Want Robust Health and Improved Resistance to Disease?
Stop These Unhealthy Habits

Man is thinking at home
Image: PeopleImages / iStock by Getty Images

If a person is living an unhealthy lifestyle, they very often know it. They might tell themselves that really, they should eat better, get more exercise or whatever else they have been told would keep them healthier. But it might be very difficult for them to change old habits so they actually did live a healthier lifestyle.

With the conditions we find ourselves surrounded by in 2020, perhaps it’s time to activate those ideas about getting healthier. Healthy habits enable our bodies to operate more efficiently. Our immune systems are more robust. We can weather illnesses like this year’s coronavirus or past years’ SARS or H1N1 influenza more easily if we do our bodies a favor and give them what they need.

Living a more healthy lifestyle begins with STOPPING those unhealthy habits that break down our immune systems.

In addition, there are also actions we can and should take that BOOST our immune systems.

Let’s start by looking at the unhealthy ways we damage our own immunity.

Things that it would be great to STOP doing.

  • Smoking tobacco. Whether you smoke a lot or a little, you are still damaging your health. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease and cancer and slows down the immune system.
  • Smoking marijuana. The coronavirus (among others) mainly attacks the lungs. Marijuana use is associated with inflammation of the airways. The THC in marijuana also suppresses the immune system, leading some researchers to suggest that use of this drug could increase susceptibility to pneumonia and other lung diseases.
  • Excessively consuming alcohol consumption. The immune-suppressing effect of alcohol has long been known. Those who drink heavily are more prone to pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and other ills. It’s ARDS that is putting many people on ventilators when they are ill with COVID-19.
  • Using cocaine or methamphetamine. Both drugs are very hard on the heart, however they are used. They constrict the arteries while causing the heart to pump harder. This combination of effects puts an incredible strain on the arteries and heart and can shred the aorta. If these drugs are smoked, you have the double-whammy of lung damage on top of the cardiovascular harm they do.
  • Misusing opioids. Opioids have a profound effect on the lungs. They depress respiration while also impairing the body’s immune response. They even have this effect if they are used according to a doctor’s directions but they may be necessary while recovering from an injury or surgery. If they are needed, it would be smart to work with one’s doctor to minimize the dosage and only use them for a minimum number of days.
  • Using any illicit drugs or misusing any prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Any drugs will make your body more toxic, definitely. If you want details on how specific illicit drugs harm your health, click here. For information on how misusing prescription or over-the-counter drugs can harm you, click here.
  • Consuming cheap, fast, mass-produced foods. These foods usually carry heavy doses of sugar, salt or highly processed wheat. Whatever you eat provides the raw materials that are used to build your body. Do you really want to live in a “house” built from fast food burgers, fries and sugary drinks?

Things to START doing, CONTINUE doing or DO MORE OF.

Before I get into this list, I’m going to admit that for a person who doesn’t already engage in these activities, it might not be that easy to change one’s habits. If it were easy, more individuals would already be doing these healthy activities.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to have a little pep talk with oneself. Maybe list out the reasons why these healthy actions are valuable, why they help one’s health and why improving robust health right now is very, very important. That might help you get started. (I know… I've had to do this myself sometimes!)

It is sometimes necessary to repeat the little pep talk to keep oneself going if distractions or laziness show up. (I've had to do this one, too!) Now, let’s look at the list.

Health avocado spread
Image: Rouzes / iStock by Getty Images
  • Eat foods that build health. There are hundreds of different guidelines on how to do this. You might find that one plan makes you feel better than other plans. If you just focused on eating freshly-prepared meals that included plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits and didn't include a lot of sugar or food additives, you’d be well on your way. Are you ready to look into improving your diet? There’s TONS of information on the internet but here’s a sensible article to get you started.
  • Yes, get some exercise. How many times in your life have you heard this? No matter how hard it is to get started or to continue, you’ll feel better and brighter every day if you do. A sedentary lifestyle helps a body slump into poorer health. An active lifestyle makes a body feel more alive. And you get to choose the type of exercise that your body will tolerate or that you enjoy the most.
  • It might be necessary for some people to improve their living situations. Not every living situation is good for an individual’s mental or physical health. It can take a while to change roommates or move to another house or apartment. But it can be done, even if it takes six months to pull it off. Just knowing that you’re making your plan to improve and stabilize your situation can make you feel a little bit better.
  • Reduce your stress. Again, this may take some time. What's causing the most stress in your life? Do you dread going to your job? Do you wish you could train for a different profession? Do you have unresolved conflicts with friends or family? The possible sources of stress in a person’s life are truly endless. And in most cases, they can’t ALL be dealt with at the same time. You could make a list of things in your life that stress you out and pick an easy one to get started with. Maybe resolve a misunderstanding with a friend. Or work out a way to pay off a debt that is upsetting you. Or start looking into training for a new career. Very often, just taking baby steps helps improve your mood and reduce your stress while not creating chaos in your life. As your outlook improves, you may get brighter ideas about how to tackle some of the bigger stressors.
  • Get some good sleep every night. For some people, this can be as simple as going to bed on time, every night at the same time. Other people will need to make changes before they can start getting a good night’s sleep. This website has a pretty thorough checklist you can use to rule out factors that might be making it hard to sleep well at night.
  • Engage in activities you enjoy. Whether you’ve just gotten sober or you’ve never had a problem with addiction, taking part in activities just because they are fun improves your mood and outlook. Take a walk in a beautiful place, watch the sunset, swim in a lake or the ocean. Create art or useful objects for your home. Plant a garden or flowers. Drag out games or things you used to enjoy such as, for an example, remote-controlled cars. Finish a sewing project or painting. Cook an outrageously good meal.
  • Increase your communication. If you take part in immune- and health-boosting activities, there’s a really good chance your outlook will be brighter. This would be an excellent time to contact people you haven’t talked to in a while. Maybe its family near and far, people you went to school with, teachers, mentors, former co-workers—who do you miss talking to? Various services online allow you to make no-cost video calls which are much more like being there with the person than just a phone call.
Man is jogging with a dog
Image: Vesnaandjic / iStock by Getty Images

Did you realize there were so many ways to improve your health and immunity?

Your robust health and ability to fend off illnesses are incredibly valuable right now, and they will continue to be just as valuable for the rest of your life. The investments you make in a strong immune system could one day save your life. It might be a little difficult to see the return on your investment. But if some people around you get sick and you don’t, or you recover quickly from an illness, that’s a pretty good sign that all your investments in health and strong immunity were the right moves to make.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.