Research from a new and exciting field of science called psychoneuroimmunology (study of the relationship between mind, emotions, neuroendocrine system, and immune system) reveals exciting new information about a type of personality that we can develop to keep us healthy and young. Called the immune power personality or the immune competent personality, this idea was first introduced by Henry Dreher in his article “Immune Power Personality,” published by Noetic Sciences Review in 1996 (No. 39, p. 12).
Most of you have probably heard of Type A and B personalities. Perhaps when you have impatiently weaved your way through traffic or complained about not having enough time, someone has accused you of being a Type A. Or maybe someone has complained that you have no sense of urgency and are too laidback, which got you labeled a Type B. There are numerous other personality typologies such as the Myers-Briggs (based on the work of psychologist Carl Jung) and Enneagram (describes 9 types), both of which are widely used in psychotherapy and personal growth work. Additionally, psychopathology, describes numerous personality disorders, including narcissistic, dependent, antisocial, and obsessive compulsive.
The prevailing wisdom is personality characteristics are difficult to change. They are fundamental to one’s nature. The good news about the immune power personality is this is one you can cultivate. The traits of this personality type were developed using the research of 7 famous psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) researchers from 7 major universities.
To make these easier to remember, I have developed these traits into the acronym HEAL. To HEAL means to be WHOLE. Wholeness is created by establishing a connection between all the aspects of your bodymind, other beings, and your spiritual nature.
Hardiness: Control, Commitment, and Challenge
Do you feel in control of your life? Are you committed to certain life goals, creative challenges or relationships? Can you turn a problem into a challenge? People with this type of hardiness seem to suffer fewer chronic illnesses and have stronger immune systems.
How do you feel about yourself? Are you aware of your strengths? Do you like who you are? People who are aware of their strengths are able to withstand stressful life circumstances and are less prone to illness.
Awareness: Expression of Body Signals
Think about this for yourself. When you experience pain or stress, can you feel it? Do you know when you are sad, angry, or happy, and can you express these feelings? Or do you ignore them and keep on going? Researchers have found people who are tuned into mindbody feelings of discomfort, fatigue, distress, sadness, and pleasure cope better psychologically, have better immune response, and enjoy healthier cardiovascular systems.
Love: Relationships and Helping
Research also shows that people who have healthy relationships and who extend and receive unconditional love become sick less frequently and live longer. People committed to helping others often experience the “helpers’ high,” which is not only emotional and spiritual but physical as well. Love is the great healer of many ills—emotional, mental, and physical.
How Do You Cultivate These Qualities?
- Identify your stressors and learn where you do have and can gain control in your life.
- Find something to commit yourself to that will give life meaning.
- Think “Yes.” Experience the power of positive thought.
- Develop a belief in “I can.”
- Believe you are in charge of your life.
- Develop strong social connections and friends.
- Acknowledge your accomplishments.
- Participate in therapy or groups.
- Explore and establish spiritual practices.
- Learn to replace negative thought loops with positive beliefs.
- Consider empathizing and accepting yourself in the way you might care for others.
- Engage in relaxation, prayer, meditation, or a mindful walking practice and listen to the messages of the body.
- Find a good yoga class or video and practice daily.
- Take plenty of talk time with friends.
- Write in a journal.
- Give and ask for time and attention to family and friends.
- Give of yourself and your own gifts to others.
- Give and receive touch.
- Learn to love yourself.
Enjoy a long, healthy life as you develop the qualities that give you an immune power personality!