There has been a lot of discussion these days during the COVID-19 crisis about vaccines and drugs with less dialogue about increasing our overall health and wellness. I would love to see more conversations on what steps we can take to ensure our systems are functioning at their best.
To get started, let us look at what our immune system is. Simply put, it is a group of different organs, cells, and proteins that work together to fend off various outside agents, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins. Therefore, this multifaceted system works in harmony to keep us healthy. By now, you may be wondering if there are ways to improve your immune system. The answer is yes.
The four main ways to increase our immune system functionality are eating a healthy and nutritious diet, getting enough rest, exercising, and participating in activities that keep our stress levels low—in other words, practicing self-care!
We need to eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables, where we hydrate and honor our hunger cues. We eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full. Our meals should be exciting and appealing full of colorful ingredients across the food groups. Ideally, you should aim for 6-8 cups of water a day to keep you hydrated. Flavored seltzer or non-caffeinated herbal teas are a fun way to mix up your water intake, but drink these in addition to plain water and not exclusively. Also, consider limiting your alcohol intake and avoiding tobacco products.
People have asked my opinion on the use of vitamins and supplements. This is a whole other blog post to cover, but there is substantial research to support that as we get older, our bodies might not naturally produce the nutrients we need as part of a healthy lifestyle. For example, if a medical professional tells you that your body is not producing enough zinc, it would be time to introduce that into your system as part of a change in diet or an added supplement. We will explore this topic in greater detail with future blog posts.
We need to rest our bodies for 7-9 hours every night. You want this to be good, restful sleep to recharge your batteries. You will feel refreshed in the morning, not like you need to chug a gallon of coffee to function. Back several months ago, my FitBit sleep monitor indicated that my sleep was not nearly as restful as I had thought. I took steps to correct this, one of them being my weighted blanket, which has helped tremendously. Take the time to figure out what you need.
We need to move our bodies in joyful ways and not be afraid to break a sweat. Sweat helps us release toxins! Remember, exercise does not need to happen in a gym if you are the type of person forcing yourself to mount up on a treadmill without any joy in the activity (treadmill minutes, anyone?). Figure out what type of movement or physical activities make you happy. Walking? Swimming? Dancing? Stretching? Last week I had a dance party in my kitchen listening to “Hamilton” while cleaning, a surprisingly great soundtrack for loading the dishwasher! I move my body in ways that feel good to me, so that exercise does not feel like a chore.
When it comes to de-stressing, there are so many options: meditation, deep breathing, getting outside, talking to a loved one, journaling, aromatherapy, Reiki, Ayurveda, yoga, reading, listening to music, and anything else that makes you happy. You might be sensing a similar theme from our previous paragraph on exercise. The same principles apply where if you are making yourself happy with an activity, you are going to lower your stress. Conversely, do not push yourself into common self-care activities if, while doing so, feels forced and joyless. Of course, this is easy to say when you are well versed in the various aspects of self-care. For those of you who are not sure where to start, I recommend three approaches you could explore:
- Deep Breathing
- Short Guided Meditations
- Introducing Ayurveda into your routine
- Ayurveda seeks to connect the mind, body, and spirit with its standard Ayurveda practices of Abhyanga (self-massage) and Dinacharya (daily routine)
Use these as a starting point and find out what works for you! You have the power to boost your immune system naturally by participating in activities that lower your stress level.
In closing, to support our wellness and immune system health, recite the following meditation from Louise Hay. How we think about our health and wellness impacts us on a physical level. Our thoughts are powerful.
“My thoughts support and strengthen my immune system. My body is intelligent. Every day it is getting easier and easier to give myself a good dose of unconditional love. I believe that what I ‘pick up’ depends on where I am in consciousness. Do I believe that ‘life is hard, and I always get the short end of the stick,’ or ‘I’m no good anyway, so what difference does it make?’ If my beliefs run along these lines, then my immune system (which registers my thoughts and feelings) will be lowered and open to whatever ‘bug’ or ‘germ’ is around at the time. However, if I believe that ‘life is a joy, and I am lovable, and my needs are always met,’ then my immune system will feel supported, and my body will more easily fight off dis-ease.”
Don’t forget to tune into Facebook LIVE every Tuesday at 12 PM for Talk-Back Tuesday at the Self-Care Cabaret. If you miss the LIVE video, you can always watch it later when you have time. For those of you not on Facebook, these videos will be posted to my YouTube channel the Friday following every session. Be sure to like, subscribe and love me across all of my social media platforms for the most up to date information on self-care!