Positive Habits for Building Immunity and Mental Clarity

We’re far more in control of our bodies than most of us realize. Indeed, our behaviour, environment, and

We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.  [Aristotle]

In our beautifully diverse and ever-changing world, there’s one thing that connects all human beings: We are all products of our environment. 

Our environment affects the way we move, sleep, think, feel, and nourish our bodies.  From a holistic standpoint, our unique reactions to our surroundings impact our physical health.  For instance, sudden disruptions to your usual routine, like those we experienced during COVID-19, can cause erratic sleep patterns, add stress, decrease activity, or spur unhealthy eating habits.  Even if you haven’t consciously noticed, these changes can take a toll on your immunity—right when you need it most. 

The good news? You can rebuild positive habits to boost your immunity.  Let’s get started with some information that many take for granted.

OUR BODIES RESPOND TO OUR ENVIRONMENT

It’s vital to note that COVID-19 is not the first pandemic, and it won’t be the last.  Currently, there are various hypotheses about when a COVID-19 vaccine may be ready, but no date is certain.  That’s why it’s crucial that we start a conversation about how we can protect our health now

Of course, not all illnesses are deadly pandemics.  Yet, even common culprits like bacteria and short-lived viruses or ailments can wear us down.

Luckily, we humans have an evolutionary perk to help us along—resilience.  When our bodies become vulnerable, our immune response is ‘hard-wired’ to kick in.  The marvel of our innate immune system is its ability to manage ever-changing signals from our environment.  How does it do this?  

Chemistry.

Our bodies have a complex system working in tandem with the nervous and immune system.  This is called our endocrine system.  

The endocrine system is the regulatory system that manages our hormones.  Hormones are the biochemical messengers that the body produces in response to the signals that it receives. 

There is very little not influenced by hormones.  The body uses hormones to create genetic changes in cells and within systems.  Therefore, the effect of a hormone is based on the what ‘trigger’ or signal it receives.  These triggers may be bad or good, affecting us for better or for worse.

Since hormones respond to good and bad signals, which types of signals do you want to send?

Your genetics load the gun. Your lifestyle pulls the trigger.  [Dr. Mehmet Oz]

INPUT, OUTPUT, AND EPIGENETICS

Did you know that your genes literally change based on signals they receive from the environment?

Epigenetics (epi meaning above, outside of, or around) is the scientific model of understanding how these environmentally-influenced genetics undergo changes.

The revelation of epigenetics is astounding: We’re far more in control of our bodies than most of us realize. Indeed, our behaviour, environment, and habits can be utilized to improve our immunity and brain power.

We are not slaves to our genetics. 

Here’s how it works.  To change the expression of our genes, you must start with changing your actions.  Since single actions aggregate over time, taking small actions regularly can signal our genes to change via the responding hormones.

For example, choosing a single healthy meal may be a good choice.  However, it won’t have nearly the same impact on our gene expression as smaller nutritional changes done consistently over time.  It’s just as Aristotle said, “We find excellence in habits, not in single actions.”  

For instance, our Health Coaches at SoleFit provide Performance and Recovery Assessment using advanced tools within our Recovery Lounge.  Through our own experiences and experimentations, we’ve come across many daily, simple habits that could fortify immunity and improve physiological function.  Here are a few that you can start doing today!

HABIT STACKING: DAILY GOOD ACTIONS THAT BRING RESULTS

Want to send positive signals to your body that can change your genes for the better? Try these simple routines. Do them often, and they’ll become effortless habits!

Wake up naturally, by your own volition.

What does it do?  Creates natural responses to your circadian rhythm without engaging a stress response.

 

Let your body tell you when it’s time to wake up.  Maybe it’s the morning birds or the natural light coming in.  Just let your body stir you into wakefulness. 

How does our body know?  Cortisol and serotonin-chemical messengers are our natural ‘wake up calls.  These set the body into motion and action. 

However, the natural morning ebb of these hormones can be depressed when we’re burdened with stress and emotional demands. 

To remedy this, allow the body to rest until it naturally awakens (if your schedule allows).  Whenever you can, avoid the harmful cortisol spike that occurs from a jarring alarm clock.  Urgency tips the scale towards stress.  So your body will appreciate it if you use natural waking cycles instead.

TIP:  For early workers or parents, it’s smart to go to bed earlier.  Taking in more sleep allows our bodies to create a pattern of waking naturally, even if you must rise early for certain responsibilities.

Start with breath, then create some space.

What does it do?  Uses thoughts to create chemistry in the body that can upregulate immunity, lower stress levels, and positively influence brain function.

 

Take a moment to start the day on your own terms.  Recognize where you are and how you feel. 

When we jump into action, our brain waves climb quickly in a mode of alertness called beta brain waves.  Our attention is immediately divested outwardly before we have a change to invest them inwardly.  Unfortunately, that shuts off areas where we cultivate calm, or regulate emotions and growth. 

How does it work?  Our thoughts stimulate our hormones via a chemical pathway of thoughts -> neuropeptides -> neurotransmitters -> hormones. 

In plain speak, this is essentially the bridge between your thoughts and the biochemistry they produce.  It’s how your thinking (mind) becomes feelings (body). 

Our brain waves are slower when we wake; they’re still in a twilight stage.  This makes it easy to get into some nice mental ‘white space’ to cultivate gratitude and love within

While in a calm state, it’s wonderful to journal/write down grateful affirmations and blessings of health and happiness for what we have.  This releases positive signals (via neuropeptides, neurotransmitters and hormones) throughout the body. 

Consider practicing these methods with your family in a gratitude circle so you can share positive, elevated emotions together.  Health and wellbeing is an act of positive change.  Likewise, changing is a state, like gratitude, where we open ourselves to receive. 

Create the space to receive, each and every morning.

Taking a moment before rushing into another busy day can help change the chemistry of body for the good and upregulate immunity, lower stress levels,and positively influence brain function.  

Connect with natural light!

What does it do?  Natural light works with our circadian clock to signal the production of certain hormones that can help create energy and alertness.

 

The first and last bright lights most people see are artificial from within their homes or from a device.  These artificial lights don’t contain the spectrum of light found outside from the sun, so they lack the wavelengths we need to trigger our circadian rhythm.  Our circadian rhythm is crucial to our physiological patterns. 

The therapeutic effect of outdoor light, known as photobiomodulation, cannot be understated.  The light in the morning and evening contain wavelengths that are specific information our body can interpret via the visual cortex.  This helps regulate our vital circadian rhythms. 

A sunrise is both a highly effective input to our physiological functions and to the emotional psyche.  To understand this, think of the negative effect that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) causes due to a lack of sunlight. 

For more information on the importance of this step, check out books like Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival by T.S. Wiley, PHD and The Circadian Code by Dr. Satchin Panda.  Dr. Panda also has numerous jaw-dropping TED lectures online. 

 

TIP: To get more photobiomodulation in your life, let your eyes be exposed to the morning and late afternoon sun whenever it’s available.  Sunrises and sunsets can soothe the mind, nourish the soul, and provide a wide spectrum of beneficial light to the body.  Red-light panels like Joovv (featured in our Recovery Lounge), can also provide light therapy, especially during winter or cloudy months.

Get Earth-grounded. Go barefoot in the grass!

What does it do?  An exchange of negative ions creates positive cellular activity, improves immune function, decreases inflammation, aids connective tissue strength and nervous system regulation (through HRV), and dissipates harmful EMF exposure.

 

Getting our bare feet, our bare souls...er, soles, into the grass and dirt is another easy way to reduce stress by ‘grounding’ the body, or connecting it to the earth. 

‘Grounding’ has been extensively researched and is practiced by high level athletes (i.e., teams in The Tour De France) to enhance recovery. 

Here’s how grounding helps relieve stress and reduce free radicals in our bodies that cause inflammation:

  • Direct skin contact with organic materials like grass and dirt exchange negative ions (a natural occurring charge in the earth). 
  • Negative ions help balance the excess positive charge in our cells’ energy production. Similar to negative ions produced in high-end air purifiers, as these interact with our physiology, negative ions provide beneficial effects, especially on our mood. 

For more information, check out Earthing by Dr. Clint Ober.  Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website and book EMF*D, are also interesting, as are books from folks like Ben Greenfield (Beyond Training and Boundless).  We reviewed grounding mats a few years back which can be found here.

 

TIP: Small doses of sitting, standing or moving in the grass is enough to receive grounding.  Shoes and sandals that allow grounding to flow, like Earth Runners, are preferred.  Grounding bed sheets or mats that connect to an outlet grounding line can also be used.

Lots of great studies showing the benefits of grounding.  Barefoot on the grass is ideal but grounding mats can be an alternative option for those who spend much of the time indoors. 

*Side Note:  As foot experts, we can’t resist pointing out the shape of the children’s feet in this picture vs the adults.  Love to see the nicely shaped toes that haven’t been altered by ill fitting footwear!  😉

Hydrate right away.

What does it do?  Plays a vital role in our body’s regulatory system by impacting hormone function, balancing stress, and supporting metabolism, reproduction, cognition, and aging.

 

Many people underestimate the importance of water.  Drinking small amounts of water throughout the day is so easy to do, yet it improves mental clarity and supports an infinite number of functions.

When you awaken, start with a few ounces of water right away to provide hydration.  Remember: We lose water as we sleep throughout the night.

Room temperature water is ideal for absorption.  Spring water provides higher alkalinity (a good thing!) and helps you avoid contaminants or additives found in tap water. 

Adding minerals like Himalayan salts into water will provide even greater alkalinity; those trace minerals assist with our bodily functions.  A little lemon in the water may also provide antiviral benefits.

 

TIP: Water has been shown to carry emotional signatures as a frequency, so show it some love before you drink it!  Since we are largely made of water, you could say that we’re essentially fluid emotions travelling within a body.  For more info on this, see our article on our visit to The Human Garage, or enjoy the beautiful work by Dr. Masaru Emoto on water structure and emotions.

Move slowly and deliberately to relieve stressful events.

What does it do? Slow movement stirs the bodily systems into function by engaging them gradually to stimulate energy in positive ways.

 

So many people hit the ground running. Like the alarm clock, this frenetic pace (to get to work or hammer out a morning workout) sends the body into ‘fight or flight’ mode. This blasts us with cortisol before we even allow the body to turn on. 

Instead of that, allow your body to go through its natural systems. Be conscious of breath, while taking slower movements. This gently gets your natural ‘pumps’ going. 

Think of it this way: A ‘work-OUT’ exercise moves energy out from the body, whereas a ‘work-IN’ exercise does the opposite. Using a sequential moving/breathing combination, you can gently start the figurative ‘dynamos’ in your body. In turn, these biological pumps will help create energy without a stress response. 

 

Here’s an easy exercise to try: 

  • Standing, take an inhale through your nose and squat down slowly around 1-3 seconds as you exhale. 
  • Inhale as you come back up slowly, within 1-3 seconds. 
  • Repeat this sequence 10-20x or more. 
  • Your breathing should be slow and calm, and ideally in and out through your nose. 

For more slow-moving body work, try small bouts of yin yoga, Qi-Gong or Tai-Chi. These are generations-old practices that aim to ‘move energy’ (or chi, our life force) fluidly throughout the body.

Get acquainted with cold; practice cold immersion.

What does it do?  Cold temperatures engage numerous systems at large and key hormones that regulate them. By using cold to engage the system to respond to cold temperatures, we can build resilience.

 

Do you have an aversion to cold?  Many people do!  That’s a good reason to build resilience to it. 

To start this routine, go gentle.  Try washing your face, neck, and ears with cold water (as much as you can handle).  This vibrant feeling can awaken your senses. 

How it works: Cold thermogenesis can impact the hormones associated with fat metabolism, inflammation, appetite, and cardiovascular health.  It can also increase beneficial functions associated with repair, immunity, and cognition.  For more of the science check this article.

Pioneers like Wim Hof have conducted studies that show that cold can activate immune responses that fight bacterial and viral infections.  Cold therapy also helps with brain function, sleep, and mood.  Overall, the short-term discomfort is a small price to pay for building resilience and immunity over time.

Today, you can find many clinics that include expensive cryotherapy treatments.  In fact, titans in the transformation space, like Tony Robbins, are known to drop into a cold plunge cube set at 50 degrees Fahrenheit everyday—non-negotiably! 

 

TIP: Start with small intervals and limited exposure, like face dunking.  From there, you may progress to cold showers.  Soon, you’ll be increasing the duration of time and enjoying cold therapy as a regular practice.  Wim Hof’s FREE app has great programs that are easy to follow and may help you ‘take the plunge’ and overcome your fears!

To get the benefits of cold water therapy, you don’t necessarily need to take an ice water plunge.  Even splashing some cold water on your face and neck can be a great start!

MASTER OF MY FATE, CAPTAIN OF MY SOUL

William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus represents the power within us to shape our destiny.  As the science of epigenetics advances, we understand how changing our environment can shape our biology.  Ideally, we can shed poor habits that expose us to health risks, because they are not aligned with our natural, physiological needs.  Likewise, we can learn to enhance our body’s built-in resilience and adopt healthy habits that benefit our bodies. 

That said, every practice listed in this blog need not be done to see results.  But think of it this way: Each healthy habit points the needle in the right direction on the dial from sick, to well, to fit. 

Your body deserves your loving commitment to it. In return, your body gives you a healthier, more resilient you

For your personal health goal in 2020, think of this: In order to love and take care of others, you must first love and take care of yourself. Imagine the positive impact we could have in the world if we all thought of our health as a collective goal for humankind. 

RESOURCES TO HELP YOUR GROWTH

SoleFit’s mission is to empower you with the knowledge and confidence you need to understand your body, its movement, and your overall health.  We hope this blog and our other resources help put you on the right path to greater mental and physical health.  If you have questions about how SoleFit can help you, contact us today.  We’d love to hear from you!

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