We have officially entered that hated time of year — cold and flu season. If you’ve been trapped inside with a coughing co-workers or wiping your kids’ nose every five minutes, you’re probably wondering what you can do to avoid getting sick.
You’ve probably heard that washing your hands frequently, upping your dose of Vitamin C and taking supplements can help you avoid getting sick, but did you know that there are lots of other ways to boost your immune system as well? Here are a few surprising things that you can try:
- Get a lot of sleep — One of the best ways to keep your immune system strong and stay healthy is to get lots of rest. According to the Mayo Clinic, when you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces less infection-fighting antibodies and cells as well as fewer cytokines, a type of protein that helps fight off infections and reduce inflammation. So make sure to rest up!
- Sing in the shower — Do you ever feel better after belting out a song in your car or singing in the shower? Turns out that singing can, in fact, help your immune system. Researchers at the University of Frankfurt tested members of a professional choir, and they found that those who sang for one hour during rehearsal had more antibodies in their blood, which help fight off infections. And another study in England found that people who sang for an hour had a reduction in their stress hormones and an increase in their cytokines, which help fight infections.
- Spend time in the sun — If you are looking for a reason to book a vacation to somewhere warm this winter, consider this: Spending time in the sun can help boost your immune system. Sunshine is the key way that humans get their daily dose of Vitamin D, which is crucial in maintaining a healthy immune system. Ideally, you should spend 15 to 20 minutes in the sun a day, but if you can’t, opt instead to take a Vitamin D supplement.
- Laugh it up — Ever heard the phrase that laughter is the best medicine? Turns out that may be true. A series of studies at Loma Linda University in California showed that laughter can help the immune system in many ways. Not only does laughter help reduce stress hormones, which can negatively affect your immune system, but having a good laugh increases the production of the antibody immunoglobulin A, which fights respiratory tract infections, increases the production of gamma interferon, a hormone that fights viruses and more. A good excuse to start watching more Seinfeld reruns!
- Go for a walk in the woods — Another way to stay healthy? Go for a hike. Scientists in Japan have done numerous studies on the benefits of “forest bathing,” or the process of taking a quiet, mindful walk surrounded by nature, and found that walking in the woods not only reduces stress levels but also boosts your body’s immune system function, increasing its production of Natural Killer cells. And amazingly, those who spent three days in the forest saw the positive effects on their immune system last for more than a month afterwards.