There’s so little daylight, and it’s cold out. The air inside is dry and you have a lot going on. Put all of these conditions together and you can find yourself with a weakened immune system — and a good chance of getting sick. But there are ways of keeping colds and flu at bay.

Here are four simple methods to help stave off a cold, strengthen your immune system, and enjoy all the fun and bluster that winter offers without being taken down by a cold.

Thump your thymus

thymus thumpThe thymus is a small gland located behind the sternum in your chest. Originally thought to have no function in adults (like tonsils) they were often removed when surgery was done in that part of the body. But the thymus is one of your immune system's most powerful tools. It both creates and "educates" T-cells, those important first responders to outside invaders, including germs.

To activate your thymus gland, thump on your sternum with the fingers of either hand or with a fist. Use a firm pressure and thump as often as you like. If you feel a cold coming on, thump frequently. It may be enough to stop a cold in its tracks.

Stretch your throat

In addition to the thymus thump, I’ve used the throat stretch with great success. If you start to feel that little tickle in your throat that indicates a cold coming on, this is a super way to counter that.

Flip your hands upside down so the pads of your thumbs are on your Adam's apple and the heels of your hands are facing your jaw. You can loop your fingers around the back of your neck. With a firm, consistent pressure, press your thumbs into your neck on either side of your windpipe and smooth them out toward the sides. Go the entire length of your neck, from right under the jaw (where you’ll get some good lymph points) to the base of your throat. Be firm, but gentle.

I’ve had this work very quickly. As soon as I feel a cough sneaking in, I clear my throat with this technique, and then I can’t even feel the tickle anymore and the cough never comes.

Flush your spine

Sometimes a bit more intervention is needed, particularly if you feel really run down and have been exposed to germs. I used to teach at a military college and the germs flying around that place were extreme.

The spinal flush is a powerful tool you can use to stay healthy. If you’re tired, it can bring you energy. If you’re over energized, it can calm you down. If you’re getting sick, it can help keep illness at bay. You’ll work the neurolymphatic reflex points, which help flush the entire lymphatic system. And because you’re working with points along the spine, the spinal flush also helps stimulates the cerebrospinal fluid.

Start with your fingertips at the top of your neck. Massage deeply on either side of the spinal cord at the neck. Keep massaging down the upper back, on either side of the spine, as far as you can reach. Then pull your hands, with pressure, over your shoulders. Stop at your shoulders and squeeze deeply.

Bring your hands around to the front of your body and continue massaging down either side of the center of your sternum. Continue massaging downward until you get to the point where your ribs connect to the diaphragm in the center at the xiphoid process, and then drag your hands around to your back again. Reach your thumbs up as high as you can along your spine, and deeply massage downward along either side of the spine, all the way to the coccyx. When you’re finished, bring your hands up your back again, as far as you can, and sweep them down and off your back three times.

The last technique is best done in the bath tub. If you add some salts to your bath water it also helps to draw out toxins. Let your knees flop open and take your elbows and "walk" them up your inner thigh on the center seam of your thigh. These are lymph clearing points for the large intestine, and working these points helps to clear toxins out of the gut walls.

This allows your digestive system to work better, and gives a boost to your immune system as well, since all the systems of our body are intricately entwined and the health of each requires the health of the others.

Try some or all of these simple techniques and see if you make it through the whole winter without getting even a whiff of a cold!

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thymus photo: DoYouYoga