RODALE NEWS, LENOX, MA—Are you doing anything to prevent the flu? As flu season ramps up, people across the country are debating whether to get a swine-flu (H1N1) vaccination, even as production delays make the vaccine harder to come by. Others are already dealing with cases of swine flu in their homes. Many of us who are fortunate enough to not yet be infected are doing all we can to protect ourselves, whether that means seeking a flu shot, washing our hands frequently, keeping our distance from sneezers, or any of the other simple anti-flu tactics that medical authorities suggest. Managing stress should be one of the top items on everyone's "prevent the flu" list. Doing so gives your immune system an additional edge in protecting you from the flu virus, as well as other illnesses.
THE DETAILS: Last week I shared some of the stress-reducing, health-enhancing benefits of practicing mindfulness meditation. Can meditating and practicing mindfulness prevent the flu? A study by Richard Davidson, PhD, and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin found that people who participated in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program had a stronger immune response to a flu vaccine than people in a nonmeditating control group. In addition, those who meditated reported less anxiety and greater happiness than those in the control group. The meditation group displayed a pattern of increased activity in the front left side of the brain that has been seen in people who tend to experience high levels of positive emotion and enthusiastically approach, rather than avoid, new experiences. Taken together, the findings suggest that practicing this type of meditation transforms brain function and makes people happier, less anxious, and more resistant to infectious disease. Previous studies by Davidson and by numerous other researchers have shown that happier, less-stressed people have more activity in front left side of their brain than their less-happy peers. And that effect may itself be connected to a stronger immune system. In another study, Sheldon Cohen, PhD, and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University found that happier college students were less likely to come down with a cold virus than their more stressed and unhappy peers.
Published on: October 26, 2009
Updated on: August 3, 2011