Five Important Steps to Boosting Your Immune System: The Importance of the Mind/Body Connection

Getting sick is never fun, and having to halt your exercise program to bundle up in bed and sip tea can be especially frustrating to athletes, busy moms, and anyone who has a full agenda. I don't know about you, but I'm not the kind of person that likes to be dependent on someone else while I'm stuck trying to get well. I'd much rather prevent a bug from taking over my body in the first place.

True laughter
Wikimedia Commons

The mental connection

Scientists are discovering a bigger connection between our mental and physical health every day. This is likely the biggest factor in preventing illness as well. It includes the messages we send ourselves, and the more negative thoughts we have, the greater chance for those thoughts turning into something that physically attacks the body.

There are some maladies that are seen almost instantly as a result of stress. One good example is hives, or eczema. When under emotional stress, some people immediately break out in a rash. The instant result makes the connection obvious. Other connections may not be as obvious, but rest assured, chronic stress, difficult relationships and other challenging situations can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness.

If you're active, you already know the importance of exercise and nutrition. But you may be missing an even more important factor in your health. Although nothing is full proof, here are five of the best ways to lessen your chance of illness during the flu season, and all year round.

Start your day out right

By starting your morning with a positive act, such as meditating on what you are thankful for, or by creating a grateful list, you'll be sending your body messages it will use to help you stay happy and healthy all day.

Music

On your way to work, listen to music that makes you feel good. Whether it's soothing, or fun, as long as it makes you smile, you'll be much better prepared to start your busy day. Those who tend to listen to talk radio shows that discuss controversial or stressful events, are more likely to feel angry by the time they arrive to the office, and that feeling tends to linger all day.

Breaks

Whether you spend your day working with the public, on the computer, or at home, remember to stop and take a break. Use that time for positive thinking to counteract any of the negative stress that you've experienced. Breathe, take a walk and get some fresh air, or just think about your favorite things in life.

Laughter

It may be cliche', but laughter is really the best medicine. It actually reduces stress hormones and even benefits your immune system. Finding the humor in the most difficult of situations is one of the best kept secrets of a happy, and healthy, life.

A hot bath and a good night's sleep

Relaxing in a hot bath soothes sore muscles and joints, reducing stress and tension which helps you to get a good night's sleep. Getting enough sleep has a big impact on your immune function and disease resistance. This is the time your body uses to repair itself and your immune system, strive for 7-8 hours a night.

K.C. Dermody has been an avid runner, hiker, and yoga enthusiast for twenty years, and as a trained yoga instructor she taught a variety of students from senior citizens to competitive athletes. She enjoys combining her passion for sports, emotional and physical well-being with her love of writing.

More from this contributor:

Five Best Nutrition Supplements for Active Women

Five sports with the best health benefits for women

Yoga not just for girls: NFL players benefit from yoga

Note: This article was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Sign up here to start publishing your own sports content.

Updated Wednesday, Nov 2, 2011