When it comes to keeping your immune system healthy, you’ve probably heard all the regular advice: eat the right foods, get enough exercise, make sure you’re sleeping enough and take your vitamins. But what about putting a smile on your face? Or looking at the glass as being half full rather than half empty? It seems that there’s a bit of psychology to staying healthy. Having a positive attitude and looking on the bright side of things can help give your immune system a boost.
While it’s always been suspected that there was a connection between a healthy attitude and a healthy immune system, a university study has gone a long way to proving it. Scientists studied 124 students at the University of Kentucky over a period of time. The researchers were studying the correlation between the students’ attitude and their immune system response. The students received an injection of candida yeast or a dosage of dead mumps virus just under the skin of their forearm. The dose was non-lethal and harmless. The injection triggered their immune systems, resulting in a tiny bump at the injection site. The researchers noted that when a student’s optimism rose, they had a stronger immune response. When their attitude turned towards the negative, it had the opposite effect.
The reasons why aren’t quite clear yet, but it could have something to do with the biochemical connection between the body and the brain. The body’s neural, hormonal and immune systems each all use the same neuropeptides to communicate through their psychological and chemical process. So in a way it makes sense that what your mind thinks could affect your health, especially your immune system, since everything is interconnected.
Another clue as to why a positive attitude improves the immune system has to do with stress. A lot of the time a poor or negative attitude goes hand in hand with high levels of stress. And when you experience high levels of acute stress or chronic stress, it can take a toll on not only your mind, but also your body. You can be in a constant fight or flight response, which can be taxing on your immune system. Dealing with stress in a proactive way can help you to gain and keep a more positive attitude, which will help your immune system fight off sickness.
If you aren’t a positive person by nature, it doesn’t mean that you can teach yourself to be. Even if you aren’t in a good mood, try smiling. Psychology studies have shown that forcing yourself to smile can actually cheer you up and make you happy. Also, work on identifying WHY you’re attitude is less than positive. Anytime you find yourself slipping into “poor me” thinking, make yourself stop. It will eventually become a habit and will come to you naturally. Take stock of your live and eliminate any unneeded stressors in your life. Rearrange your work schedule. Take up a hobby that you love. Ask for help if something becomes too overwhelming. Just a few changes can lower your stress levels and make you a happier person.
Regardless of why or how a positive attitude improves the immune system, know this: it does. So take a deep breath, smile and realize that things aren’t all that bad. In fact, they are great. Not only is a positive attitude super for your immune system, but you’ll be a much happier person. And you’ll enjoy life more. Breaking the negative attitude/always sick cycle will also help you to stay positive. If you are sick less and noticing an improvement in your life, it will be easier to smile.