Like you, I am also a compulsive optimist. I say so because I know that without being optimistic at heart you cannot put up hard work of so many hours of a precious day and so many years of a young life in your preparations for tough competitive examinations. You do so in the hope of making it big at the end of this entire endeavour. This is human nature. We try and see positive side of things as this is the only way through which we can bring improvements in our lives and the world.
There is hardly anyone of us who has not been touched by the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic which has now brought upon us a new variant of Omicron to generate a third wave in India. But, being a compulsive optimist, my mind is more focused on positive takeaways of this debilitating experience. Despite all the uncertainties that surround us today, for a moment think of a time when we will be able to see the back of the Coronavirus with all its present and prospective variants and live a pre-pandemic normal life. How would we remember this period then? What would be the learning from this period of time that we will cherish then?
The biggest gain, I think, is the greater health consciousness that all of us have acquired during these times. People are now more aware of the intricacies of their physical well-being. The word “immunity” has become part of the lexicon of those too, who were not aware of it earlier. Thanks to the Covid-19, we now know much better about the “power of our body to keep ourselves from being affected by a disease”, as immunity in biology is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. More significantly, we now know how to enhance this inherent power of our body to fight a disease before it attacks our biological systems.
Covid-19 has already taught us that immunity is the biggest weapon we have against all kinds of external attacks from micro-organisms on our body. But this immunity is a product of a highly complex system, which scientists are still struggling to understand. From antibodies, organs, proteins, enzymes to B and T lymphocytes, also called memory cells, and natural killer cells, immunity includes a lot of things. To put it in short, immunity works best when we support our general health. Scientists are increasingly finding links between lifestyle and functioning of the immune system. There are several new researches that show us which lifestyle keeps our immune system stronger and which weakens it. Here, I bring to your knowledge certain suggestions based on the new science to help boost your immunity.
There are, of course, some simple conventional rules that have recently found new scientific basis. You must watch out for what you eat. Many studies have drawn a connection between nutrition and immune function. A 2021 Harvard study finds that emphasis on a diet of plant-based foods brings in a 41% lower risk of getting severely ill. So, include lots of vegetables and fruits in your diet. Then, regular moderate physical activity optimises your immune function. Researches show that prolonged physical exertion may prove as disruptive to our normal immune function as a complete physical inactivity. So, aim for 10 to 30 minutes of exercise every day to get the immune benefits. Also, drink plenty of water as it helps drain waste and deliver nutrients, the processes that our immune system relies on. Like exercise, sleep affects immunity in many varied ways. A consistent good sleep of 7 to 8 hours each night lowers risk of infection.
It is equally important to harness our mind power. Studies show that chronic stress can sap our defences and destroy immune cells, generating what is called sympathetic response, while any break from constant stress kicks in para-sympathetic responses that slow our heart rate and relax the body. So, fill your life with opportunities to get away from anxiety by pushing yourselves into positive spaces. Similarly, positive social connections have been linked to reduced chronic stress and a stronger resistance to disease. Also, spending time outdoors not only gives you a chance to breathe fresh air but also benefits your immune system. A bout of sunlight during the day improves your sleep rhythm at night and allows your body to produce essential vitamin D as well as increase the activity of Thymus cells, which are major components of adaptive immune response. Lastly, please do not forget to take your vaccines. And I am not talking about Covid-19 only. When it comes to powering up the immune system, vaccines have been the most important breakthrough in history. Childhood vaccinations, for instance, have been a key factor in our longer lifespan today.
So, make the pandemic an opportunity to learn about keeping your immune system stronger. It is one of the important learnings that should remain with you even after the final goodbye to the Covid-19. With all the best wishes for you to keep safe, healthy and attain success in all your endeavours.