How Meditation Can Help Prevent the Flu
Your immune system often becomes stressed a lack of sleep and exercise, being overwhelmed at your job, and of course, environmental factors like the presence of bacteria and viruses. To combat these things, many turn to mindfulness practices to help reduce their blood pressure and increase their awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness practices such as meditation have been used for mind and body benefits for centuries in numerous cultures all over the world. Let’s look at how meditation can help prevent the flu.
The Evolution of Understanding
The origin of meditation can be traced back thousands of years, and it plays a prominent role in Buddhist philosophyt. Over 2,600 years ago, the Buddha taught that mindfulness of the present moment and attention to the breath would lead to eternal peace. As it was adopted and adapted in other religions and cultures as a spiritual practice, it eventually made its way into the Western world. What Western researchers are finding is that, in addition to being a spiritual experience, meditation also has physiological benefits.
In a study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted by Dr. Bruce Barrett, it was found that meditation has a more powerful effect against preventing the flu than exercise alone. There were three focus groups in the study: a control group that didn’t change any of their behaviors, a group who performed moderate exercise, and a meditating group. The exercising group was 15 percent more healthy than the control group; however, the meditating group was 17 percent healthier than the control group. Equipping yourself with tools to help prevent contracting the flu virus is wise, especially in the depths of the flu season.
What You’re Up Against
There is a reason that so many people fear getting the flu. The flu virus is extremely common and is also extremely uncomfortable to experience, and it can even be fatal. According to the CDC, there have been 26.3 million reported cases of influenza from October 1, 2018, to March 2, 2019, resulting in nearly 350,000 flu-related hospitalizations. When it hits, it hits hard, no matter the age, race, or gender.
Some segments of the population are at a higher risk for infection than the rest of the general population. This includes those who are:
- Suffering from serious medical conditions or chronic illness
- Under the age of 5
- Over the age of 65
- Living in nursing homes
Luckily, meditation does not require you to be physically active, nor does it present barriers that define who is able to practice to receive its benefits.
With the risk and cost of getting the flu being so high, why not do more to prevent it? The study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that meditation also reduces the severity of the symptoms of the virus. Meditation is a free preventative health measure that has little to no risk of causing any potential harm.
Beat the Stress
Through the practice of meditation, you can soothe your stress and anxiety to protect your immune system from unneeded stress. As a result, it may help to protect your body from contracting the flu.
Stress has its benefits and is necessary to keep us safe when triggering the fight-or-flight reaction caused by dangerous situations. However, stress can have many adverse effects on the body when experienced for prolonged intervals of time, which can be quite common in modern life. Whether it is commuting to work, the pressures and deadlines of your job, the obligations you have to your family, or other factors, consistent stress causes your immune system to weaken and leads you to be more vulnerable to infection.
Stress causes your breathing rate to increase, your heart rate to accelerate, your muscles to tighten, and your immune system to weaken. Meditation works to counteract all of the effects of stress with a mindful focus on breathing, body posturing, and relaxing the mind and body. Doing so strengthens the immune system, which serves as our body’s protector against infection and disease.
The flu is a virus that cannot be treated with antibiotics and is highly transmittable. Taking precautions to avoid exposure to the flu virus is your best bet in making it through the winter months without contracting it.
Along with meditation, there are a number of effective ways to prevent the flu:
- Routinely wash your hands
- When possible, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Avoid contact with door handles and handrails
- Get a flu shot in the fall months
- Take the opportunity to work from home when colleagues exhibit symptoms, if available to you
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water
- Maintain your distance (at least 3 feet) from those who appear ill
If you do happen to get sick this upcoming flu season, that doesn’t mean you should stop meditating. Researching the potential benefits of mindfulness is a relatively new field of study, and it could yield even greater benefits. As the research continues to emerge, it is likely that we will find further benefits to a regular meditation practice.
About the Author
Sam Bowman is a writer who enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time, he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.