Keeping your immune system strong is one of the key factors in overall health of mind and body. Luckily, there are many easy habits you can incorporate into your everyday to help you stay happy, energized and healthy. If you start integrating these lifestyle changes according to your circadian rhythm, they will soon become second nature.
1. Stick to Your Sleep Schedule
A good night’s sleep is one of the most important lifestyle habits for immune support. Sleep supports T cells, immune cells that help fight virus-infected cells, so you’re less likely to get sick if you’re rested. Aim to get at least seven hours of sleep, but you may need up to nine depending on your age and other individual factors. It’s best to go to sleep between 8 p.m. and midnight, but the exact time depends on what time you need to wake up. Try to stick to that schedule on the weekends, too, so that your body becomes used to it and you don’t throw off your circadian rhythm.
2. Manage Your Stress Levels
Chronic stress is linked to a weakened immune system, and to conditions such as arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease. You should make sure to keep your stress levels at a minimum whenever possible. Here are a couple of habits that will help:
A. Meditate Every Day
Mindfulness meditation can be a powerful tool for reducing stress and supporting your immune system. It may help improve your mood and self-awareness, as well as help you manage symptoms of anxiety, asthma, IBS and more. There are many different ways to practice meditation, but a good place to start is with a guided meditation on YouTube or a streaming service such as Spotify. The best time to meditate daily will depend on your preference and schedule. Experts recommend trying it first thing in the morning, on your lunch break or in the evening, but not too close to bedtime.
B. Take Up Hobbies You Love
Hobbies, habits that fall outside of your busy daily schedule, are beneficial for managing stress generally. They may reduce fatigue, blood pressure and feelings of depression, among other benefits. Why not learn a new skill? This could be anything from singing to gardening.
3. Create a Nutritious Meal Plan
Nutrition is central to overall health, so try planning your meals ahead of time to ensure you’re getting all the macros and micros you need. Here are some ways to do it.
A. Get the Right Nutrients
B. Eat at the Same Times Every Day
When you eat is important, too: meal times help regulate your body clock. Do your best to eat three meals around the same time every day, spreading them out to avoid getting too hungry or experiencing mood swings. According to Northwestern Medicine, breakfast should be eaten within an hour of waking, lunch about four to five hours later, and dinner another four to five hours later.
C. Take Immune-Supporting Supplements
Supplements are a great way to get those nutrients in as part of a balanced diet, and in some cases can be easily added to your meals. Try Om’s organic superfood mushrooms chock-full of beta-glucans, antioxidants and immune-supporting polysaccharides — which can be easily taken as capsules or added as a powder to smoothies, teas, coffee, juices, dressings, sauces, soups, rice and pasta dishes, your morning oatmeal, or even eggs, baked goods, and desserts. Reishi is fantastic for immune and cardiovascular support, and Chaga for its antioxidant properties, among other benefits. With their impressive nutrient profile and bioactive compounds, superfood mushrooms are a natural way to keep your immune system healthy.
4. Exercise in Moderation
Moderate exercise is known to boost the immune system, but you shouldn’t overdo it. Activities such as going for a walk for 20 or 30 minutes every day or doing some more strenuous exercise every other day are ideal to support the immune system. Whatever you do, try to be consistent with an exercise program. Regular moderate exertion can help prevent infections as well as reduce stress.
5. Get Outside
Vitamin D helps keep your immune system strong, and our bodies produce it in response to sunlight. Try to get a little direct exposure to sunlight every day — by spending 5 to 30 minutes outside at a time depending on your skin tone, and more if you’re wearing sunscreen. Getting enough sunlight is also crucial for regulating your body clock, and can help you sleep better at night.
6. Practice Proper Hygiene
Help your body ward off harmful bacteria and viruses by washing your hands regularly, especially before and after handling food, and after going to the bathroom. Proper hygiene also applies to food: rinse all meat, fish and fresh produce before cooking or eating them, cook foods (especially meat) thoroughly, and defrost foods safely in the refrigerator or microwave.
Creating a healthy daily routine doesn’t have to be difficult. Use these tips to support your immune system seamlessly every day.
Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based writer and editor with six years of experience creating content for various outlets. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, InStyle, POPSUGAR, Her Campus, ProTravel and more.