Winter is coming, and you don’t have to be a Stark to know that you had better prepare.
Sickness all too often accompanies winter, and reminders are ramping up for traditional preventative measures: flu shots, vitamin C, washing hands, minimizing contact with sick folks, and the like.
While I’d never discourage anyone from availing themselves of these measures, there’s one that you may not considered.
Researchers at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin discovered that participants in a study who practiced mindfulness for only eight weeks responded much better to a flu vaccine than those who didn’t. After being injected with the flu vaccine, mindfulness practitioners produced significantly higher antibodies.
A review of twenty randomized control trials that examined the effect of practicing mindfulness on one’s physical health concluded that these trials indicated mindfulness likely boosts the immune system. Although more testing is needed to say that definitively, practicing mindfulness shows great promise for improving our health.
In my own experience, I’ve found that practicing mindfulness has vastly reduced how often I get sick. When I was a classroom teacher, I was exposed to plenty of germs and would fall ill at least 4 or 5 times per year. Since I started practicing mindfulness, I noticed that I get sick at most once per year.
The connection between mindfulness and our immune systems might seem ridiculous at first glance. After all, what good could sitting there, doing nothing, do for us?
While practicing mindfulness can be a stationary endeavor, we are actually doing something when we practice. We’re cultivating better, more regular awareness of ourselves. This awareness includes our bodies so we can detect when something is beginning to go wrong much sooner.
The more I’ve practiced, the more in tune I’ve become with my body, meaning that I notice when my body is starting to feel rundown and hence more vulnerable to illness. I can take steps to prevent myself from getting sick, such as drinking more fluid, getting more sleep, and cutting back on physical activity. Taking these steps works most of the time, leaving me healthier and able to enjoy my life more.
Give it a shot. You might just save yourself some sneezing and coughing this winter.