Happy new Year

I was rather surprised when I came south to England in 1972 to discover that in the City Health department we did not get a holiday on the first of January – New Year’s Day. When I enquired, I was told that the new year, that is the Local Government new financial year, started on the 5th of April! Maybe that is a better day than the first of January, certainly for making New Year Resolutions which are always harder to keep in the dark days of midwinter. It ties in with spring cleaning, and spring cleaning your body is sometimes called detoxing. Now there are some weird and wonderful things people do, from colonic lavage (don’t even ask!) to a fortnight in a spa in the Swiss Alps (nice work if you can get it!), but here are a few ideas for refreshing your health. One way is to have a detox weekend and make that the start of a new approach to better health, perhaps reinforced by a detox weekend every month.

Here are some techniques for the weekend, and hopefully some of them will be for the rest of your life to help you stay fitter longer.

For your Metabolism, Make the Move to Mediterranean and for 48 hours try:

  • No red meat, stick to white meat, chicken or, even better to fish
  • Ten bits of fruit and veg a day
  • No butter or cream, cook only with olive or sunflower oil
  • Only wholemeal bread
  • No alcohol

For your Body:

  • Whatever the amount of time you now spend walking, cycling or swimming, i.e. thirty minutes or five minutes, double it
  • Instead of your usual ten minutes exercise a day http://www.sod70.org/10-a-day.html, do twenty minutes for strength suppleness and skill

For your Mind:

  • No TV news, maybe no TV at all!
  • No newspapers, except maybe the fashion and sport, according to gender
  • No email, except to family and friends
  • Two episodes of 5 minute mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way of thinking more about the present. Here is what you can try now:

i. Sit somewhere comfortable but on an upright chair, not a sofa

ii. Concentrate on the weight of your feet on the floor

ii. Listen to your breathing

iv. Look at and concentrate on something still -the view from the window or or a picture on the wall

v. Concentrate on your breathing. Say to yourself ‘breathe in’ and ‘breathe out’ ten times

vi. Sit like this for five minutes, aware of your body and surroundings

vii. If depressing thoughts come into your head, picture them as though they were outside you, like a big advertisement

viii. Repeat the breathing exercise

It sounds simple, but there is already strong evidence from research and the experience of others, that it works. For more information look at www.nhs.uk and search for mindfulness.

About the author: Professor Sir Muir Gray, CBE

Muir Gray consults for www.springchicken.co.uk, the lifestyle website for older adults.

He recently described himself (in a tweet) as the Don Quixote of the NHS: “tilting, always tilting.” As Chief Knowledge Officer of the NHS his job was defined by what he does—promoting improved care by the better use of evidence. Born, raised, and educated in Glasgow, he was a surgeon before he turned to public health in the 1970s. In the rest of his life he is developing Better Value Healthcare, whose mission is to publish handbooks and development programmes designed to get more value from health care resources in England, and worldwide.

Muir’s most recent book: Sod 70, the guide to living well is available here>>>. He is also the Director of the National Campaign for Walking, is married with two daughters and lives in Oxford.