A meta-analysis of more than 300 studies covering 30 years of inquiry into the connection between stress and the immune system found that stressful events can change immune system functioning. The report explains the type and duration of stress determines the type of change that occurs. Acute time-limited stress, such as public speaking, triggers an appropriate boost of natural immunity to manage the “fight or flight” response. Brief stressors, such as taking an exam, were shown to shift the immune system function that regulates immunity, inflammation, and the manufacturing of red blood cells. But chronic stress, which is defined as an emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period of time where a person feels helpless or out of control, impacts the endocrine system where corticosteroids are released.
Across all demographics, researchers confirmed that chronic stress decreases immune functioning and is not good for us. So how can positive thinking help? The meta-analysis also showed that people who described their lives as “stressful” had a significant reduction in natural killer cells, which are the cells responsible for eliminating viruses or tumor-infected cells.
Therefore, in addition to the physiological response to stress and how it impacts our immunity, so does our attitude, which may be a factor in the immune response. Our immune systems are designed to have our backs and wait for signaling from not only pathogens, but also what we’re thinking. Since nearly all stress is self-reported, remember you are in control of that piece of influence on your immune response.
So, in that immune-boosting conversation, remember, positive self-talk matters!
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