The mind-body connection with our immune system is an important factor in making ourselves more “bullet-proof” when it comes to stressful situations.
In 2013, scientists looked at how people responded to sudden stressors such as public speaking and challenging math tasks, and their immune response over a 2 day period. The marker used was a particular body chemical (IL-6), associated with inflammation in the body. The study showed that people who had high levels of self-compassion, had lower inflammatory responses over time.
What does that mean for us? Whether you are healthy and want to protect your immune system or are struggling with an autoimmune disorder, it may greatly benefit you to develop more self-compassion.
Here are some ways to practice kindness for yourself:
- Treat your body as a sacred vessel by eating real foods that are colorful and nourishing.
- Move your body in ways that it prefers: dancing, running, yoga, weight training, chi-gong – pick what feels right and fills you up.
- Spend time in nature every day.
- Make a point of getting consistent sleep.
- Set aside time to get together with friends and cherished family members.
- Indulge yourself once a week with a therapeutic treatment that induces relaxation; options are massage, acupuncture, Reiki, gentle chiropractic, Bowenwork, or a spa day.
- Monitor your thoughts: if you experience that inner critic, be curious about where those words originated; remember that thoughts are only thoughts and not real – challenge them.
- Replace critical thoughts by speaking words of love and kindness to yourself, just as you would a small child who is distressed.
- Develop a daily practice of “loving kindness” meditation.
Developing a practice of self-compassion is one way we can better protect our immune system from the effects of life’s challenges.