Information & Advice
Health & Beauty Magazine
Health & Beauty Magazine Online Editor
Published 10th September 2008
Research shows that having a positive mental attitude can boost your immune system. Check out these ways to bring out your inner optimist.
1. Believe in yourself
‘Clinical research shows you can improve your confidence by repeating positive phrases to yourself before facing challenging situations,’ says psychologist Dr Rob Yeung. ‘For example, say: “I am stronger than I feel,” and “I know I can do this.” It might sound obvious, but it can work wonders.’
2. Recognise your achievements
Try Dr Yeung’s easy self-esteem booster for a kick start on dark mornings. ‘Take 15 minutes to jot down your achievements and the qualities you like about yourself. Achievements could be work related, but they could also be about being someone’s mother, wife or friend.’
3. Tune into your feelings
Many of us eat when we’re bored, lonely or restless. If you feel a comfort-eating binge beckoning, try this exercise from happiness expert Michael Neill: ‘Sit quietly and tune into your body to experience your feelings. Stick with it until you notice your mood changing for the better, and you may no longer need that chocolate bar.’
4. Grow your own flowers
Gardening is a powerful mood-booster, but we tend to neglect our gardens as winter draws in. Why not plant bulbs in a window box? Before long you could be enjoying a windowsill full of blooms.
5. Be aware of your breathing
‘Whenever you feel stressed, angry, sad or fearful, stop what you are doing and bring awareness to your breath,’ advises Cindy Cooper, mindfulness expert at the Capio Nightingale Hospital in London. ‘The flow of increased oxygen to your brain has an instant calming effect.’
6. Walk mindfully
‘Try five to 10 minutes of daily mindful walking to break up a stressful day,’ suggests Cindy. ‘Leave the iPod at home. Instead, have a sense of being held and supported by the earth as you walk.’
7. Get some scents
The right scents can enhance your disposition, says naturopath GP Dr Caroline Longmore, who suggests burning uplifting aromatherapy oils such as head-clearing eucalyptus and invigorating rosemary (but never leave a burning candle unattended).
A healthy, balanced diet is essential as even small deficiencies can weaken your immune system.
8. Have a banana
‘Bananas are the ultimate fast food,’ says nutritionist Natalie Savona, author of Wonderfoods. ‘They’re not only a great source of mind-calming vitamin B6, they can also help lift moods.’
9. Get enough vitamin D
‘Lack of vitamin D, which is produced in our bodies by exposure to sunlight, can be a contributing factor to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)’, says Dr Longmore. Try food sources, such as salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel as well as eggs and fortified milk. Or, consider a supplement.
10. Snack on seeds
Do you get down around your time of the month? ‘Most nuts and seeds are a good source of oestrogen-like phytochemicals, which can help improve hormone balance,’ says nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer.
11. Get your five a day
‘Eat your five portions of fruit and vegetables each day,’ suggests Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers. ‘To get the right mix of antioxidants and nutrients for immune support, include as many different-coloured fruits and vegetables as possible.’ Apples, plums, peppers and broccoli are all in season in the autumn months.
12. Look after your tummy
‘Many people don’t realise the part their gut plays in a strong immune system,’ says Boots formulations expert Nick Bennett. He advises starting a course of probiotics to help build levels of friendly bacteria in your tummy.
13. Eat berries
Berries are packed with immune-supporting vitamin C and zinc as well as phytonutrients, which act as cholesterol fighters and immune strengtheners. Blackberries are in season now so get picking.
14. Get enough vitamin C
Vitamin C supports the immune system and a healthy immune system helps us fight infections like colds and flu.
15. Moisturise from the inside out
Skin gets drier in cold weather. ‘If you feel you don’t look good, you could feel down too,’ says GP Dr Rob Hicks. Omega-3 essential fatty acids provide flexibility to cell walls in the body, and so support supple skin. They’re found in oily fish, but you can get them in supplement form. Top it all off with a luminous moisturiser.
If you look good, you'll feel good too; making time for you as the nights start to draw in is essential for nurturing a positive mental attitude.
16. Pamper yourself
If you’re feeling discontented you may need to put yourself first for a change. That might mean taking time out to have a manicure and pedicure each week. Try to see ‘self-cherishing’ as a priority, not as an afterthought.
17. Exfoliate, exfoliate
Regular exfoliation will help keep your skin looking its best. ‘Do it three times a week for normal skin, less often if you tend towards dryness, and more frequently if your skin gets clogged up or rough,’ says Marcia. ‘For the face, use something with round grains, so they gently roll across the skin and lift away dead cells without scratching.’
18. Don't linger in the bath
‘Soaking too long in a tub can deplete the skin’s natural moisture, so it’s better to make bathtime quick and efficient,’ says Marcia Kilgore, founder of Bliss Spas and Soap & Glory. ‘If you must linger, add moisturising oils to your bath (or coat your body in oil before you get in) and cover yourself in lotion immediately after.’
19. Kick up the leaves
‘Exercising outdoors, even if it’s cold and dark, not only makes you feel better, it can actually burn more calories than slaving away on the treadmill,’ says fitness expert Kathryn Freeland. ‘Try doing some of your warm-up at home, so you look forward to the fresh air, instead of dreading it.’
20. Now wash your hands
‘Most colds are caught by touching a surface that has also been touched by an infected person and then placing your infected fingers near your mouth, nose or eyes,’ says Professor Ron Eccles, of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University. The solution? Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water.
Written by Anna Magee
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