With cold and flu season on the horizon, you may be wondering what you can do to strengthen your immune system to prevent getting sick, or recover more quickly if you do come down with something. You have probably already heard plenty of advice on eating well, getting enough sleep and exercise, and avoiding smoking and too much alcohol. But here are some surprising additional ways you can up your resistance to getting sick:

Have More Sex

It may sound odd to recommend more sex to stay healthy, but there is real science behind it. On a biological level, intimacy with another human exposes you to any germs they may be carrying, giving your immune system a chance to build up antibodies. Women, in particular, have a release of infection-fighting T-cells whenever they are sexually active, because the body prepares for a possible pregnancy by readying defenses to protect an embryo from infections that could damage or destroy it.

Have Some Laughs

High levels of stress cause a lot of wear and tear to your body, including your immune systems. So, it’s important to have outlets for stress relief in your life, and one of the biggest stress busters is a good laugh. Whether it’s an episode of the Simpsons, some funny YouTube videos, or telling silly jokes with your kids, make time every day for humor in your life, and spend less on tissues and cold medicines.

Get a Dog

Studies have shown that families with pets, especially kids, have more resistance to colds and allergies. You tend to build up antibodies when exposed to enough different viruses and bacteria to challenge your systems without making you actually get sick, and pets that spend time outdoors bring a variety of microscopic critters with them as they go in and out. Also, spending time with pets reduces stress levels, and walking a dog daily helps you get needed exercise as well.

Hang Out With Friends

People with strong family and friendship ties tend to outlive loners. Again, getting out of the house and around other people helps relieve stress in your life and gives your immune system regular low-level challenges that help you build up your antibodies and resistance to infection. If you want to grow your real-world social network, try volunteering in your community or take a class on a topic that interests you.

Look on the Bright Side

Studies show that people with optimistic attitudes in life stay healthier and get sick less often. If you tend to have an Eeyore outlook, try to consciously cultivate a more positive view. When something good happens, take time to notice and savor it. When you find yourself having pessimistic thoughts, look for a silver lining or find something else to focus on so you don’t dwell on the negative.

Of course, the best way to protect against colds and flu is to wash your hands regularly, use hand sanitizer, and keep your fingers away from your face and mouth. If you already have great hygiene habits, though, consider thinking outside the box a bit and add one or more of these habits to your daily life to help your resistance to illness.

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