At some point in our lives, even before we had kids, we’ve all encountered stress. Now, it’s only gotten worse. Our toddler’s hunger is more important than squeezing in a little downtime in front of the TV. As parents, we push ourselves and ignore the consequences that it has on our bodies.
By the end of the day—several temper tantrums, two loads of laundry, and twenty-five dirty dishes later—we wonder why we’re so exhausted and irritable.
While , at times, stress can motivate us to be more productive, it can also impact our bodies in many surprising ways--from minor disruptions to major auto-immune responses. You might not realize what stress is actually doing to your body, and think of it simply as an emotional response. Maybe you do realize the physical implications of stress, but feel powerless to prevent it. This is why, no matter who you are, why you’re stressed, or what’s going on in your life, it’s important to develop stress-relief skills.
In this blog, we’ll be discussing these skills. It may seem ridiculous at first, especially if you’re not familiar with mindfulness and how it works. But stick with us! By the end of this blog, you’ll be better adept at reducing your stress, so you can live a happier, healthier life.
So what are these stress relief skills? And how can we easily manage our stress? Everything starts with mindfulness. Mindfulness is the first step to managing stress in both the short-term and long-term. So how are mindfulness and the immune system connected? How does mindfulness help the immune system? What are the benefits of mindfulness? Let’s explore mindfulness and the immune system in more depth. First, your number one question:
What Is Mindfulness?
For many people, mindfulness conjures up an image of meditation--sitting cross-legged and humming “om”. While meditation is a form of practicing mindfulness, mindfulness is more accessible--easier to learn and begin practicing. Mindfulness is simply the practice of having awareness-- awareness about what is going on in our body and mind, and about our actions and feelings. It is defined as “the awareness that emerges by way of paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
For example, when you’re in a stressful situation, you can use mindfulness to be aware of what is happening. Oftentimes, stress can get ahead of you--you start worrying about the future along with the present. Your stress becomes applicable to everything, your home life, work, etc. In these moments, mindfulness can be an important tool. Mindfulness will help you separate your emotions from the situation you’re in, allowing you to take a step back and think more clearly. Mindfulness will help you live in the moment, working through what the root cause of your stress is and how you can problem solve, rather than falling into that ‘stress spiral,’ we are all sadly familiar with. . It is separating the facts of a situation from your emotional, yet being aware and accepting of both.
How Does Mindfulness Help the Immune System?
Practicing mindfulness throughout your day has lots of benefits. It helps you manage your stress by preventing it from affecting your mental health (and physical health, which we’ll get into later). Mindfulness also helps you be more present, and grateful for what you have. This will make you happier and more satisfied. Mindfulness can also combat insomnia, and help you sleep better. Sleep deprivation is detrimental to our immune system (and what we see in the mirror the next morning!).
When mindfulness is practiced regularly, it becomes habitual. You begin to enjoy practicing mindfulness and start to do it more regularly. This trains your mind, body and immune system! As we’ll discuss now, mindfulness benefits you physically, especially your immune system at a cellular level.
What Happens Physiologically?
Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between mindfulness and the immune system. How does it work on a physiological level?
When the immune system is active, your body's immune cells produce inflammatory proteins that serve as extracellular communicators. When in circulation, these proteins support pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory effects to protect us from autoimmune problems. Though these proteins are typically quite beneficial, they can sometimes increase risk of disease, if your body develops unusually high levels of them. They can also lengthen the time it takes to heal. Unfortunately, this issue is more common than we realize--coupled with chronic stress and depression, this will inhibit your immune cell activity and your body’s ability to produce immune cells. This weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness.
How Does Mindfulness Affect Immunity?
Now, you might be wondering: does mindfulness REALLY work? In fact, mindfulness is proven to be beneficial by a number of important studies, which indicate that mindfulness has the following benefits:
- Reduces your level of CRP (C-reactive protein, which increases when there's inflammation in your body)
- Increases your T-cell count (your immune system's first responders, T cells act like soldiers and fight off infection)
- Reduces inflammation (inflammation is a problem because it decreases your immune function,raising the risk of disease)
- Increases telomerase activity (this helps your body prevent the deterioration of its chromosomes, decreasing the rate of aging and lowering your risk of developing cancer)
To summarize, the practice of mindfulness has some very important benefits for your immune system. It improves several immune-related processes including inflammation, immunity, and biological aging.
To sum everything up, when you practice mindfulness, you begin to train your immune system not to release inflammatory proteins, therefore increasing its production of immune cells.
How Can I Practice Mindfulness?
After hearing about all of these wonderful benefits, you might be wondering: how can I start practicing mindfulness? The best part of mindfulness is that there’s no one right way to do it. You can cater your practice perfectly to your specific schedule, needs and goals! To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of a few common ways to practice mindfulness. But remember, you have complete control over your practice. Feel free to modify these practices or do something completely different.
Types of Meditation
You’ve probably heard of this form of mindfulness as it is quite common: meditation. There are many different types of meditation, including the following:
- Mindfulness meditation (being aware of your thoughts as they pass through your mind)
- Spiritual meditation (silent prayer for connection with your God, theUniverse or even just with your surrounding)
- Focused meditation (concentration, honing in on the way you experience one of your five senses)
- Movement meditation (an active form of meditation)
- Mantra meditation (a repetitive sound to clear the mind)
- Transcendental meditation (a mantra or series of words that are have a specific meaning to you individually, often revolving around one of your goals or aspirations)
Everyone is different, and you may or may not be able to sit quietly for a few minutes every day. It’s harder said than done! Especially with your noisy kids at home. The easiest way to start your practice of meditation is to choose a method that is the most appealing and convenient for you. That way, you’re more likely to be disciplined about doing it consistently. . A lot of people may be using movement meditation without even realizing it. One example of this is yoga, but a walk or hike can have the same soothing effect on the psyche.
Steps for Mindfulness Meditation
To start, find a quiet place that feels comfortable and where you’ll be uninterrupted. Choose something calming to focus on, such as your breath or a mantra. Breath deeply, inhaling and exhaling. Pay attention to the feeling of your breathing and tune in to your body. Don’t worry if your mind starts to wander, simply return your focus to the calming thing you choose to do and keep repeating. Don’t be too harsh with yourself, especially if you’re new to the practice of meditation. It can be challenging at first but, like any skill, you will improve the more you do it.
The goal is to calm the mind and reach a state where you leave your stress behind and feel at peace, even if it's just for a moment or two.
Not only will you be strengthening your body and immune system, it will probably also improve your daily life, by helping you put things into perspective. you minds and spirits. Your body is interconnected, decreasing your stress and gaining peace of mind will not only make you happier but also physically stronger. Incorporating mindfulness into your lifestyle can be difficult but your health is worth it!!
Edible Essential Oils to Support Mindfulness and the Immune System
Essential oils are great to use while practicing mindfulness, and they’re also good for your immune system. Try Teramune’s organic immune booster today, made from the highest quality edible essential oils. Shop our entire collection and learn how to use our products on our website. Be sure to reach out if you have any questions!
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