By Sejal Shah | Posted: January 14, 2019
Winter is in full swing! While temperatures continue to drop, sneezing, sniffling, running nose, and many other symptoms of common colds and coughs are on the rise. It seems like every other person in the office and all the kids at school are all sick.
There are several reasons why colds are more common during the winter:
- The viruses that cause the common cold spread more easily in cold, dry air.
- Adults and children spend more time indoors and closer to each other during the winter, spreading viruses more easily.
- Our nasal passages are drier during the winter (due to drier air), allowing cold viruses to take hold and make us sick more than they can during the spring and summer months.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that influenza is most common during the fall and winter seasons, with infections peaking between late November to March. It is estimated that annually approximately 35.5 million Americans will get a cold, and 13 million will get the flu, accounting for $10 billion in medical expenses and $16 billion in lost earnings, annually.
So, how can we battle and prevent colds and flu?
There are a number of ways of battling colds in the winter, including Vitamin C shots, washing hands frequently, covering your cough, and home remedies like ginger, honey, turmeric, garlic, echinacea, and elderberry. But a recent study shows that a daily practice of meditation and exercise can help in preventing the onset of sickness altogether, even before they strike.
Stress is the culprit, and meditation is a way out
Meditation is an ancient practice that’s been around for centuries, but has gained a resurgence in popularity in recent years. We’ve known instinctually that meditation is good for us for a long time, and modern researchers are working on determining the full effects of meditation on health, including preventing and managing sickness.
The reason meditation is so effective in preventing colds and illness is its ability to lower stress levels. Stress can lower the body's lymphocytes—the white blood cells that help ward off infection. When a person is extremely stressed and their lymphocyte levels are very low, they're much more susceptible to viruses like the common cold, compared to someone who is healthy and who has lower levels of stress.
Using meditation to strengthen your body’s immune system
One study conducted by the University of Wisconsin showed that meditation may be more effective than exercise at preventing the cold and flu. They also found that if you do get sick, meditation effectively reduced symptom severity. Another study found that compared to non-meditators, those with an established meditation practice had higher levels of B lymphocytes and natural killer cells—cells the body uses to protect itself from foreign invaders. Some other study found similar benefits even in new meditators.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
If you think you’ve suffered enough from the horrific symptoms of common cold every winter, consider developing a daily practice of meditation to prevent the onset of the sickness next year and thereafter.
There are many different types of meditation: give yourself an opportunity to explore and find which suits you the best, and stick to it. My favorite is an ancient and easy technique known as Sahaj Samadhi meditation, which I have been practicing over more than a decade. If you are an absolute beginner, here are some useful tips for you to consider.
I don’t mean to say that meditation should be relied on completely to beat the cold and flu. It is recommended to use the practice in conjunction with the right medication as per your health providers advice, while consistently looking to meditation as an effective tool to manage stress all through the year. The goal, ultimately, is to make meditation an integral part of your daily routine so that you can avoid getting sick as frequently. Give yourself a dose of meditation: all you need is 20 minutes, two times a day, for 365 days! Not only will your body’s immune system thank you, but you’ll love your new calm, peaceful and stress-free mindset, too!
By Sejal Shah, E-YRT 500 Sri Sri Yoga Teacher, YACEP, Art of Living Teacher, NYU Post Graduate Medical School approved Yoga-CME retreat facilitator, Mind-Body Wellness Writer, Homeopath