This article offers 5 fun ideas to beat stress, increase your vitality and longevity, and get your insides smiling.
Most of us probably don’t require convincing that stress takes its toll on our overall health. In many cases, its effects on our well-being are palpable. There is also truth to our intuitive sense that having fun and enjoying life are important to increased vitality and longevity — more so, perhaps, than current medical models emphasize. Here are some ideas to get your insides smiling:
Get yourself movin’
Feeling good doesn’t have to mean boring or exhausting yourself in a painful workout routine. Whether skiing, dancing, walking or enjoying some other activity that gets the blood pumping, be sure to get some light to moderate exercise several times each week, and daily if possible. Slow-moving martial arts such as tai chi or gigong can help improve immune system function. One study found that folks who are physically active experience less severe symptoms and 33 percent fewer sick days than those who are not. Take care not to overdo it; however, even running or jogging can become too much, moving the body out of the parasympathetic nervous state (healing) and into the sympathetic nervous state (fight or flight), depleting your health rather than facilitating it. This is especially important to remember when sick, as your immune system can work more efficiently when you’re conserving energy.
Make sweet love
Cough medicine or coitus? When it comes to treating or preventing pesky colds and flus, drug and pharmaceutical companies have yet to produce a more pleasurable alternative to the horizontal tango. According to a 1999 study, sex with a healthy partner may actually help build up the body’s production of cold-fighting antibodies. The study found levels of immunoglobulin (IGA) were higher in those people who had sex one to two times weekly, compared with those who had less frequent sex or none at all.
Be social, laugh it up
Studies repeatedly demonstrate the health benefits of belonging to a strong supportive community. From healthier immune function and lower blood pressure to comparatively lower death rates, people with more solid connections and social networks enjoy longer, healthier lives than those who routinely isolate themselves. And bonus points go to those willing to laugh at themselves. Studies have shown that laughter boosts endorphins and directly assists the activity of natural killer cells. So throw a killer party, invite your nearest and dearest, encourage good humor and celebrate the extra years you’re bestowing upon each other.
Still your mind, rest well
Turn off your busy mind and enjoy a much deserved massage or meditation hour. Relaxation exercises reduce stress, thereby helping to improve the body’s immune response. Deep breathing exercises encourage proper oxygenation of the body, which is essential to the prevention and healing of all infections. Massage can be especially helpful when it comes to boosting quantity and function of certain pathogen-fighting natural killer cells in the body. Perhaps most importantly; however, is to be sure to get enough sleep at night. At least nine hours of sleep, beginning no later than 9 p.m. each night, are recommended, and the hours before midnight are four times as beneficial as those afterward.
Indulge your burger craving
You’ll just want to make sure it’s humanely raised, chemical-free and grass-fed. With a three-ounce serving offering as much as 30 percent of the daily value of zinc, beef is a rich source of this key mineral. Zinc is essential to the development of white blood cells, which are among the immune system’s first lines of defense. Zinc deficiency is a common condition among American adults, particularly vegetarians and others who avoid the consumption of animal proteins. But feeding your body well and thereby obtaining ideal mineral ratios and optimum levels of essential nutrients is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Other good sources of zinc include oysters, poultry, milk and yogurt. Yogurt is also an excellent source of immune-boosting probiotics. As always, it’s best to seek the least processed, most chemical-free, local and organic foods possible.