We all know that stress is detrimental to our wellbeing and plays a significant role in ill health. If stress depletes our health and vitality, it makes sense to say that fun, laughter and enjoying life are crucial for boosting our health, in particular increasing immune function and protecting us against infection. Here are 5 habits that boost your health to get you smiling inside and out:
1. Laugh, laugh, laugh
Laughter increases the activity of your natural killer cells, helping you to fight off infection. A good laugh on a regular basis has also been shown to increase endorphins; your body’s own natural high. Make time each day to laugh. Surround yourself with upbeat, playful people to encourage a jolly atmosphere, watch comedy or join a laughter yoga class. Take yourself lightly and spend more time with children, they are the masters of fun and silliness.
Many studies have shown that people who live in a strong, supportive community have better health, lower death rates, lower blood pressure and stronger immune function. Isolated people, on the other hand, suffer more health problems- mental and physical – compared to sociable people who enjoy longer, healthier lives as a result. Socialising has been extensively studied as one of the most effective ways to boost your health. So, pick up the phone, arrange to see your friends, or make new ones by taking the effort to talk to new people. Throw a party, join a choir, have a picnic, get to know your neighbours – do whatever you can to get connected.
3. Get moving
It’s no secret that exercise boosts immunity and makes you feel good. You don’t have to exhaust yourself or sign up to a gruelling routine. The key is to simply get moving more every day. Whether it’s dancing, swimming, cycling, walking in nature, just get yourself moving! If you sit at a desk all day, take the stairs instead of the lift, get off the bus a few stops early or park the car a short walk away. Take a lunch break and take a stroll. Exercises that have been proven to increase immune function are slow moving ones such as tai chi, chi gong and yoga. These keep your body out of the fight or flight response improving your health and boosting your immunity.
4. Treat yourself
As long as you do it with joy and mindfulness, indulging in some sensual pleasures will do wonders for your health. If you follow a healthy diet 80% of the time, you’ll enjoy treating yourself for the other 20%. It’s likely too that you’ll choose your treats wisely once you become mindful of them. Choose the purest version of your chosen treat, for example, a healthy, homemade carrot cake instead of a factory-produced, processed one. Or a quality red wine packed with anti-oxidants rather than a sugary cocktail.
5. Relax, breathe and be still
Many people say that they do not have time to relax, yet it is crucial for reducing stress and creating optimum health. It’s not just physical relaxation that’s important; switching off your busy mind will do much to improve the quality of your life. Meditators have been shown to enjoy a healthier lifestyle overall compared to non-meditators. Taking quiet time to allow the mind to settle can bring renewed insight into stressful situations, as well as boosting immune function and switching the nervous system over to parasympathetic mode where all the healing takes place. The body comes out of its stress response when the mind is calm and relaxed.
Try breathing exercises for increased oxygenation of the body, crucial for prevention and healing of infections, and to reverse stress. Breathing deeply literally tells the body everything is ok. If meditation is not your thing, find other ways to deeply relax; enjoy a massage, forest bathe or listen to soothing music.
It’s always about balance
Like everything in life, it’s all about balance. It can be challenging to find and maintain the balance and too often trying to be healthy becomes stressful in itself! Relax, have fun and take yourself lightly. Laughter really is the best medicine.
Jo Rowkins, Nutritional Therapist & Lifestyle Coach
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