Some stress can be a good thing. It helps your body get ready for a challenge. But if it lasts too long, that’s bad news. Studies show it can weaken your immune system -- your body's defense against illness. Avoid stress when you can, and make it a priority to unwind and do things you enjoy.
2. Enjoy Regular Sex
It doesn't just make you feel good -- it's good for you, too. One study looked at the connection between sexual activity and health in people middle-aged and older. The researchers found that those who had sex often were in better health than others.
3. Get a Pet
There's a reason dogs are called "man's best friend." Dogs and other animals bring companionship, exercise, and better health. Research shows that having a pet can lower blood pressure, cut cholesterol levels, and improve heart health. In one study, having a dog improved immune system development and cut kids’ chances of having allergies.
4. Build a Strong Social Network
You already treasure your friends, but did you know they also have a big effect on your health? In one study, college freshmen who were lonely had weaker immune systems than those with good connections. To widen your circle, try volunteering, taking a class, or joining a group that interests you. And be sure to nurture the bonds you already have.
5. Look on the Bright Side
Positive thoughts can give your immune system a healthy boost. One study of law students found that when they felt more optimistic, their immune system was stronger. To boost your optimism, take time to savor the things you enjoy, look for the silver lining in tough situations, and try not to dwell on negative thoughts.
6. Have a Laugh
A good giggle might have benefits. There's some evidence that laughter may help boost our immune system -- and it has no downside! A group of researchers who looked at several studies on the topic found that after people laughed out loud at funny videos, their immune system worked better. But it’s not yet clear if that means less illness in the long run.
7. Eat Your Antioxidants
Fruits and vegetables will give you nutrients that guard against free radicals, molecules that can harm cells. To get a wide range, go for lots of colorful items such as oranges, green peppers, broccoli, kiwi, strawberries, carrots, watermelon, papaya, leafy greens, and cantaloupe.
8. Consider Herbs and Supplements
Many people take herbs or supplements. Some of these items may affect the immune system, but more studies are needed to see if they have health benefits. Because some supplements can interact with other medicines you take, talk with your doctor first so you know what’s safe for you to try.
9. Keep Your Body Moving
One simple way to strengthen your immune system is to exercise. You will also curb stress and cut your chance of getting osteoporosis, heart disease, and some types of cancer. You get the most benefit when you exercise at a moderate level (like a brisk bike ride) most days of the week. You can do anything you like -- walk, swim, golf, dance, garden, or do yoga, to name just a few options.
10. Get a Good Night's Sleep
Your immune system will be better prepared to fight off illness. Most adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. It helps to go to bed at a regular time, be active, avoid caffeine and alcohol after dinner, make your bedroom comfy, and unwind at the end of your day.
11. Limit Alcohol
Many people drink at meals and at parties as a way to socialize and celebrate. But too much alcohol weakens your immune system, so you might get sick more often. Men should have no more than two drinks per day. Women should not have more than one drink per day.
12. Kick the Nicotine Habit
Give up smoking, and you’ll help your immune system. If it takes you several tries before you quit for good, hang in there! Ask your doctor for advice about what will help you make this powerful change. Also, avoid other people’s secondhand smoke.
13. Wash Your Hands
Send those germs down the drain before your immune system has to fight them inside your body. Use soap and clean, running water, and wash for at least 20 seconds. If you don't have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE VETERINARY ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your pet’s health. Never ignore professional veterinary advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think your pet may have a veterinary emergency, immediately call your veterinarian.