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When our immune system is compromised, we lose our defense against illness.
There are several factors that can wreak havoc on our immune system, but the good news is we are in the driver's seat when it comes to our health and vitality! If we stay focused on the following healthy life practices, they soon become not something we DO, but rather who we ARE. Like a consistent daily yoga practice, it becomes our lifestyle.
Good quality, deep sleep, may be the single greatest determinant of overall health and a healthy immune system. Sleep is when your body detoxifies, restores, repairs, and heals. Think of it like giving your internal systems a full-service flush, tune up and detail. It is when your liver and kidneys filter fluids and toxins, muscles and tissues repair, your brain is flushed to remove toxic heavy metals and chemicals, and your brain transfers short term memory to long term memory. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, including weekends. Eat dinner early and avoid late night snacking, sugar and alcohol. Turn off TV and other devices at least an hour before you are ready for sleep and read or meditate on something positive. Take a restorative yoga pose like Legs Up The Wall for 10-15 minutes. Make sure you are hydrating throughout the day as this too affects your sleep and overall well being. If thoughts of worry arise, remember there isn’t anything you can do about it until the next day - this is your time - nothing to do, nothing to fix, just SLEEP.
Stress is at the root of so many health issues and certainly messes with our immune system. Some ways to manage stress are to meditate on things you are grateful for and spend time with people who fill you up. Throughout the day, take time to simply sit, close your eyes and focus on your breath for a few moments, perhaps while standing outside with your face to the sun. Your immune system is strongly affected by your emotions so doing something that you enjoy each day can also immediately change your overall health.
Food either heals or it harms - it’s that simple. Optimal nutrition is crucial to building a strong and robust immune system. Nutrients are best obtained from a diet of whole, real, organic foods, prepared as closely to their original form as possible. These foods are full of the bioavailable amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that our bodies need to thrive and stay well. Predigested, industrialized, processed foods, processed carbohydrates, sugars, sugary drinks (including juices), and alcohol, on the other hand, dysregulate our blood sugar and create inflammation, weakening our immune systems and causing illness. When you feel something coming on, increase your water intake, electrolytes (coconut water), sip bone broth or vegetable broth, and herbal teas.
Our immune system works hand in hand with our lymphatic system so moving your body is vital for your health. Exercise can help regulate blood sugar and hormones, build muscle, manage stress, promote better sleep, and stimulate the lymphatic system. If you are super stressed or haven’t slept well, you might consider low key movement such as a walk in nature or a modified yoga/restorative practice, so as not to drive up your stress and cortisol levels, which, in turn, will weaken your immune system. Movement doesn’t have to be complicated. You can do yoga, go to the gym, walk, garden, dance in your living room. Whatever you choose, choose something that brings you joy.
Five tips for stress reduction.
“I’m so stressed out.” Have you ever felt this way? I have. So many times I’ve lost count. In our fast-paced, immediate response, task oriented, to-do list world, stress is ever present.
According to the annual Stress In America survey by the American Psychological Association, Americans have some of the highest percentages of stress levels and related illnesses, compared to other developed countries. These feelings of overwhelm and worry can be managed and put in check though.
Here are 5 tips for stress reduction:
Move your body .
It’s really that simple. If you’re at your desk and feeling overwhelmed by all that needs to be accomplished, get up and move. Whether it’s going for a walk or run, doing yoga, biking, playing soccer or busting out some pushups, physical activity is proven to help reduce stress. Endorphins are released when your body feels pain or stress. When you feel pain, nerves in your body send pain signals to your brain and your brain releases endorphins to block the nerve cells that receive the pain signals. So it basically turns off your pain and helps you to continue functioning, even in stressful or painful situations. Because as humans we naturally seek to avoid pain, you’re more likely to do something if it makes you feel good. By exercising and moving your body, your brain releases these “feel good” hormones. As endorphin levels increase, stress and anxiety decrease. So get moving!
Just breathe .
Next time you’re in a challenging or stressful situation, notice what happens to your breath. Does it become shallow, rapid, or difficult to breathe? What would happen if you took a step back, a deep breath, and paused for a few seconds? That short pause can reset your mind and body. Mindful breathing is shown to decrease stress. One breath practice that helps me is to inhale for a count of 3, hold the inhale for a count of 3, then exhale for a count of 3. When you repeat this several times, it can decrease feelings of worry and stress, bringing you into the present moment. Remember, it only takes a minute or two to shift your mindset with your breath.
Have you ever noticed that your current environment can contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety? When my house is in disarray it contributes to increased stress for me. Try prioritizing your space, for example, your desk.
Get rid of excess paper, put things where you can easily find them. When you feel more grounded and in control of your own space it creates a positive mood, reduces some stress and can make you feel more relaxed, whether it’s your work environment, personal environment or even the documents on your laptop.
A good night’s sleep is essential for our bodies and minds to function optimally. It’s also a powerful stress and anxiety reducer. Following a regular sleep routine calms and restores your body, regulates mood, and sharpens judgment and decision-making. When you’re well rested you’re a better problem solver and are better able to cope with stress.
Experts recommend 7-8 hours of rest a night. For me, the biggest part of sleep is setting up a routine. I aim to go to bed at around the same time every night and I wake up around the same time each morning.
Unplugging from technology is like a reboot for your brain. It allows you to be more mindful and present in your life and interactions with others. When you’re not scrolling mindlessly through social media, bombarded by endless emails, or looking at news alerts, your mind can slow down and relax. Yes, technology has benefits, but like anything else, it’s best to use in moderation. Try unplugging from technology in the evening. I like to set a specific time of the day when I am done looking at my phone, checking emails or on social media. You can also try setting a time limit; I’m going to be on my phone, laptop, game for an hour, then once you’re done, power down your device, get outside, go for a walk, journal, read a book, do a puzzle, or spend face-to-face time with a friend or loved one.
You have seen and heard all the ads. The ones that claim that they have the magic key to more energy.
They are everywhere; billboards, commercials, magazines, social media sites, stores and product marketing.
A few examples out there are:
- Snickers- “satisfies”
- Come to our gym, guaranteed energy fix
- Do these 5 moves to increase your energy
- Energy drinks- “activate beast mode”
- Sugary foods state that they provide ‘quick energy’
Do these work? They may. And, they are not a sustainable form of energy. Nothing from the outside can truly give us the energy we desire to keep us living at our fullest potential.
Yoga, however, is the opposite. Yoga offers us the opportunity to tap inside ourselves in order to energize from the inside out. And it takes us doing the work.
Yoga asks us to tune into awareness at many levels.
- To our breath
- To our listening
- By focusing our attention
- Through our expanding
- Through our contracting
In yoga, we get to pause from the busyness of life that tends to drain our energy and instead focus our awareness on our bodies and whole selves even deeper. As our awareness heightens, we begin to experience and recognize the smallest details in our physical body. We learn about ourselves.
The physical challenges our body goes through requires us to dig deep. This gives us the chance to breathe bigger, to stay committed, and to access our mental state too. That is the intersection of yoga and energy. Where the body meets the mind.
Our energy releases through the intentional movement of our body. The practice stretches and strengthens our muscles, tissues, and the fascia, the subtle body, where the energy channels are found. Thus, our moving wringing, bending, breathing, and stilling the body travels energy ultimately to our mind, which in turn tells us we are good. This positive energy builds and we have increased our energy. And, without all the quick fixes.
So how can you increase your energy?
- Mat down
- Intentionally move and connect within
- Focus your awareness inside
You go inside of what you already have, yourself, and watch your life-giving energy increase.
“Where your mind goes, your energy flows.” -Aristotle
It's difficult to be mindful and concentrate with constant interruptions. Here are a few helpful tips!
The dog barks. Your phone rings. The Amazon driver drops off another package and rings the doorbell, your Apple watch buzzes with a notification, and BAM you lose your concentration –YET AGAIN. Your thoughts are immediately interrupted, there goes your focus. Distractions seem to take over our attention so easily every single day and sometimes minute by minute. When your mind wanders it can be nearly impossible to remember where you left off and what you were even thinking about. Here are a few tools to help you build your concentration and keep adding powerful practices to your life.
Mindfulness. Mindfulness or Meditation is about focusing attention on the present moment, being aware of where you are and what you’re doing, and not being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around you. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to rewire the brain so that attention is stronger in everyday life. Sitting still for a few minutes each day, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breathing, or the sounds and sensations around you can have a positive impact on your brain. Mindfulness can even be done while you're driving by simply turning off the radio, driving in silence, and feeling your breath just move in and out. You can even take a walk outside, looking intently at all the things you see around you, maybe even touching what you see. It may be a good practice to sit as soon as you get out of bed. Set yourself up for success by just sitting for 2 minutes a day for 1 week, maybe try 5 min a day the next week, and keep going from there. No matter how far we drift away, mindfulness is right there to snap us back to where we are and what we’re doing and feeling. Mindfulness is more than just practice. It brings awareness and caring into everything we do—and it cuts down needless stress. Even a little makes our lives better.
Sleep deprivation can easily disrupt concentration, not to mention other cognitive functions, such as memory and attention. It can lead to brain fog. Both your body and your mind suffer when you don’t get enough sleep. In a world that’s constantly on the go, your body and your mind need a chance to rest and re-charge. Experts recommend adults aim to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. A study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found when people get an adequate amount of sleep, the centers of the brain that control speed and accuracy are more active than those who are sleep deprived.
Staying well-nourished and hydrated
A healthy diet plays a role in increasing your concentration. What you are feeding your body, your brain, and how well you stay hydrated matter. Your brain cells work better when your body isn’t distracting you. Some foods can actually help keep you focused throughout the day. The right “brain food” can support brain function and health.
100 oz of water daily is recommended
Fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, cod, and pollock, are among the most commonly known foods for concentration. Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids and DHA, which are great for improving concentration and memory.
Nuts have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for the brain's cognitive functions. They contain copper, manganese, zinc, and selenium. These nutrients are essential nutrients for healthy neurological function. Eating nuts has been linked with improved moods in some studies too!
Avocados are high in lutein, a dietary component associated with cognitive benefit. Eating them will boost your memory and concentration, but also your attention levels and processing speed.