from anything ranging from
positive thought to exercise -- you're actually improving your resistance to
disease," she says.
Just Say Om
Santa Monica, Calif., yoga therapist Felice Rhiannon
credits her meditation and breathing practices for improving her physical and
emotional health. "Meditation practice helps to calm my nervous system and
allows the immune system to function with less interference," she says. For
Rhiannon, "A calmer mind means a calmer body."
"The greatest change is in my peace of mind and sense of ease," she
says. "I don't get colds as often as I did when I was younger. My sleep is better and my ability to
cope with life's inevitable stresses has improved."
In a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in 2003,
researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Harvard University found that
volunteers who participated in eight weeks of mediation training produced
significantly more flu-fighting antibodies than those who didn't meditate.
Increase Your Social Ties
There are personality factors associated with individuals who are resistant
to getting colds when they're exposed to a virus, says Sheldon Cohen, PhD,
professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University whose research examines
the effects of stress and social support on immunity and health.
For example, extroverts are less likely than introverts to get colds when
exposed to a virus. "We actually control for their immunity," he says.
"The explanation isn't that extroverts interact with more people, and
therefore have immunity to that virus. There's something about being
extroverted that seems to protect people."
Having a diverse social network is equally important, says Cohen.
Individuals who belong to multiple social groups are less likely to develop
colds when exposed to a virus. There's convincing literature in epidemiology
that people who have more diverse social networks are also less likely to get
heart disease and live longer, he
Accentuate the Positive
Cohen's research suggests that people who have a positive emotional style --
described as happy, enthusiastic, and calm -- are less likely to catch
Cohen and researchers at Carnegie Mellon University interviewed 193 healthy
adults daily for two weeks and recorded the positive and negative emotions they
experienced each day, and then exposed the volunteers to a cold or flu virus.
Those with positive outlooks reported fewer cold symptoms and were more
resistant to developing an upper respiratory illness.
"It's a stable characteristic of individuals," he says. "It's
not driven by how happy they are on the day they get exposed to the
Wash Your Hands - Over and Over
Hand washing may sound like obvious advice for combating germs, but surveys
suggest that most of us are not vigilant about washing our hands after using
"In order to prevent illness, it's important to wash your hands
frequently," Cass says. "During cold and flu season, wash your hands
with soap many times during the day because you're in contact with all kinds of
pathogens -- door knobs, stair railings, other people. You really want to have
According to the CDC, proper hand washing for 20 seconds is the most
effective way to avoid the 1 billion colds that Americans catch each year, not
to mention other infectious diseases.
Get Your ZZZs
Sleep is one of the best ways to stay healthy, Northrup says. "People
who get a solid eight hours per night absolutely do better."
Sleep efficiency is the key, Cohen says. People who get into bed and fall
asleep right away and stay asleep are more protected against colds than those
who wake up repeatedly through the night.
A good night's sleep will restore the immune system, Northrup says, becaue
when you get a good night's sleep, melatonin levels rise and that
And best of all, there are no side effects.
By Jennifer Soong
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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