We often work our physical body to develop strength and reduce our vulnerability to illness. We eat healthy and exercise our muscles, but many people neglect an important part of the body; the brain.
The brain is as much an important organ as your lungs or heart, yet while many people develop them for endurance, they fail to consider training exercises for the brain. A major reason is that people don’t understand the role of the brain in fighting sickness. Did you know you can train your brain to develop resistance by building its immunity?
How? Before we proceed, it is important to discuss the brain and the part it plays in our immune system.
The Brain and the immune system
Until recently, people believed it was impossible to influence the autonomic nervous system (ANS) because of its “involuntary” nature. The ANS is responsible for controlling our internal organs and regulating bodily functions such as circulation, digestion, breathing and so on.
In addition to performing these functions, the brain communicates with our immune system via the autonomic nervous system.
Wim Hof, who calls himself the “Ice Man” has perfected the total control of his immune system using ANS. He recently proved he could increase the function of his immune system when he was injected with endotoxin, a bacterium which would have normally caused flu-like symptoms in other individuals.
When scientists studied his inflammatory indicators following the test, they found out his indicators were low. Surprisingly, his immune response was 50% lower than healthy subjects who had volunteered for the same study.
While Wim Hof is what scientists like to call a statistical outlier, his ANS control techniques were taught to students who also displayed the same resistance to E. coli, another toxic strain of bacteria.
So, what are some of Wim’s brain training techniques?
- Reduce stress and increase your emotional regulation
It has been scientifically proven that we think about and feel affects our immune system through the chemical messages we send to the brain. It is therefore no surprise that stress, negative thoughts and specific emotional states can reduce the effect of our immunity.
Practice mindfulness exercises to influence mental wellbeing and send positive messages to the brain. Decreased stress, rumination and a heightened ability to control our emotions can make the brain, and ANS stronger.
- Targeted brain and communication with the immune system
Another connection between mindfulness and the immune system is the former’s direct influence on the parts of the brain responsible for activating the immune system.
Research has emphatically proven that mindfulness meditation amplifies activity in the right anterior insula, the prefrontal cortex and the right hippocampus. These are the command centres of our immune system in the brain.
Where these parts are activated via mindfulness, the functions of the immune system are immediately enhanced.
It might not be as easy to develop mindfulness and mental awareness, but constant practice makes it possible. Over time, we will train our mental faculties to perform these functions at will. The secret is to keep going, as Wim Hoff the “Ice Man” would say.