How Happiness Affects the Immune System

Did you know that your mood can affect the way your immune system functions? As you know, our immune system helps to keep us healthy. It fights off various invaders and keeps us from getting sick. Pretty great, but what happens to your immune system when you’re under a lot of stress? Or suffering from depression?

Studies during the 1980s and early 1990s revealed that the brain is directly wired to the immune system — portions of the nervous system connect with immune-related organs such as the thymus and bone marrow, and immune cells have receptors for neurotransmitters, suggesting that there is crosstalk. It’s even been scientifically shown that happiness can alter your genes!  A team of researchers at UCLA showed that people with a deep sense of happiness and well-being had lower levels of inflammatory gene expression and stronger antiviral and antibody responses. This falls into the realm of epigenetics—changing the way your genes function by turning them off and on.

Negative mental states, like loneliness and stress guide immune responses by driving broad programs of gene expression, shaping our ability to fight disease. Negative emotional states have also been linked to higher levels of inflammation in the body. We now know that higher levels of inflammation have been linked to heart disease, cancer, chronic pain, and Alzheimer’s to name a few.

What can you do?

  1. Practice Gratitude- Keep a gratitude journal and jot down a few things everyday that you are grateful for. It can be as simple or as complex as you like. Gratitude is linked to happiness. By being thankful for what you already have, it allows you to appreciate it and turn around negative thought patterns.
  2. Meditation- It relaxes the mind and body and lowers level of stress.
  3. Exercise outside- Studies have shown that a 30 minute walk outside in the sunshine is as effective as antidepressants.
  4. Spend time outside in nature- Studies have shown that wali
  5. Massage- lowers stress responses in the body and can also act as a boost to immune function.
  6. Heal relationships- Examine your relationships. Negative friendships? Work on healing and improving.
  7. Self-improvement- Do you have areas in your life that you aren’t satisfied with? Unfulfilled dreams? Career goals? What can you do to put yourself in a situation that brings you fulfillment?