Rewind your body clock by connecting to nature and harnessing the power of summer, says Jayney Goddard
In the warmer weather it’s so much easier to get outdoors and to really take advantage of everything that this brings. Our interaction with nature could be described as ‘spiritually enriching’ given that so many of us feel more deeply connected to everything around us when we walk in a forest, sit by the beach, or walk through a beautiful park. All of this engenders a sense of belonging and wellness in a way that you can’t quite put your finger on – perhaps it could be best described as a feeling of ‘transcendence’.
This sensation, coupled with the way that nature can often inspire in us a sense of awe, actually creates real, and measurable, wellness-promoting effects. In fact, an extremely recent study shows that a mere 20 minutes a day of exposure to nature has the power to dramatically reduce our inflammation levels. The benefits of this are huge, as uncontrolled inflammation – even at relatively low levels – underlies every chronic illness. These include lifestyle-related cancers, obesity, diabetes types 1 and 2, heart disease, depression, arthritis, cognitive deficits and the neurological diseases, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and many more. In addition, the signs of ageing, such as wrinkles, lack of muscle tone, impaired body composition (with more fat than muscle and increased toxic visceral fat around our internal organs) and, even gum disease and tooth loss, all have inflammation as an underlying factor. So, to stave off devastating chronic illness – and to look and feel better in every respect, it is imperative to reduce inflammation levels and this is just one reason why it is vital to get outside – and into a natural setting, if you can.
Of course, when it comes to combatting chronic inflammation, nature is only part of the story. Beating inflammation needs a multi-faceted approach as we humans are such complex beings. Many people often ask me what the ‘best thing’ is that they can do to be well – as if there is just one thing or strategy that out-trumps all the others. The truth is that there isn’t, because wellness, in its entirety, is a privilege that has to be earned. We need a holistic approach which includes correct nutrition and hydration, exercise (walking and resistance, such as lifting weights), mindset and stress-resilience, sleep, socialisation, nature exposure, sunlight and more.
So, aside from the anti-inflammatory effect of nature exposure, let’s look at some of the ways that we can take advantage of the coming summer months to rewind our body clocks.
The sun’s rays help kick off the metabolic cascade that enables us to synthesise our much-needed vitamin D – which is generally deficient in most people who live in the upper and lower parts of the northern and southern hemispheres, respectively. Sunlight is also essential for helping us to maintain our daily sleep and wake rhythms – and of course, sun exposure is known to be crucial in helping us stave off depression.
In winter, so many of us fall prey to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which happens as a direct result of sunlight deprivation.
Dr. Robert S. Stern, chair of the Department of Dermatology at Harvardaffiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, suggests that it’s wrong to be a ‘solar-phobe’, as he puts it – and that it’s best to expose your arms and legs to the sun for 20 minutes in the morning and evening, when the sun is lowest in the sky. But if that isn’t practical, then the best approach is to gradually increase your sun exposure – building up over time. Go slowly and carefully and, above all, avoid getting burnt. Avoid very high factor lotion as this reduces your ability to synthesise vitamin D and this is associated with an array of conditions including rickets (which is now resurfacing due to lack of sun exposure and overzealous use of sunscreens), multiple sclerosis, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol, osteoporosis and, ironically, skin cancer. You can get your vitamin D levels tested (it’s just a finger prick blood test) and this will ascertain whether your serum levels are low. If so, you’ll need to increase your sun exposure and definitely supplement with vitamin D3 (the form that our bodies utilise best) throughout the darker, colder months.
All exercise, no matter what type, is more effective when undertaken outdoors. Set achievable goals. If you’re unfit, walking is the very best exercise you can do. Aim for 30 minutes or more at least five times a week. This will help strengthen your bones, preventing and healing osteoporosis. You’ll build muscle and burn fat, too. Walking is linked to improved mood and enhanced cognitive function. It is vital to also do resistance training, by lifting weights – and incorporate visualisation by imagining yourself getting stronger and fitter, as this too has been shown to increase strength and muscle gain.
The foods that we are more inclined to eat in summer hold the key to optimal wellness. Think about all the watery fruits and veggies that are most appealing in the warmer weather; cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon, in fact the whole rainbow of colourful salad items. As long as you incorporate sufficient plant-based protein – in the form of pulses, tofu, tempeh and small portions of nuts, you will be eating in a powerfully antiinflammatory way. It has been conclusively proven that a plant-based, whole food diet is healthiest, for ourselves, the planet and of course the animals, whereas proteins from animal sources (meat, fish, eggs and dairy) can promote inflammation and illness. Juicy fruits and veggies provide another benefit as they are tremendously hydrating and this helps to actually make us look younger, by plumping skin and getting rid of fine lines from the inside out. Optimal hydration – from fruits and veggies – also enables our brains to function better – so do splurge on them throughout summer for vibrant, youthful health and happiness.
For more tips and proven age-rewind techniques, downloads and gifts, visit Jayney’s website; JayneyGoddard. org and take a look at her reader offer for her new bestselling book; Rewind Your Body Clock; The Complete Natural Guide to a Happier, Healthier, Younger You (Watkins).
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