11 Healthy Habits That Can Help Prevent Illness

If you're perpetually coughing, constantly feverish, and always sniffling, then it may be time to re-evaluate how you're living life. You know, maybe look for a few ways to keep from getting sick? Because, when it comes down to it, lifestyle plays a huge role in the health of your immune system.

Things like chronic stress, lack of sleep, and a poor diet pummel your immune system into the ground. And since it's there to fight off infection, a weakened immune system will let in all sorts of germs. (Cue the aforementioned sniffling and coughing, or worse.)

Luckily, most of us have a pretty good immune system. That's why you shouldn't walk around paranoid about every little piece of dirt. In fact, being exposed to germs, especially early on in life, can actually help boost the immune system, according to WebMD. It's called the "hygiene hypothesis," and it can be a good predicator of whether babies will grow up to have illnesses such as allergies or asthma.

But, that doesn't mean you should necessarily go around lick door knobs as an adult. In fact, quite the opposite. You should be taking care of yourself, and forming healthy habits that boost your immune system, and keep you feeling right as rain. Here are some habits to keep in mind, especially if you're always sick.

1. Meet Up With Friends

I know, I know... it's incredibly tempting to stay at home, by yourself, in your pajamas. And it's totally fine to do this every now and then. But if you want to boost your immune system, then I recommend occasionally peeling yourself off the sofa, and doing something social. According to the editors at Prevention, "In one study, researchers who monitored 276 people between the ages of 18 and 55 found that those who had six or more connections were four times better at fighting off the viruses that cause colds than those with fewer friends." So get out there and hug your friends.

2. Go To Bed On Time (For Once)

Again, it's very tempting to get in those pajamas, and then never go to bed. But, as Denise Mann noted on WebMD.com, many studies show that our T-cells go down when we are sleep deprived, and inflammatory cytokines go up. This is all fancy talk for an increased risk of colds and flu. Try for seven to eight hours a night, for true germ-fighting amazingness.

3. Think Positive Thoughts

It may not work totally like magic, but positive thoughts do have a way of warding off germs. As Lesley Young said on BestHealthMag.ca, a positive outlook may mean the difference between catching a cold or not. In research done at Carnegie Mellon University, people who described themselves as less happy were about three times more likely to get sick than those who rated themselves higher, Young explained. So if you feel a sore throat coming on, by all means think good thoughts.

4. Always Remember A Jacket

It may sound like an old wive's tale, but being cold all day can actually make you sick. (Or, at least it can contribute to it.) As Lauren Gelman noted on RD.com, "You’re more likely to catch an infection if you — especially your extremities — are cold. In one study, 90 people kept their feet in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes and the same number put their feet in an empty container for a similar length of time. Five days later, 20 percent of people with chilled feet had developed colds compared with 9 percent of those whose feet stayed warm." Better to bundle up and be safe, than sorry.

5. Snack On Some Yogurt

Yogurt is where it's at if you want to have a healthy immune system. As Young said, "In a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, athletes who took a probiotic supplement had half as many days with respiratory symptoms as those in the placebo group." Just be sure to buy the kind with at least 10 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) per container, for maximum benefit.

6. Talk It Out With Your SO

Feuding with your partner, being a sarcastic jerk, and hurling insults are all pretty good ways to lower your immune system, and eventually get sick. As noted on Prevention, "Couples who frequently use sarcasm, insults, and put-downs have fewer virus-fighting natural killer cells, have higher levels of stress hormones, and take up to 40 percent longer to recover from injuries than those who manage to stay positive and affectionate during their quarrels." Arguing is just not worth it, no matter how bad you want to prove your point.

7. Laugh It Up On The Regular

If you've been getting sick all the time, it may be high time you hit up a comedy show (or at least the comedy section on Netflix). "Laughter can strengthen your immunity along with your mood. It raises levels of antibodies in the blood and those of the white blood cells that attack and kill bacteria and viruses. It also increases the number of antibodies in the mucus made in the nose and respiratory passages, the entry points for many germs," Gelman said. Definitely worth a try.

8. Get More Vitamin D

You can get vitamin D from the sun, as well as foods like eggs and fish. But if you're not getting enough of either, you may be setting yourself up for illness. As Young noted, "A Finnish study found that those with low vitamin D status were one and a half times more likely to get a respiratory infection than those in the control group." Since vitamin D is so easy to get, why not boost your intake? Try for at least 600 IU daily, according to WebMD.

9. Carry Your Own Pen

This one may sound a bit paranoid, but when you think about all the times you touch shared objects during the day (like pens), it starts to feel a bit less so. The problem with things like pens is they help transfer cold and flu germs when passed from hand to hand, according to Prevention. That's why it's better to lessen your contact with others, especially during cold and flu season, and carry your own pen.

10. Eat More Good Fats

You might have in your head that avoiding fat is a good thing. And yet, this isn't necessarily the case — especially when it comes to boosting your immune system. According to Gelman, "Some fats are essential for building cells and for the production of prostaglandins, hormone-like compounds that help to regulate the immune system’s response to infection, such as the way it reacts by making white blood cells that combat invaders." Look for healthy unsaturated vegetable fats, and avoid processed or trans fats, whenever possible.

11. Deal With Your Stress

Ever notice how you often get super sick after a stressful week? That's because chronic stress has a way of wrecking havoc in the body, and that can make you more susceptible to germs. In fact, as Andrew Goliszek, Ph.D., noted on Psychology Today, "Some experts claim that stress is responsible for as much as 90 percent of all illnesses and diseases, including cancer and heart disease." So figure out ways to deal with your stress, before it gets out of control.

Keep these tips in mind, and hopefully you'll get through the seemingly unending cold and flu seasons unscathed.

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