The many benefits of being well-connected
Patrick Holford's latest book about human connection has inspired Victoria Mary Clarke to go barefoot in the garden
It is a blustery day, and you can feel the summer is over. I am about to put one reluctant foot on the wet grass in the back garden. All reasoning tells me this is a bad idea, this is how you catch pneumonia. But because Patrick Holford says we should do this, and he has spent 40 years researching this stuff, I am determined.
The ideal thing to do every morning is actually to swim in the freezing cold sea (Brendan O'Connor does this) I am working my way up to Brendan's level, and wet grass is the next best thing.
On my lifelong quest for freakishly good health, there is nothing I like better than interviewing health experts.
Patrick Holford is the founder of the Institute of Optimum Nutrition, which has been researching the effects of nutrition for 30 years, and he has written 30 books on the subject. Before I read his latest, The Chemistry of Connection, I do his 'Connection' quiz online and score 84pc. I ask him what he scored. Only 83pc. Either I am cheating, or I am healthier than he is.
Patrick and I have a couple of connections. The first is that he went to Westminster school, where my partner Shane was educated. The second is that his wife Gaby is the ex-wife of the late Joe Strummer, who was a friend of ours. I ask him what Gaby scored. He laughs. "Oh, Gaby doesn't do quizzes," he says.
We are sitting backstage at a Hay House conference in Birmingham Town Hall. Patrick is preparing to go on stage. He looks like Richard Gere, tall, handsome and twinkly. He is also extremely enthusiastic, which bodes well - a person would not mind being as energised as he is.
His new book is stuffed with ways to get energised and feel good. "As we burn energy we generate oxidants," he tells me. "Oxidants are positively charged. You can literally measure the positive charge in a human being. Every day, the earth gets around 50,000 lightening bolts, which are negatively charged, so the earth is negatively charged. If you stand with your bare feet on the earth, you can actually measure a change in the body's electromagnetic energy, so it is like getting free antioxidants and free energy. The absolute best thing is to get in the ocean every day, because the ocean has the most negative charge."
I mention Brendan and his swims and he is impressed.
"Getting out of doors has the added benefit of exposure to sunlight, which promotes nitrogen, which is needed to deliver oxygen to the cells, which in turn improves circulation and lowers blood pressure," he explains.
Connection with other humans is vital for health, but he thinks the extent to which we all want to stay connected is not helping us. Going to bed with the mobile and the laptop is damaging for several reasons. "The electromagnetic wavelength of a mobile is very close to that of light, so your brain perceives it as light and as time to wake up. When there is no light, you start to produce melatonin in the pineal gland, which is also an antioxidant." So if you don't make melatonin, you have less sleep and less antioxidants, less immunity from disease.
"I think we are all suffering from 'out-of-contact-itis'," he says. He quotes a recent study in which volunteers were left alone for 15 minutes and given a choice to have electric shocks or nothing; 75pc of the men chose the electric shocks.
The book deals with the five key ways in which we can be at our happiest and healthiest, through connection with our senses, our bodies, with the earth, with each other and with spirit.
There is a story about how before he met Gaby, his previous relationship had just ended and he was feeling empty and lonely. Instead of drowning his sorrows, he chose to confront the loneliness by flying to a remote part of Chile and climbing a volcano totally alone. He experienced a profound sense of peace and unity with everything, which has stayed with him.
Some health freaks don't look happy. Not Patrick. He is incandescent with joie de vivre. So I might try the freezing cold swims next, if not the Chilean volcano.
'The Chemistry of Connection' is published by Hay House UK. See www.patrickholford.com
Sunday Indo Living