New Year’s Resolution time is here and changes made and adhered to can be very personal and very powerful. Of course life changes can be made at anytime, but after the holidays are over and life slows down there is finally time to shift the focus inward. The purpose of resolutions is to make life better and happier, and to do this one needs to start making changes within. This process starts with a healthy body and a strong immunity system. In the book “4 Weeks to Maximum Immunity” the editors of Prevention and Kim Galeaz, RD, CD discuss the far reaching benefits of resolving to increase your body’s immunity by making these seven key changes.
Key #1: Nutrition: Eating a well balanced diet rich in immune boosting foods will protect yourself from illness and improve your overall health. Some things to keep in mind are:
- Eat a wide variety of antioxidant rich foods.
- Reduce calories by 100-200 per day.
- Focus on foods containing vitamin and mineral superstars: selenium, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and zinc.
- Create a menu which includes foods from the major food groups.
- Whole grains, vegetables and fruits, dairy products, and lean proteins.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Allow yourself coffee, tea, red wine, dark chocolate.
Key #2: Exercise: Obviously exercise fights fat, but it also thwarts infectious diseases, and reduces cancer risks. Experts say exercise is most beneficial when one spends 30 – 60 minutes a day doing moderate and consistent cardiovascular exercise on most days, and 10 minutes a day doing strength training on most days.
Key #3: Sleep: Sleep deprivation takes a toll on all of the body’s systems. Health experts recommend 7-8 hours of restorative sleep every night.
Key #4: Manage Stress Levels: Our bodies are hardwired with a stress response system that lights up our brain and energizes our muscles in the face of danger. Our stress hormones surge and increase our blood pressure, heart rate, and sugar levels so our bodies can react quickly and strongly. After a threat is perceived to be over, our systems return to normal. Acute and episodic stress can actually increase our immune system, but the prolonged and unrelenting stress of our modern world can cause our stress response systems to never shut down and lead to chronic illness in the long run. Ways to attempt to manage the stress of our day include:
- Eat right, stay active and get enough sleep as mentioned above.
- Take deep breaths.
- Take 15 minute mental vacations.
- Count your blessings and live one day at a time.
- Focus on understanding rather than being understood. Embrace the mantra that it is better to give than receive.
- Practice preventative maintenance in your home, car, work and personal life.
- Take up or rediscover hobbies or interests.
- Become a member of a group.
Key #5: Mood: Your mindset has a direct effect on the health of your body. Some negative moods you experience can be changed simply by cognitively looking them in a different light. Other ways to improve your mood are:
- Enhance your social networks.
- Strengthen your close relationships.
- Add a healthy dose of humor to your day. Choose comedies on TV, tell jokes, and surround yourself with funny happy people.
Key #6: Sunlight: Vitamin D is vital for optimal health and optical immune function. Our body makes its own vitamin D with the help of the sun, and while too much direct sunlight without sunscreen can cause skin cancer, experts believe that 10 – 15 minutes of sunshine twice a week can supply our bodies with the amount of vitamin D needed to lower the chances of 16 cancers, infectious diseases and autoimmune conditions.
Key #7: Reduce environmental hazards: Germs and pollutions are hard to avoid but the following suggestions can help reduce your exposure:
- Wash hands often.
- Cook meat to medium well.
- Thoroughly wash all produce.
- Disinfect all surfaces touched by uncooked meat.
- Use air and water filters when possible.
Please check back for future articles describing the above key points in more depth. And remember that you cannot change the world alone, but you can change yourself and how you live in it. By keeping in mind these key points you will not only improve your own health and immunity, but improve your world and the world of the people most important to you.