A Mindful, Whole-Health Immune Boost

Cold and flu season has crept up again! It’s time we get back to the basics that support a healthy immune system. Most of us don’t have mom in tow to remind us of the essentials, and when life gets busy, it’s easy to forget just how important practical prevention is….until we’re lying in bed sniffling.

Enjoy this list of familiar favorites—with a mindful twist—for staving off the common cold. 

Sleep 
Simple as it seems, adequate sleep is often the first thing to go when we feel overwhelmed, overjoyed, or just busy.  Research shows that sleep deprivation can adversely affect our immune system, making us more vulnerable to common colds when exposed to viruses.

There’s been a resurgence of self-imposed bed times for adults, and I understand why. If you’re consistently getting too little rest, make a sleeping schedule and commit to following it. If you feel restless at night – your body is uncomfortable or your mind is racing, try these simple exercises:

  • With eyes closed, lying in bed, tense and then relax each part of your body consecutively, followed by a mental affirmation of relaxation. For example, tense and then relax your right leg, saying to yourself “my right leg is relaxing… my right leg is relaxing… my right leg is relaxed.”
  • Breathe deeply into your diaphragm (lower abdomen), belly, and finally your chest, while counting in your mind 1,2,3,4. Exhale for twice as long, counting 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Repeat as you see fit, and once you have found a consistent cycle of breathing, try saying to yourself: “Breathing in, I am conscious of all I have to do. Breathing out, I let go of these thoughts until to tomorrow.”

Eat a healthy, balanced, plant based diet
Feeding ourselves nourishing meals and snacks is the foundation for maintaining health and optimizing immune function. During cold and flu season we must be particularly vigilant.

Stave off infections by maintaining a healthy bacteria colony in your gut. Eat yogurts that contain active and beneficial bacteria or, for a non-dairy option, try pro-biotic supplements. This is especially important if you’re taking antibiotics, as they deplete healthy gut bacteria. If you feel you’re not getting enough nutrients through food because you’re eating on the run, or trying to lose weight by cutting back calories, consider a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement for insurance.

For some people, it may be difficult for them to get enough vitamin D from food sources. Good sources include dairy products and breakfast cereals (both of which are fortified with vitamin D), and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.  We can make vitamin D from our skin when the sun’s rays are strong enough in the summer.  However, in winter for zones beyond the sub-tropical latitude (37°), the sun’s rays are not strong enough for the conversion.  Especially for those who do not consume foods rich in vitamin D, taking 1,000 I.U. of vitamin D from supplement is a wise choice.

For a complete guide to creating and maintaining a healthy diet, check out the healthy eating plate

Bundle up
Check the weather report! Each time we get caught in the rain without an umbrella, or our jacket is so thin that the wind whips right through, our body works over-time and becomes more susceptible to illness. Even if it’s not winter where you live, same goes for heavily air conditioned buildings. Though not proven by western scientific studies, Chinese medicine teaches that this stress on our body affects the chi flow to vital organs that help maintain healthy immune function.

Wash your hands
There’s a reason we’ve heard this advice since childhood. Hand washing is the most effective way to stop the spread of infections! Did you know that anywhere from 2 to10 million bacteria can be found between your fingertips and your elbow?  Hand washing is also an excellent time to meditate throughout the day.

Breathing in, I wash myself of misperceptions.
Breathing out, I invite a calm, clean mind.    

Breathe
Excess stress compromises our physical, emotional and spiritual health. Researchers began studying the relationship between stress and illness in the 1980s and since then, hundreds of studies have concluded that prolonged stress can severely compromise the immune system.

Even heightened stress levels - over a few days - has a profound effect on our cells’ ability to fight infection. Exercise and relaxation diminish stress and the results are instantly rewarding.

Find the right stress release for you:

 

Photo Credit: crumpart

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