April 8, 2020
In this week’s blog, I wanted to share an opportunity I had on the weekend to participate in a call with Marty Seligman.
For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Martin Seligman is considered the founding father of positive psychology and he reminded me of a study that I had forgotten about, and I wanted to share it with you.
There are certain things we can be doing to stay healthy and resilient during this time. Did you know there are also things you can be doing to boost your immunity against viruses? I’m going to give you some of these strategies; I’m not suggesting that these replace all the other things you’re doing to protect yourself from the coronavirus. You still want to be doing all of those things like social distancing, self-isolating, washing your hands and wearing gloves and masks. But these are just a couple more things that you could do to boost your immunity, and I thought that they were interesting and that you should know about them.
So the first study was by Sheldon Cohen and other scientists. So what Sheldon Cohen wanted to know is, does the experience of frequent positive emotions boost your immunity against the flu or, in this case, the common cold. So, what he did was he measured people’s happiness level over time to see if just happier people had better immunities against the common cold. So, he measured that first, and then he swabbed people with rhinovirus in their nose. Then he tested to see who got infected and who experienced a full-blown cold as a result. And what he found is that it was true; people who experience frequent positive emotions regularly were less likely to contract the flu.
Now, Dr. Cohen did another study. He wanted to see if people with shorter telomeres were more likely to contract the flu. Telomeres are those little tags at the end of our chromosomes, and every time a cell replicates, a little piece of that tag comes off. Now, if that telomere gets too small, it can affect the functioning of the cell, and it could also cause the cell to die. So it has become a biomarker for longevity, for mortality. And what scientists do is they actually can take a look and see how long your telomeres are by studying your chromosomes in your white blood cells. So what he did find is that, yes, people with shorter telomeres are more likely to contract the flu when he did a similar experiment.
Now we’re not all going to run out and measure our telomeres. But we do know from the research that there are several things you can do to improve your telomere length or help you maintain your telomere length:
Manage Chronic Stress: One of the things we know that affects telomere length is chronic stress. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think I’ve been experiencing a lot of chronic stress through this thing. So I do everything I can every day to manage my stress; meditation, exercise, good sleep, having a positive mindset, I’m not catastrophizing. Anything you can be doing to reduce stress will be significant and will protect your telomere length.
Maintain a healthy weight: Maintaining a healthy weight can also be important. We know that people who are obese have shorter telomeres.
Engage in regular exercise: Exercise everyday. It is also a great way to manage stress and improve well-being.
Meditation: is something that can help not only preserve telomere length but even improve telomere length.
In summary, those are two interesting studies showing that if you experience frequent positive emotion and also are doing some of those things to manage your stress, eating right, exercising and meditation; all important to boosting our immunities.
Please stay safe and healthy. Many blessings to all of you.
Join my virtual book club!
Join me on Thursday, April 30, from 2 pm – 4 pm for this virtual book club where we will read The Telomere Effect and then have an opportunity to discuss the book and what we learned.
This is a groundbreaking book coauthored by a Nobel Prize winner who discovered telomeres’ role in the aging process and the health psychologist who has done original research into how lifestyle and psychological habits can protect telomeres, slowing disease and improving life.
It is the first book to explain how we age at a cellular level and how we can make simple changes to keep our chromosomes and cells healthy, allowing us to stay disease-free longer and live more vital and meaningful lives.
This is going to be a great discussion and a great opportunity to socialize.