What is the secret ingredient to stoke your immune system during this stressful time, or DTST? (During This Stressful Time is a phrase we use so often now I think it deserves its own abbreviation, DTST.)
One of the best steps you can take is to bolster your immune system. It’s your body’s internal defense system. Combined with the inflammatory response, the immune response comes to our rescue every day, 24/7.
Well, DTST, we need our immune system to be in tip-top, best-possible fighting shape. This is obviously a premier, super high, gotta do it priority. Keeping your defenses up against invading microbes has never been more important.
But. . . how do you do it?
You can probably guess some items on the list already. Eat lots of fruits and veggies. Get regular exercise and good sleep. Don’t smoke. Drink alcohol only in moderation. De-stress.
But there is one magic ingredient that usually doesn’t make the list. I call it a “secret” ingredient because, even though there is a ton of evidence to prove its value—in fact it may be more powerful than all those other steps—it might as well be secret because most people don’t use it nearly enough nor do they know about its titanic healing and life-prolonging powers.
Even better, this ingredient is free and infinite in supply. Plus, it’s fun to use!
What is this magic factor that’s fun, free, infinite in supply, and incredibly good for you?
In its most concentrated form we call it love. As it spreads out, I call it connection. The force of connection—from love to friendship to a relationship with a song or a cause—the force of connection does us more good, and spares us more ill, than any single force in the universe.
Connection—to people, pets (I adore dogs, but if you’re a cat person, that’s fine), places, ideas, objets d’art, the past, certain activities—connection to anything or anyone you care deeply about, that force does you more good than you likely know. Far more good. It enriches and actually lengthens your life. It provides you with a special satisfaction, with what Aristotle called eudaimon, literally “good spirit”, but much richer than that short term can impart. Aristotle deemed eudaimon as the highest good for human beings, the deepest satisfaction and fulfillment, what Maslow would call self-actualization, the most harmonious and joyful state a person can achieve.
And it all depends upon connection.
Not focusing on yourself, but on the connections your self can make outside of yourself. These are the connections and this is the force that, among other benefits, strengthens your immune system big time.
Since it’s free, fun, good for you, and easy to find, use it. Get and give massive doses of it every day. Even in quarantine or isolation, you do not need to be disconnected or lonely. Being lonely is bad for you. But you can cure loneliness with a:
- phone call,
- piece of music,
- dog (the best!),
- trip down memory lane,
All you have to do is connect outside of yourself to anything, as long as you care deeply about it. Caring mildly is good too, just not as potent as caring deeply. Yes, the effect is dose-dependent, so if you want the really big bang for your connection buck, make it a connection you care deeply about.
This is the secret, the most magical ingredient we have to bolster immune function.
And while you’re connecting, don’t forget the best foods*—citrus of all kinds; red bell peppers; Greek yogurt; almonds; broccoli; ginger; garlic’ turmeric; green tea; papaya; spinach; berries; as well as special mushrooms (all available in powder form on Amazon) like Reishi; Lions Mane; Turkey Tail (don’t you love these names?); and cordyceps; as well as shellfish, for the zinc. And of course, exercise, meditate, pray, and sleep well.
But, above all, use copious amounts of the secret ingredient that should no more be secret DTST, connection. Connection, and its mother, love, drive the very best in life. The vast sea of connections beckons like a beautiful, infinite, shimmering pool. Jump in, have fun, and live long. And these days, stave off those nasty bugs with a super-charged immune system!
Edward (Ned) Hallowell, M.D.
If you want to learn more about living a connected life, read Dr. Hallowell’s book: Connect
or watch his YouTube video on The Power of Vitamin Connect
*Disclaimer: These foods may be helpful in building your immune system, but they DO NOT prevent or protect you from COVID-19. Here is a link to the CDC guidelines on How to Protect yourself.