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Natural ways to boost your immune system

  • Health

As COVID-19 infection numbers skyrocket across most of Australia, you may be wondering how strong your immune system is and what can be done to boost it.

In an ABC radio interview this week, University of Queensland senior lecturer Dr David King said a host of general health measures worked together to make for healthier immune systems.

Dr King said that while necessarily preventing contraction of illness, a strong immune system could put more bounce into recovery.

“There’s no magic cure really, people are looking for a holy grail, but the immune system is very complex, it’s like an army. It has many functions,” Dr King said.

These general health measures are not new. They’re not slick marketing gimmicks either. They are however, based on decades of research.

Ways to boost your immune system naturally

These actions that help boost your immune system naturally include:

  • good diet – 2 fruits and 5 veggies a day
  • 30 minutes of exercise daily
  • good sleep
  • being happy.

Yes, being happy.

How being happy helps the immune system

Research, including a University of Queensland study, shows a positive attitude can improve your immune system and may even add years to your life.

Science shows that a person who focuses on positive information over negative information may be able to cope better with stressful situations.

Chronic stress is what can undo us—our mental wellbeing and our immune system.

Long-term stress suppresses essential protective responses to infection and healing, with fewer natural killer cells to fight viral infections; even tumours.  

Laughing ourselves happy

Much research has been undertaken about the benefits of laughter yoga, a practice developed by a medical doctor in India in the 1990s that harnesses the breath of yoga with playful movement and belly laughter.

Laughter yoga has nothing to do with jokes or comedy.

We laugh as a physical act rather than an intellectual reaction – you don’t have to be ‘in the mood’ or ‘happy’ when you start doing this willingly.

What you find though is that you do feel happy – become happier – as the body receives its cue to release ‘feel good’ hormones.

As Sue, an online laughter yoga participant, said of her sessions in my ‘zoom playroom’ through 2020 and 2021:

They made being in extended lockdown much more bearable. Where there is laughter, there is always Hope. It’s important to remind ourselves to laugh, even when we don’t feel like it – even more so at those times, in fact 

I often liken laughter yoga to flicking a positivity switch: we learn to take ourselves less seriously and put a lighter lens on that which otherwise may upset, blight or stress us.

As a light cardio exercise, 30 minutes of laughter — imagine that! — can uplift spirits, relax muscles and restore a sense of calm.

Where to do laughter yoga

You can do laughter yoga on your own, online or in groups (laughter is one contagion we don’t mind catching!)

Read some suggested exercises for laughing alone or check laughter clubs – online and in-person.

 So, to go back to that first point about how to boost the immune system naturally: if you’re getting enough sleep, eating your 5 veggies and 2 fruit serves daily, why not try laughter yoga as a way of getting your heart pumping, and letting your spirits soar. As the old saying goes, laughter is good medicine.

(c) 2021 Heather Joy Campbell

A former medical reporter, laughter wellness trainer, presenter and speaker Heather Joy Campbell lives in Brisbane, Australia.