4 types of detox for body and mind

When you think of the word ‘detox’, what’s the first thing that springs to mind? A green juice, yoga, an ancient ritual?

The definition of ‘detox’ is ‘ridding the body of toxic or unhealthy substances’ – but over the years its meaning has expanded to include much more than that – including a holistic, unified view of body and mind. Detoxes can take many shapes and forms – and in fact many areas of our lives can benefit from a little extra attention.

Now more than ever before we are exposed to various ‘toxic’ elements that can disrupt our lives and our health. Fortunately we can cleanse and purify body, mind and restore our sense of wellbeing in with a little help from these different types of detox – designed as an antidote to the stresses of modern life.

1. Digital detox

The concept of a digital detox is relatively new, but it’s something I’m hugely on board with, especially as I see first-hand the rising cases of burnout, many caused by society’s obsession with hustle culture and always being available. The culprit behind much of this chronic burnout is of course technology. Never far from our fingertips, we’re practically glued to some sort of device for much of the day, and we’re also expected to always be ‘switched on’ just like they are. But do you recharge yourself as much as you recharge your devices?

Who would have thought, when technology first emerged and was hailed as a savior of mankind, that we’d eventually need time away from it to stay healthy? You can have too much of a good thing – and similarly something good enjoyed in moderation won’t be bad for you.

So, where to start with a digital detox? First, start by setting aside an hour or two each week and physically put your phone, computer, tablet away from you. It’s often too much to go ‘cold turkey’ – 80% of Americans say they feel anxious without their phone – so plan an activity to enjoy during this time. The ones that make you forget to check your phone are best! Build this up until you’re able to take an hour at least out of your day to digitally detox, whilst also scheduling in regular days out of your diary for a full cleanse, a full day away from that screen to restore and reset.

From impaired attention span and low self-esteem to accelerated ageing and eye health, we know all too well the downsides of spending too much time in front of a screen, so let’s focus on the positives of a digital detox. The benefits of swapping screen-time for real life are huge – and over 60% of people who participate in regular digital detoxes say they leave them calmer, happier and more accepting of themselves and those around them.

If you can, combine your screen-free time with a walk in nature, which is hugely healing with a variety of benefits for body and mind. A wander on the beach, or a slow stroll through some local woods or even a park if you’re in a city. In Japan this is known as Shirin-Joku or ‘forest-bathing’ and is known to be deeply healing and restorative.

2. Physical detox

Did you know that the average American owns so much stuff, they don’t have enough space to put it in? More and more of us are amassing huge amounts of ‘things’, many of which we don’t need, as a result of constantly being sold to. Consumerism was born in America – so it’s no surprise that we’re constantly exposed to clever ads telling us to buy this and that.

Netflix documentary Minimalism highlighted the crisis of clutter Americans face, whilst also demonstrating how freeing and healing it can be to live with less. As co-creator Ryan Nicodamus explains, “It’s not a perfect life, and it’s not an easy life – but it’s a simpler one”. Studies back this up – one researcher found that levels of stress hormone cortisol were higher in mothers with untidy living spaces, whilst a cluttered home has been linked with higher rates of anxiety and depression in women.

Even if you’re not quite ready to embrace the concept of minimalism fully just yet, we can all benefit from a regular reassessment and reorganization of the ‘stuff’ around us.

Often once you scratch the surface you’ll find you’re sitting on piles of clothes you haven’t worn for years, tired old things you don’t love anymore or that are ripe for replacement and even mountains of paperwork you no longer need to keep. Sometimes though we have an emotional connection to the stuff around us – sentimental items, objects that belong to special people in our lives. In these cases you might need some support, either from family and friends or a decluttering professional, to help you cleanse and clear out.

3. Ayurvedic detox (panchakarma)

Regular detoxes for the body (known as purvakarma and panchakarma) are integral to Ayurveda’s focus on maintaining. good health and preventing disease. Detox methods are extensive and complex and include a diverse array of techniques including massage, dietary changes and steaming. Various Ayurvedic practitioners working in the west have found ways to condense the traditional regime into a simpler, 3-day or one-week cleanse – although don’t be tempted to DIY, it’s always best to detox under the guidance of a trained doctor.

Purvakarma, the first stage, focuses on eliminating toxins through the bowels using a combination of massage treatments. Then comes the extensive ‘main act’ of Ayurvedic detox, Panchakarma, comprised of five karmas or treatments – Virichan (powders, tinctures and pastes designed to cleanse the body), Vaman. (purging), Basti (warm oil enemas and massage), Rakta (blood detox) and Nasya (nasal clearance using oils and herbal steaming).

During your detox you’ll also follow a nourishing diet which restricts caffeine, red meat, dairy and alcohol. Your exact dietary needs. Will vary based on your dosha type, so a personalized plan will be put together just for you.

Ayurvedic detoxes don’t neglect the mind – recognising the impact of stress, many also incorporate meditation and mindfulness, in addition to detoxifying yoga and breathwork practices.

4. Social detox

Psychologists agree that we are widely influenced by the circle of people around us. Some people lift us up and help us to grow – others can drag us down and cause us to stay stuck in unhelpful habits and ways of thinking. At the extreme end of the scale, relationships can be toxic or abusive, causing a vicious cycle of entrapment which leads to multiple emotional damage.

A social detox isn’t strictly necessary for everyone – and it doesn’t need to be conducted on a regular basis. But it deserves a place on this list, as often the people we surround ourselves with can greatly influence our mental and physical health, for better or for worse.

Every now and then, consider who is in your life and whether they bring value and happiness to you. This is perhaps the toughest detox of all – as cutting ties with people who have been in your life for a long time isn’t easy. You may even decide to simply distance yourself from certain people as you re-evaluate who you are and whether their influence on you is positive or negative.

If this is too hard, try stepping out of your comfort zone and meet new people. Find activities you enjoy, join clubs – discover like-minded folks you connect with. Eventually those who are not meant to join you on your path will fall away.