Full transcript below.
[The following is the full transcript of this video blog. Please note that this video, like all of Dr. Chiu's blog videos, features Dr. Chiu speaking extemporaneously– he is unscripted for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!]
Hi my friends, and welcome back. My name is Dr Titus Chiu, and this is the Modern Brain. What a strange and challenging time we find ourselves living in right now. If you're like the rest of every other human being on this planet, you're going through some really unprecedented times due to the Global Health pandemic.
So I wanted to share this quick video with you on how to use your mind to boost your immunity.
One of the core principles that I live my life by is “Double down on the things that you have control over, and let go of the rest”. After I had suffered a car accident many years ago and was recovering from a concussion, that was one of the biggest lessons I learned.
Because I found that after my car accident my brain just wasn't working the same it was prior to my head injury. And so I tried to control situations and I tried to make things run smoothly and I was totally overwhelmed. Just being thrown about and having external events, really influence how I felt was just not working for me.
And so I ended up hitting rock bottom. And that's when I realized that there are so many things that I really did not have control over. But there was a lot that I did. And so I started to double down on the things that I had control and when I did, my healing began to accelerate. And so that's one of the core principles that I now live my life by– doubling down on the things that I have the ability to control and letting go of the rest.
And I find that lesson to be so relevant with the time that we find ourselves living in right now. And to be honest, when this first happened I was checking the news all the time I was reading, Instagram and Facebook and looking at all the social media channels and news outlets and just getting more and more stressed and overwhelmed with all these things that I really had no ability to control.
Outside of just living in a bubble and never going outside into the world again. We really don't have too much control in terms of exposure to any type of pathogens or bacteria or germs, or viruses. But what we do have is the ability to strengthen our immune system.
The immune system is part of an interconnected system that's found throughout our bodies whose main job is to survey your environment for any dangers, like any bacteria or viruses or pathogens, and then neutralize it. That's one of its main jobs– surveillance and defense.
Now that you understand what the main job of the immune system is, in order to strengthen your immune system we need to know what the major influences on your immune system are. The number one influence I’ll be sharing with you today is STRESS.
When we think of stress we think of things like mental stressors or emotional stressors, like the state of the world right now or the economy, or the uncertainty of how this is all gonna play out. Those are all stressful things to think about. But they're all “mental” stressors.
In fact there are three different types of stress that we need to talk about. There are mental and emotional stressors, but there are also physical and chemical stressors as well.
An example of physical stress is a car accident or a concussion or a head injury, but it doesn't even have to be that dramatic. You can have a minor trauma, like for example sitting all the time and scrolling in your newsfeed on your phone, without moving. That's a physical form of stress. As they say “Sitting is the new smoking”. So that's a form of physical stress.
In addition, we also have chemical stressors. A very good example of that is processed foods. All the chemicals and preservatives that are found in processed foods as well as the high fructose corn syrup, all those things are very stressful to our brains and our bodies. And so that's a form of chemical stress.
And then finally, like I mentioned before, there are the mental and emotional stressors. And in many cases, they are the narratives that we tell ourselves in our own minds.
The reason why I'm sharing all of this with you, is to give you a bigger picture of what stress actually is and how it impacts your immune system. So let's break it down a little bit more.
When you experience stress whether it's physical, chemical or emotional, your brain goes into an alarm reaction. And it sends a signal to this area we call your “hypothalamish”, which talks to your pituitary. And then finally, your adrenal glands release cortisol.
Cortisol is a stress hormone and one of its main jobs is to mobilize glucose, to increase your blood sugar, so you have the energy to either deal with the situation, or run away from the situation, what we call the fight-or-flight response.
Now, under short term periods of stress that's important because it helps you step up to life's challenges. But if you're under prolonged periods of stress or long drawn out chronic stress, or big traumatic stressors, that excess cortisol can damage your brain cells. So if you experience things like brain fog or neurofatigue, or even things like depression, it could be due to excess cortisol from an uncontrolled stress response.
Now, in addition to that, there are also negative impacts that excess cortisol has on your immune system. Because cortisol, after long periods of time, can not only damage your brain cells, but it also can suppress your immune system.
It's a well-known fact that people who are on steroid medications like corticosteroids are at increased risk for infections.
And the reason is simple– cortisol suppresses your immune response.
Now, the good news is that even if you’re on steroid hormones, or even if you're not and you just find yourself really stressed out, there are things that you can do to boost your stress resilience, and in doing so, strengthen your immune system.
Because when you get a handle on your cortisol levels that allows your immune system to get stronger. So even if you're exposed to a germ, or a virus, or a pathogen your immune system will be able to do what it does– not only survey your environment but also defend against pathogens and neutralize them.
Here are the three ways to use your mind to boost your immune system:
1. Avoid unnecessary stressors.
As an example, when I first learned about the pandemic, I was on social media all the time and watching the news all the time and it was just overwhelming. Sure it's good to stay up-to-date on current events, especially as they impact you and your local community, as well as the global world, but it's one thing being informed. It's a whole other thing being carried away.
I mean, I was on my phone as soon as I woke up in the morning and I would be on it all day and I’d even fall asleep with it. And I wasn’t reading or learning about things that were inspirational but things that triggered more and more stress and cortisol, in my bloodstream.
So during that initial phase, my immune system and my brain were tanked and not in a good place. And so I decided I needed to take action– after just coming out of that haze and being brain fog and feeling sick with fear and stress, that I needed to avoid unnecessary stressors.
So I put a limit to the amount of news and social media that I consumed every day. And I also balanced it out with things that I found inspirational. I started to play the guitar again, I started to read novels and inspirational books, and listening to spiritual audiobooks. So make sure that you avoid unnecessary stressors, and then balance it out with the good in life as well. That will go a long way towards strengthening your immune system.
2. Carve Out Special Time
The second thing you can do to boost your immunity is to carve out special time for yourself every day. All of us right now are living in an unprecedented time for us, and you're having to stay in and at home. And even if you’re with people that you love and it's your family or with your friends, it could be stressful because you're on top of each other all the time.
And for those of you who aren't in a good situation in terms of your living quarters and relationships, it’s even more important for you to carve out some special sacred time for yourself.
I feel blessed to have a home office that I could do a lot of my work from– offering video telehealth conferences for my patients and clients and creating valuable resources for you guys that I’ll be sharing with you for the weeks and months to come.
And in addition to that, I have this office so I could come and NOT do work, decompress and just space out in.
So I really encourage you– even if you don't have a home office or a really large space you're living in right now, you probably have a bathroom. Go to your bathroom and turn off the lights and give yourself some time to reset.
That's the second thing I recommend that you do is carve out some special time in a physical location away from others, to decompress.
3. Practice meditation
The third thing that I recommend that you do is, meditate. One of the biggest practices that I've incorporated into my everyday life that’s totally lowered my stress levels is meditation. Because when you meditate, in particular, if you practice a form of meditation called Vipassana, where you bring awareness to your breath or bring awareness to the movement of your belly, and your breathing, you engage the right hemisphere of your brain.
Guess what that does? It puts a break on that stress response when it is healthy. By practicing meditation, a simple meditation where you bring awareness to your breath, just for 30 to 60 seconds a day, and then you can expand outwards to three minutes, five minutes, 15 and on and on.
When you do that, you boost your brain's resilience, but specifically the right hemisphere of your brain, which puts the brakes on your hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal. In doing so, you can then boost and strengthen your immune system.
So there you have it! Three ways to use your mind to strengthen your immunity: avoid unnecessary stressors, carve special time out of your day, and practice meditation.
I hope this video has been helpful and inspirational to all of you out there living through these really challenging and unprecedented times. I firmly believe that we're going to get through this, as long as we do it together. I know that sounds odd because we're all cooped up in our own homes, isolated from one another right now.
That's why it's so important to share your stories of inspiration, of the things that you are doubling down on that are working. Even the things that aren’t working for you. And what you're going to do to further double down on the things that you can control.
Feel free to post any questions in the comments, share your messages and your stories of things that are working for you and anything that you know that can bring encouragement to our collective minds to help us get through these challenging times.
My name is Dr Titus Chiu. Thanks so much for watching and I look forward to hearing from you.