If there was ever a time to strengthen our immune system, it’s now.
The healthier our bodies, the more we’re able to resist infections.
So what can we do to boost our immunity despite the lifestyle limitations we’re currently facing?
I discuss several important strategies with ABC radio presenter Julie Clift.
Julie: Last week you said a regular good night’s sleep was key to strengthening our immune system. What else can we do?
Dr Helena: The obvious thing is to not smoke – there’s never been a better time to quit – because not only does smoking weaken our immune system, people who smoke get much sicker if they get the corona virus. And even if you only smoke one cigarette a day, it significantly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
An important little-known factor that keeps our immune system robust is experiencing positive emotions. That does not mean forcing yourself to be upbeat if you don’t genuinely feel it. Don’t fake it. What it means is to actively seek out things that will lift your mood. Whether it’s listening to music, watching comedy, phoning a friend, playing a board game or reading your favourite author.
An experiment at the University of California in Los Angeles involved drama students who were randomly assigned to one of 2 groups. The first group worked with depressing scripts all day long and were asked to recall times in their lives when they felt unhappy. The second group were given uplifting scripts or comedy to perform. Throughout the day, doctors took blood samples and tracked their white cell count (an indication of the strength of their immune system). By the end of the day, the students working with depressing scripts had a significant drop in their white blood cells indicating that their immune system had been weakened. Those working with happy scripts maintained a healthy white cell count. So the message is to continue to find things that bring a smile to your face. And this leads to another benefit: when we feel positive, we’re more motivated to help others which makes us feel even better and we create an ongoing positive upward spiral.
Click here to listen to the rest of our conversation.
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