Why complicate your life when going back to basics is so much more effective,says Jane Alexander
Sometimes it feels as though everything is getting more and more complicated.
Everything now comes with extra add-ons, with more components, with added benefits. It’s no longer enough to have a toaster that just… toasts; it has to come with a radio. It’s no longer good enough to have a simple massage, you have to go on a ‘journey’or have a ‘ritual’. A restaurant meal is no longer about great ingredients beautifully cooked – it has to be ‘fused’ or deconstructed and put back together in ever more arcane ways.
Yet is all this complexity really good for us? Futorologist Alvin Toffler warned many years back that we are suffering from stress thanks to ‘over choice’, from over-complexity – and the situation is getting worse all the time. “Too much choice is simply exhausting,” he says. “When you have so many choices, how can you ever be sure you have made the right decision?”
Surely life is stressful enough, without making it more complicated? But maybe we are seeing the start of a move towards voluntary simplicity.Research from Cambridge University shows that around a quarter of people between the ages of 30 and 59 are voluntarily down-shifting(simplifying their lives and earning, on average, 40 percent less).
But you don’t need to go that far. You can simplify swathes of your life right now. Simplicity is the solution to complexity. Less choice is the solution to overwhelming choice.
Let’s see how we could introduce simple changes to various aspects of our lives – right now.
I have so many supplements in my cupboard I’d rattle if I took all of them. Obviously if you have a specific health condition it’s worth seeing a nutritional therapist for advice (bant.org.uk ). But for general health and wellbeing? I asked Gill Sinclair of online pharmacy Victoria Health (victoriahealth.com) for her bottom line three.
My Favorite Multiple Energizer by Natrol(£15.50 for 60 tablets). - A great food source quality multi vitamin and mineral that covers all the bases.
Hyaluronic Acid by NHS Labs (£35 for 30capsules). - ‘The so-called fountain of youth for skin and joints,’ says Gill.
Ideal Omega 3 by Ideal Omega (£23.70 for 60 capsules).- Helps everything – mind,body, mood and heart (seriously, it helps protect your cardio health).
You can simplify swathes of your life right now
We’re fed so many different diets and regimes by the media but good nutrition comes mostly down to common sense.There are a few basic ground rules which you can then tweak to create your ideal diet – pure and simple.
You know what’s bad for you, honestly you do. Ditch the junk food, fast food,deep-fried, processed and sickly sweet stuff. Cut right down on sugar, salt and saturated fat; go easy on alcohol and caffeine and say a firm ‘no’ to chemicals –artificial sweeteners, colourings,preservatives and so on. The odd barbecue, pie and margarita won’t hurt –just make it the exception rather than rule.
Supercharge your diet with fresh wholesome produce – organic and seasonal as far as you can. Think variety –enjoy a rainbow of fruit and vegetables(they all have different benefits). Nuts and seeds are packed with energy and beneficial fats. Add in pulses, legumes,beans and fermented soya bean products;sprouted seeds, pulses and grains;wholegrains (if you’re not intolerant); lean organic protein and beneficial fats (for example, hemp-seed/argan/flaxseed oil).
Drink plenty of water – keep yourself really well hydrated.
Prepare your food mindfully and eat slowly and consciously.
Try not to eat too late. Ideally by 6pm but not later than 8pm.
If you want to lose weight, simply eat 500 calories less than you usually do for the ideal weight loss of 1-2lbs a week. Not that hard, eh?
Really it’s so simple. Find something you love and do it often. Ideally find several things you love so you can mix it up a bit. But the bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter what you do, providing you’re moving your body.
“You don’t need marathon sessions or highlycomplicated routines,” says fitness instructorTrisha Brown (exmoorfitness.co.uk) “And you certainly don’t need expensive equipment or clothing, or fancy gym memberships. The two main rules about exercise are that you do it, and you enjoy it. Everyone’s busy but that’s no reason not to be fit. Use simple time-effective routines.’
Trisha recommends the following:
Short tough sessions. - “Push yourself hard for 30 minutes and you’ll get as much out of it as you would from a 60 minute class,” says Trisha. “Two 30 minute ardiac and two 30 minute resistance sessions a week will do the trick and keep you motivated. Small hand weights are cheap but a great bit of kit.”
Take the gym outdoors. - ‘Exercising outside ischeap and so good for mental health. Walking and running cost nothing except a pair of good shoes.Body weight exercises can be introduced –jog to apark bench and do 10 press ups, 10 squats at the corner, 10 dips on the railings. Sprint up steps. Do crunches under the trees. Make up your own circuita s you go along.” Check out Kettlercise .It’s a superb conditioning workout which works every muscle group over an hour’s class. Using just one piece of kit: the mighty kettlebell. No special gear required. Visit kettlercise.com to find out more.
Go back to school. - Team sports such as netball or football or synchronised swimming are hugely motivating as, if you don’t turn up,you let down the team, not just yourself.Check out your local sports centre for some suggestions.
“Most women are time poor and need a regime that fits into their day,” says health and beauty journalist Sarah Stacey, co-author of The Anti-Ageing Beauty Bible(£16.99, Kyle Cathie). “On the one hand there has never been a better time for skincare with so many effective products out there.But the downside is that you can spend a lot of time and money and still not get what suits you.”The bottom line, she says, is simple: cleanse,moisturise and protect. Beauty need not be complicated.
These are her tips:
Cleanse scrupulously at night, removing alltraces of cleanser with a flannel alternativelydipped in hot then cold water. Sarah recommends Liz Earle’s Cleanse and Polish (£14.25 from lizearle.com). No need to cleanse in the morning –just splash your face with lots of tepid water.
Moisturise morning and night from your bosom to your hairline, sweeping up in long strokes. If your skin is very dry, use a serum under your nightcream or facial oil. Sarah recommends NudeReplenishing Night Oil (£44 from victoriahealth.com) – “It romped away as the highest scoring product ever in our last round of testing,” says Sarah. “And it’s totally natural.”
Use a day moisturiser with SPF20-30 – it savesusing two products. Sarah recommends KimberlySayer Anti-oxidant daily moisturising cream(£25.80 from lovelula.com), another totally natural product with a SPF of 25. Never go out without protection whenever there is a glimmer of sun.
Once a week use a facial scrub followed by a mask. Avoid scrubs with scratchy particles.Overnight masks are good – Sarah recommends Clark’s Botanicals Deep Moisture Mask (£58 from spacenk.com) or Sarah Chapman’s SkinesisMiracle Mask (£38 from www.victoriahealth.com)
Declutter. A clean clear environment does wonders for your head. Get rid of all the stuff you don’t use or like. Let go of the past and enjoy the present.
Cancel and cut down on your memberships of societies and clubs. Do you really enjoy them? If not, let them go.
Cut down or cut out your online presence if it overburdens you. Too much social media?Too many newsgroups or forums? Log out.
Forget fancy entertaining (unless you enjoyit) – go for pot luck suppers or share-the-load picnics – it’s the socialising that matters.
Question your collections. Do you really love them or are they just a way of telling people who you are. Maybe you have outgrown them?
Simplify your shopping – use the same(good) shops, choose the brands you knoware good. Shop online for bulk-buy basics andsupport local shops for everyday needs.
Make lists of nutritious meals for the week and create a shopping list for your week’s needs. You might find it liberating to use the same menus for a few weeks at a time.
Use the library – they really need your support and you won’t clutter your life with one-time read books.
Back to Basics at the Spa
Whatever happened to a simple Swedish massage? Nowadays every spa ands alon fights to have the latest, most extravagant, complicated, overblown‘ritual’ or ‘journey’, involving an endless number of stages and manoeuvres. If you’ve got the time, money and inclination, they’re fine. If not, stick to these tried and trusted old favourites –take it back to basics.
Sports massage - A good sports masseur can unravel tense muscles and relieve physical and mental tension. For more info go to thesma.org
Osteopathy - If you have any back or joint problems, see an osteopath. These guys really are the bone experts. Osteopathy isn’t a feel-good treatment particularly but it should be your first port of call for back pain. For more info go to osteopathy.org.uk
Alexander Technique - AT teaches good posture (natural and relaxed) and, following a series of lessons, any number of chronic aches and pains will vanish. For more info go to stat.org.uk
Sometimes it really doesn’t matter what the specific treatment is, if the therapist is brilliant. Ask around your friends for word of mouth recommendations. More Info
Jane’s The Overload Solution(£9.99, Piatkus)gives more ideas on simplifying and de-stressing life.