Basic healthy lifestyle principles may seem inadequate during a pandemic like COVID-19. But actually, the opposite is true. If there was ever a time to implement healthy practices into your daily routine, the time is now. Washing hands, covering your mouth if you cough, social distancing and disinfecting surfaces are necessary precautions. But what should our top strategies be? Can we be more proactive? Does staying home, baking cookies, and binging on social media help or hinder our quest for surviving this crisis?
Your immune system is the foundation for good health. Its intricate network works to ward off harmful bacteria and viruses when at its’ optimal performance. It’s never too late to mobilize the immune system with physical and mental practices that increase your body’s ability to defend against unwanted invaders.
We have been given principles to reduce risk. And even if we suffer, and many will, we can rest assured that we did what we could to strengthen ourselves and our families.
Social relationships are intricately connected to health. Intentionally connect with others. Phone a friend, write a letter, initiate a conversation. Allow yourself to be honest, but kind. Contemplate a loving God and spend time in meditation and prayer. This has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and increase feelings of security and compassion.  Positive religious/spiritual practices are correlated with increased health and wellbeing. 
Even mild dehydration can impair many aspects of brain function and increase feelings of anxiety and fatigue. Eliminate all sodas and minimize fruit juice while drinking adequate amounts of pure water. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces each day. This means if you weigh 150 lbs. you need 75 oz of water every day.
Water can also be applied externally as a therapy (hydrotherapy) to enhance blood circulation and boost the immune system. Take hot/cold contrast shower – 3 minutes hot, 30 seconds cold, 3 cycles and end on cold. Don’t let your feet touch the cold bathroom floor and dress right away to keep from getting chilled.
Optimism is a tendency to expect good things in the future. It influences physical and mental health, as well as coping with everyday life. Even if you struggle with depression, the brain can change with a simple practice called gratitude. People who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed. Keep a daily gratitude journal. The practice of gratitude takes time but has lasting positive effects.
“As we think, we change the physical nature of our brain. As we consciously direct our thinking, we can wire out toxic patterns of thinking and replace them with healthy thoughts.” -Dr. Caroline Leaf
Deep breathing and pure air are fundamental to overall health. Deep breathing helps us relax, lowering the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol on the body. Take a few minutes each day to breath slowly and deeply. Breath in through your nose for about 2 seconds, making your stomach expand. Your chest remains relatively still. Exhale slowly from your mouth. Repeat these steps several times.
The old saying “Moderation in all things” is not helpful when it comes to harmful substances. Using good things in moderation and avoiding what is harmful is a wiser principle to practice. During the coronavirus, self-control is especially important in the areas of media consumption, limiting unhealthy foods, social distancing, and shopping for only what you need.
A physically active lifestyle diminishes the risk of contracting a range of communicable diseases including viral and bacterial infections. Habitual exercise is capable of regulating the immune system, even in older adults. Make time for some exercise every day. Exercising outside will give you even greater health benefits.
Sunlight is essential for all living beings on the planet and vital for the body’s metabolism and hormonal balance. Sunlight is essential in the formation of Vitamin D, which is important for immune function. If you are able, get outside in the sunshine at least 15 minutes a day.
Your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases. How much sleep do you need to bolster your immune system? For most adults the optimal amount of sleep is 7 to 8 hours of good sleep each night. Teenagers need 9 to 10 hours of sleep. School aged children may need 10 or more hours of sleep. To protect your internal clock and help with restful sleep, turn off electronic screens and bright lights one hour before bedtime. Try going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
Good nutrition is vital to our body and brain health. The immune system relies on white blood cells that produce antibodies to combat bacteria, viruses, and other invaders. A plant-based diet has been shown to enhance white blood cell function and reduce inflammatory biomarkers. Here are important antioxidants and food sources that can boost immune function.
Beta-Carotene: carrots, sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables.
Vitamin C: red peppers, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, mangoes, and lemons.
Vitamin E: nuts, seeds, spinach, and broccoli.
Zinc: nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, beans, and lentils.
Lycopene: cooked tomatoes, watermelon, sweet red peppers, asparagus, grape fruit, red cabbage
People who eat more fruits and vegetables appear to have a lower risk of getting an upper respiratory tract infection, whether they’re vegetarian or not. So indulge on those veggies, the more the better.