Staying healthy is on everyone’s minds lately, which makes complete sense in the midst of a pandemic. When you Google “how to boost your immune system”, you’ll find a lot of the same repetitive information. By now, we’re pretty clear on what we should do. We need to get enough sleep, manage stress, eat healthy, and exercise if we want to maintain a strong resistance to seasonal — or even novel — germs.
These tried and true healthy habits are important to practice, however they're not always fun and sometimes it can be difficult to stick to a consistent routine. Here are three enjoyable things you'll want to continue doing to keep your immune system healthy and happy:
Wake Up Your Inspiration
It’s winter. The weather’s chilly, you’re missing your natural vitamin D and you might not be feeling as vibrant as usual. You’re doing your best to meet your obligations while trying to manage stress. And it’s so draining.
Maybe you need a little inspiration. Experts say striving for an inspired state of mind leads to feelings of self-esteem, optimism and gratitude. These traits are linked to better stress management and a sense of overall well-being.
Despite the pressure of our hustle culture, making time to focus on what inspires you, rather than what’s just productive, helps keep you healthy and resilient. Love to travel? Take some time to read travel blogs and visualize your next destination. Make a list of all of the places you've always wanted to go to. Miss dressing up? Go through your closet and try out bold new styles that make you feel empowered and self-expressed. Find different ways to style your wardrobe so you can walk out of your house feeling like you just bought a new outfit.
So, go ahead. Make that vision board. Discover your style. Open up your journal again. Lace up your workout shoes. Whatever activities, interests and ideas inspire you, make sure to carve time out to make them happen again for the goodness of your health.
Indulge in Immune System Boosting Foods
Mother Nature knows what she’s doing. It just so happens that some of the most nutritious, immune boosting foods also happen to be seriously enjoyable.
Sure, you can clear out the shelves of your local vitamin store and stock up on supplements. But I think we can all agree a more pleasurable way to stay healthy is to actually savor foods that have the same good stuff you’ll find in supplements. Take for instance:
Pho — What can be better than a hot bowl of pho? Beyond checking off all the yummy boxes, pho is an all-round winner for your immune system. It’s got bone broth for your gut, ginger for inflammation, cilantro to detoxify, and vegetables for fiber and vitamins.
Turmeric drinks — Hot turmeric drinks do more than make a pretty picture for your Instagram story. Whether you prefer turmeric lattes, golden milk, or turmeric tea, this vibrant spice can help modulate the immune system, according to studies like this one.
Honey — Not all sweeteners are created equal. Honey is unique because is contains specific enzymes and phytonutrients only found in bee products. When consumed in moderation, honey helps the immune system fight germs so you're less likely to get sick in the first place. If you do happen to succumb to seasonal sickles, it soothes a sore throat and can help you get back on your feet faster.
Cultured foods — And we thought Kombucha was just good for digestion and belly bloat. Turns out, most of the work done by the immune system happens in the gut. Studies show fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi, and sourdough bread populate your gut with the “good” bacteria it needs to help protect your body from pathogens like viruses.
The key is to keep sugar to a minimum. For every 100 grams of sugar you consume, even from natural sources, your immune function temporarily clocks out. Unfortunately, this also applies to alcohol. But hey, if you’re going to have a margarita anyway, squeeze in a little extra lime for the vitamin C.
Cuddle Your Cuties
Lately, relationships with our friends, family, or loved ones may feel a little forced in one direction or another. Either we can’t see or hug the ones we love, or we’re sharing too much space with people who’ve been wearing the same sweatpants for days.
But even if you can’t be with all the ones you love, there’s a reason to love the ones you’re with. When you cuddle up to those who make you feel happy and safe — whether it’s your love partner, kids, or even pets — the brain releases a dose of the powerful hormone oxytocin.
Oxytocin earned its reputation as the “love hormone”. But it doesn’t get enough credit for its benefits to the immune system. Research shows it strengthens your ability to fight illness and helps wounds heal faster. It can also keep stress-induced immune issues in check.
You don’t need to commit to a lengthy love session to get your oxytocin boost. (Though no one’s discouraging that, of course!) Believe it or not, even hugging someone for a few seconds benefits the body — not to mention your relationship.
Interestingly, a study suggests oxytocin surges might have a more pronounced effect on women. So honeys, be sure to curl up next to your partner. Snuggle with your little ones. Go nose-to-nose with your puppy. Not only will it make you feel good, but you’re also boosting your immune system and strengthening your connections while you're at it.
Of course, staying healthy requires some work and effort. And eating extremely healthy and exercising isn't the only way to keep our immune system in tip-top shape. Research shows that many of the things we enjoy most — like our interests, great food, and affection — go a long way in supporting our immunity and resilience.