How to tHink yourself younger
It sounds astonishing but, as this landmark series reveals, you really CAN turn back the years with a few small tweaks — starting by changing your mindset
MY CoNsULtANt’s assessment was brutally blunt. I’d never walk, or even stand, again. In fact, I would be lucky to survive.
While I’d suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for a long time — I’d been in a wheelchair for seven years — this flare-up was so bad that I’d been admitted to a hospice. You might assume rheumatoid arthritis just causes painful joints, but it is an autoimmune disease that can cause the body to attack itself in its entirety, and can be life-threatening.
during this devastating flare-up, not only were my joints dangerously inflamed — I was locked in a foetal position due to the excruciating pain — so were my internal organs, including my brain, liver, kidneys, lungs and blood vessels. It was quite terrifying. I had lost so much weight, I was just 5 ½ st and was told I might have only a few weeks to ‘get my affairs in order’.
Yet, 18 years later, not only am I still alive, I am fully mobile. even better, although I am now in my sixth decade, I have rejuvenated my body and mind to the point I have rewound my ‘biological age’ to that of a twentysomething.
I had started to become long-sighted,
but even this has now reversed, and my near vision is just fine.
Given the billions spent on antiageing products and services, it’s fair to say staying youthful is hugely important to many people. Some see wanting to stay young as something superficial, even egotistical, but I don’t believe it’s anything to be ashamed of.
After all, a healthy dose of self-esteem is vital to our mental, physical and physiological wellbeing.
Taking pride in your appearance is, in itself, a marker of youthfulness.
Conversely, one indication of the descent into premature frailty and an unhealthy old age is someone no longer making an effort to present themselves well. Vanity is a bit ‘chicken and egg’: when we take pride in our appearance, we feel better, and vice versa.
There are an abundance of cosmetic quick fixes, but I believe youthfulness goes much further than skin-deep; it’s enjoying a life that just fizzes with energy. It’s not giving up things you love because you don’t have the physical capacity or motivation.
For me, the impetus to reverse the ageing process was a medical crisis. But, as many of my clients have since discovered, any of us has the power to turn back the clock, inside and out.
Ageing happens at different rates, and its effects can be reversed. We have far more control over how we age — whether that’s hair and skin or vigour and mental powers — than we realise.
As one of the world’s leading experts in the field of natural anti-ageing, and founder and president of the Complementary Medical Association, this is an area I have researched rigorously and extensively.
YeTa lot of the science about this is so new few people are aware of it. I discovered this in the aftermath of that devastating arthritis attack. When it became apparent I was going to survive, I was moved to a highdependency residential unit for treatment, though the doctors assumed I would be in a wheelchair for ever.
In my year-long stay, using knowledge I had previously gained as a complementary medical practitioner, I slowly started returning myself to health.
I had tried to help myself when I was first diagnosed, aged 30, though I now realise my approach was not right — especially my diet and mindset.
Second time around, after my flareup, things went better. Still, it was another three years before I was able to stand and walk, and even then there were relapses. Getting well was far from a straight trajectory, and involved a lot of self-experimentation. But the strategies I developed in my recovery form the basis of the approach I continue to follow today and recommend to my patients.
I know it works because I regularly test my own biological age. It includes a range of factors: your skin’s appearance and elasticity, strength and balance, hearing and vision, reaction times, mental acuity, sleep, libido — and more. The tests I’ve created draw on robust, respected research. It is possible for your biological age to be very different to your chronological age. For example, after my health meltdown I had a chronological age of 38, but a biological age of 55.
Ye t wh e n I retested a year later, my biological age had reverted to 27.
And now I’m 55, I’m still 27 biologically — so not
only have I rewound my body clock, I have also profoundly slowed my biol o g i c a l age progression. I’ve done this by overhauling every area of my life — from my sleep patterns, nutrition and beauty regime to embracing meditation, breathing techniques and even just spending more time in nature.
I can see the changes: the wrinkles on my forehead are less pronounced — some have disappeared — while my hair is thicker and glossier than ever.
I reap the benefits of lots of physical energy, a sharper mind and a lust for life. I also had a trouble-free meno
pause — an unexpected but wonderful bonus! According to respected anti-ageing scientists, one of the most effective tools we have for staying young is a youthful and positive mental attitude.
A host of studies show how the mind can impact on health, wellbeing, and even looks. Researchers in the Netherlands found older men and women with optimistic personalities were less likely to die over a nine-year period than pessimists. Scientific studies also show how possible it is to improve strength and fitness without lifting a finger. In one experiment, researchers measured strength in different groups: one did two weeks of highly focused strength training, three times a week, while another just listened to recordings that helped them imagine doing the same workout — they did no exercise. The results were astonishing: the exercise group saw a 28 per cent gain in strength, but the group who visualised exercising experienced nearly the same gains: 24 per cent!
The mind has also been proven to have the power to make you slimmer. In a Harvard study, housekeeping staff in a major hotel were told the work they did on a daily basis equalled the amount of exercise needed to be fit and healthy. They made no changes in behaviour; they just kept on doing their jobs with this new belief in place.
Four weeks later, they’d lost weight, lowered blood pressure and improved body-fat percentage, had a healthier waist–hip ratio and a better BMI. A group of housekeepers who had not been led to believe their job qualified as exercise saw none of the changes.
I harnessed the power of the mind in my transformation.
When I had my devastating flareup, the doctors wanted to put me on a chemotherapy drug to kill off my destructive immune system — but with a severely underweight body and little muscle mass, I knew powerful and toxic medication could have devastating side-effects.
So I declined the treatment for the first year. I set out to ‘communicate’ better with my body, to encourage my immune system to calm down and stop attacking me.
Thinking back to that strength study, I played ballet music and simply imagined myself dancing, as I couldn’t do it physically.
Having trained to be a ballerina since childhood, and going on to make a career out of being a dancer until arthritis stopped me, I knew I could do it.
Slowly, I became determined not just to live, but to get better and really thrive. And I know the key is that I totally believed it would be achievable.
Of course, I also made sure all other aspects of my lifestyle were optimal. I tweaked everything from diet to sleep, the supplements I took, how I exercised and the way I handled stress and mental health — all of which I’ll go into more detail about next week.
Little by little, I got better: firstly, by visualising myself moving and dancing, I managed to get my brain to ‘remember’ where my muscles used to be — and bit by bit my brain reconnected, a few muscle fibres started twitching and my strength grew.
I was able to begin my own physiotherapy routine to capitalise on these tiny gains, though of course I was still in agony. I’ll never forget the excruciating pain — and elation — of standing for a few seconds, months after starting my programme.
a year or so, I eventually managed to regain full use of my body, and transformed my health in many other ways. But recovery from rheumatoid arthritis has gains and relapses — so five years on, when I felt stronger, I did take the chemotherapy alongside my regimen.
I don’t think that conventional medicine alone would have let me make the full recovery I did.
Ultimately, my lifestyle programme left me better and more youthful than ever. No wonder I place such an emphasis on the mind’s power. It’s at the heart of everything, from optimising recovery after illness to setting you on the path to a more youthful, happier, dynamic you. And if I can do it, so can you.
Rewind Your Body Clock by Jayney Goddard is published by watkins, £14.99. To order a copy for £11.99 (20 per cent discount), go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640. Free p&p on orders over £15. Spend £30 on books and get free premium delivery. Offer valid until April 18, 2019.
Healed: Jayney Picture: MURRAY SANDERS