It's at this time of year – the whole office is coughing, sneezing and looking like a big commercial for the common cold. Even those who take their doses of vitamin C and wash their hands regularly are susceptible to germs in colder temperatures. There are numerous treatments, home remedies and ancient practices that people rely on to fight a cold, but if you want to avoid sniffing when attacking each year, consider starting a meditation practice.
Research suggests that meditating regularly can be an effective strategy to protect the body against colds and disease. In a recent study published in the journal PLOS One, researchers gave 390 adult flu vaccines. Some of the participants also took an eight-week meditation course, some took an eight-week exercise class, in addition to the shot, and the rest only took the photo by themselves. The findings revealed a clear protective benefit to meditation: after eight weeks, those who meditated ended up receiving the fewest respiratory illnesses and lost the least amount of workdays. Overall, the meditation group performed 17% better than the others.
Meditation is so effective in preventing colds and diseases because of its ability to reduce stress. This is not woo-woo's science: stress can decrease lymphocytes in the body – the white blood cells that help prevent infection. When a person is extremely stressed and their lymphocyte levels are very low, they are much more susceptible to viruses like the common cold compared to someone who can manage stress in a healthy way.
Also, when we are stressed, our bodies are doing overtime to keep up with the demands we are putting on them, either mentally or physically. But when relaxed and calm, our bodies can function like the well-oiled machines that they are. "Deleting or modifying these [stress-inducing] factors in a person's life is vital to protect and enhance the immune response, "says clinical immunologist Leonard Calabrese, O.D., at the Cleveland Clinic.
In addition to keeping the immune system healthy, it has also been discovered that meditation reduces the symptoms of various harmful conditions and diseases, including high blood pressure, IBS symptoms, anxiety, depression and insomnia.
This does not mean that one should rely entirely on meditation to overcome an unpleasant cold. The practice should be used in conjunction with the correct medication, as ordered by a physician, while constantly seeking meditation as a form of stress relief throughout the year. The ultimate goal is to make meditation an essential part of your schedule, so you can avoid getting sick so often. Your immune system will thank you – and also your mind more calm and stress-free.