Turns out that mindfulness is good for our bodies: a seminal study found that just eight weeks of training and practicing mindfulness meditation boosts our immune system’s ability to fight off illness.
While people with autoimmune disease, (such as MS, lupus, Hashimoto’s, Grave’s, Crohn’s, asthma, etc.) don’t want to necessarily “boost” the immune system as it is already overactive, they do want to calm it down and bring it into balance, which is the result of practicing mindfulness strategies regularly. Mindfulness helps autoimmune sufferers by reducing stress, which is one of the four top contributors to autoimmunity.
Mindfulness practices bring the body and mind into balance and harmony, thereby reducing stress. A growing body of research is finding that mindfulness improves autoimmunity. A study from the journal, BMC Developmental Biology, found that mindfulness-based interventions benefit some MS patients in terms of Quality of Life, mental health, and some physical health measures.
Stress and the Immune System
Your immune system is responsible for recognizing and destroying pathogens such as bacteria, fungi and viruses as well as removing damaged cells, both in the case of injuries and cells with abnormal behavior as well as those that produce cancer. Stress lowers our immunity, and thus cannot protect us from all the above threats.
While the stress response is important for survival, and gives us the motivation, energy and focus to get things done, when it becomes chronic and unrelenting it can cause health problems, including high blood sugar, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides and suppression of the immune system.
3 Stress-Reducing Mindfulness Activities
Slow down and Prioritize
Over-committing and over-doing both lead to chronic stress in the mind and body. The first thing to do is to evaluate your current lifestyle and commitments and then prioritize. Taking some things off your plate when you’re feeling overwhelmed, even if temporarily, is key to stress reduction and better health.
Use this prioritizing tool regularly to help keep you on track and balanced. It helps you focus on what’s really important and necessary, and identify what’s draining your energy and joy.
In a Journal or Notebook:
1. Absolute Yes! List
Write down the 5 most important things that need your attention during the next 3-4 months. Ask yourself the following question and write down the answer in your journal:
- What 4-5 things most need my attention at this time? (Examples: work, caring for my family, commitment to volunteer project, exercise more, yoga)
- What’s draining me? (Examples: work, caring for my family, no energy)
- What do I need to let go of? – This doesn’t mean it’s forever. It can be just for now – it can even be something that you love. You are simply putting it aside for the next 3-4 months, or it may be something you want to let go of for good. (Examples: volunteer project, planning trip to Italy, Facebook, TV)
2. Simplify And Downshift
Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed with your to-do list, use this reality check to help you prioritize.
- Must it be done? Sometimes, we can decide that something really doesn’t have to be done at all. Sometimes, it’s best or O.K. to just let it go.
- Must it be done now? It’s easy to create a sense of urgency in our lives; and when we’re stressed we often think we have to get things done immediately. Take a deep breath and reconsider the urgency of each task (ie. Is it really life or death?).
- Must it be done by me? Asking for help is a woman’s best strategy to maintain sanity and health—learn to delegate—you’ll be a happier, kinder woman.
3. Nurture Yourself
Schedule a renewing mini-retreat with yourself to show yourself some loving kindness: get a massage, immerse yourself in a Jacuzzi, soak up the healing heat in a sauna, have your nails done, try a minty mask, read poetry, buy yourself flowers, write in your journal, read a steamy romance novel—go ahead, pamper yourself. You deserve it!
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