How Your Mental Health Affects Your Immune System & 3 Ways to Stay Healthy
For many of us, staying healthy is a top priority as we age. We watch what we eat, try work out regularly, and do what we can to keep our physical body in good condition.
But do you consider mental health when evaluating the health of your body? While it may surprise you, the state of your mental health can have as much effect on your overall health as your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, yet few people hold it in the same regard.
How Does Mental Health Affect the Immune System?
There is a significant correlation between stress and our bodies’ immune system. Stress is a normal part of life and can be beneficial—our bodies’ flight-or-fight response kept our ancestors alive for thousands of years. In a normal situation, the human body enters a temporary state of stress until a threat has passed, then resumes normal function.
Unfortunately, in today’s hectic environment, many people live in a constant state of stress, which reduces the body’s ability to fight off infections and makes us susceptible to illness. Chronic stress can also lead to anxiety and depression, two mental health conditions that also negatively affect our immune system.
How Can We Stay Healthy?
Regular exercise has a positive effect on mental health and gives our immune system a much-needed boost. Try to get at least 10 minutes of exercise each day. Go for a walk. Engage in gentle stretching. Take a tai chi class.
Exercise allows your mind to focus to on something other than your stress triggers, providing a break from the worry cycle you may find yourself in. Additionally, studies show regular exercise supports a healthy immune system and reduces your risk of illness.
A healthy diet should be part of your health care regimen, but it can be hard to get your daily dose of immune-boosting vitamins through the foods you eat.
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Practicing the art of mindfulness, or meditation, helps us turn our focus inward, and to really assess what is happening inside our bodies and how we respond to stimuli. In short, meditation trains us to recognize how our body responds in certain situation and to retrain it to opt for a healthier response.
Practicing mindfulness requires no special equipment. Simply find a comfortable place to sit, give yourself a set amount of time (you may want to start with 10 minutes), engage in deep, comfortable breathing, and pay attention to how your body feels in the present moment without judging or criticizing those feelings.
As you perfect your practice, you’ll find the mere act of acknowledging how you feel reduces stress and improves your mental health.
It is important to care for your mind just as you do your body. Your mental health plays an important role in the overall health of your immune system, so be sure to pay attention to how you feel, move your body as often as you can, and support your immune system with a high-quality supplement. After all, your body is the most valuable thing you own…invest in it wisely.