Stress-free Aging— Steps for Keeping Your Immune System Happy and Healthy
Stress is cumulative. The longer we live, the more we may feel the burdens of many stressors—unless we find effective ways of releasing pressures and tensions from our bodies.
The link between the build-up of stress and immune system function has been well-studied by science. Our body’s responses are the same whether the cause of distress is real or imagined. Whenever we are anxious and worried, the adrenal glands begin producing the harmful hormone cortisol which is linked to plaque formation causing constriction or occlusion of blood vessels. Other results of ongoing stress include muscle contraction and pain, impeded flow of supportive hormones and a sense of impending doom. The immune system responds to perceived stress by limiting or shutting down its protective chemical messages to cope with the presumed emergency. Since some people live under internal pressures as a way of life, their health-maintaining mechanisms may be greatly impeded.
Immune function can be compromised just by holding limiting beliefs, grudges or negative attitudes. Although we cannot effectively change every item of bad news, we can certainly engage a stance of hopefulness toward outside events. People, including family members, may regularly vex or irritate us, and we must learn to release the damaging effects of such interactions to preserve health. Most importantly, we can discover ways to bring calm to our minds and bodies through our choices and intentions.
Here are some sample exercises from the new field of energy psychology to help support and enhance your immune system:
1) Notice your first response when something unexpected happens. Is it anger? Is it discouragement? Is it, I’m so unlucky, this always happens to me? Is it, Hmm, How interesting? Is it, Oh good, here’s something new to learn from?
2) As kindly as possible, tell yourself to try out something different and new such as gently rubbing the upper mid-chest with the message, “Even though this has happened, I still deeply and profoundly accept and respect myself.”
3) Release tension from the body by exhaling fully several times and by gently brushing any area in the body where you feel tightness or pressure.
4) Consider new options or possible solutions. Remember you are a worthy, powerful being who has every right to choose a new direction or a new way of thinking.
5) Embed the desired new choice by gently rubbing the upper mid-chest area (the thymus, master gland of the immune system, lies just behind the sternum here) by stating a pattern such as ,”Even though ___(state the event) has happened/ even though I feel__(state the feeling), I deeply and profoundly accept and honor myself and choose to ___ (try something new, see the humor in it, write a letter, express myself in a positive way, jump up and down or exercise to release tension, etc.)
6) Repeat the sequence several times to increase your resourcefulness and strengthen your sense of inner power.
7) Image your immune system, consisting of the thymus gland, the lymph nodes and the lymph pathways which parallel blood circulation patterns. See or feel them resonating with your new intention and responding like cheerleaders.
In a recent workshop at a senior center where I shared this exercise, audience response at the end was enthusiastic. Everyone felt good and several jumped up and down, something the immune loves as movement increases lymphatic circulation. One lady shared a song she had heard, “Every little cell in my body is happy, every little cell in my body is well.”
As medical science progresses, it is becoming more and more obvious that our thoughts and attitudes shape our physiology. There is truly a biological response to our beliefs. We are either the genius who guides positive gene expression in cellular life or who impedes and limits healthy genetic messaging. Positive thoughts translate into healthy immune system functioning.