal with stress before it gets the better of you. Your body and mind are most in sync when interacting harmoniously to care for your whole self.