With all the concerns about the spread of coronavirus, I’m seeing a lot of helpful tips about washing hands, not touching your face, not traveling unless it’s necessary, etc.
What I’ve found missing from this prescription, however, is attention to how our minds and emotions are inextricably linked with our immune system.
Did you know that patterns of pessimism, worry, fearfulness, resentment or anger, for example, create a stress pattern in the body which depletes the immune system?
Of course, we can’t feel joyful and optimistic in every moment, but if your tendency is to worry, think the worst, or you find yourself currently holding a grudge or harboring anger, now is a great time to take actions to create a new pattern (perhaps the coronavirus is nature’s way of insisting we do so).
Here are 3 ways you can create new and more positive patterns for your mental and emotional well-being, and ultimately strengthen your immunity.
1. Have a daily gratitude practice. Numerous studies have shown that taking time each day to give gratitude for what we have has profound effects on all aspects of our health: physical, mental and emotional.
To start your own practice, choose a specific time of day (I like to do mine every night before I go to bed), and think of at least one thing you’re feeling grateful for that day. It can be ANYTHING! Then allow yourself to really feel how into this gratitude. Be with this feeling for at least a full 10 seconds. Notice how it feels in your body. Sweet, you’re done for the day.
If you want more tips on how to create your gratitude practice, or if you struggle with creating/maintaining a practice, check out the tips and practices in the Gratitude section of my free online wellness community, THRIVE HIVE. We dedicated a whole month to exploring Gratitude practices. Check it out, it’s free!
2. Develop your sense of self-compassion. Our culture breeds a sense of I-am-not-enoughness among us, and it leads many people to some seriously negative self-talk. Often this behavior is mistaken as a form of self-discipline. But as Kristin Neff points out in her book Self-Compassion, this kind of self-criticism actually triggers the flight or fight response in the nervous system. In other words, our own negativity towards ourselves is seen as a threat! As a result, stress hormones increase in the body, as well as blood pressure and adrenaline, which will deplete the body’s ability to respond to another threat like, you guessed it, coronavirus.
So where to begin with developing this practice of self-compassion? Awareness is key. Notice how you talk to yourself. Would you say those things to a friend? If not, ask yourself, what would you say to them? Connect with your compassion and then offer those same words of care to yourself. And remember, this is a new skill you’re developing. Be patient and kind to yourself as you work on it.
3. Have a daily breath or meditation practice. It’s not news that breath and meditation are some of the best tools for surviving and thriving in our fast-paced culture. In fact, I’d say these tools are essential. Particularly because of their effects on calming the nervous system, reducing stress, and consequently strengthening our ability to fight pathogens like the coronavirus.
And if the word “meditation” causes you anxiety, don’t sweat it. Start instead with a simple daily breath practice. Here’s how:
First, decide on a good time of day to set aside one-two minutes for your practice. This may take a few tries to find a time that works best for you. Then set a time for one minute (you can increase this time as you build your practice). During this minute, take some slow, deeper breaths. Keep your attention on your breath as you do this. Notice the sensation of the breath as it moves in and out of the body. Notice the parts of your body that move as you breathe. If your mind wanders, that’s ok. Just gently bring it back to your breath.
When the timer goes off, take a moment to notice how you feel and appreciate this moment you gave to yourself for healing and restoring the body, mind and spirit. And you’re done.
Want more tips on starting a breath practice, or want to learn different breath techniques? check out the tips and practices in the Breath Practices section of my free online wellness community, THRIVE HIVE. We dedicated a whole month to exploring Breath Practices. Check it out, it’s free!
Wishing you resilient health and ease this spring and all your days!