Clean living: there’s a term that can seem intimidating at first glance and needs explaining. The word clean is very frequently used, especially in terms of beauty with clean beauty and also fashion and diet (clean fashion, clean eating). In teen speak it also refers to something nice, for example a sports car: “It’s clean”. So what about clean living?
The definition of clean living?
It’s about a healthy lifestyle steeped in wellbeing and self-care. As though you were revisiting your life through the prism of healthy habits, of a “good for me and the planet” philosophy to treat yourself and other living beings with respect. A kind of wellbeing ecosystem, applied to yourself, your body, your family and friends and your environment, which connects all the dimensions together: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Through diet, exercise, spiritual body-mind practices (yoga, meditation, etc.), various types of medicine, massages, a good night’s sleep, household upkeep, gardening and recreational activities. Clean living is a healthy lifestyle, with a holistic or even somewhat integrative approach to health!
Only – and we may as well say it upfront – this is in no way about veering into rigid thinking or cutting things out of your life, as seen in cases of orthorexia (an obsessive wish to adhere to healthy eating and automatically shun foods seen as unhealthy).
Each of us is free to find something that suits them in this clean living philosophy and adapt it in their own way. And most importantly, to bring pleasure into it! Here’s a succinct guide to Clean living or Happy, Healthy, Holistic Living:
How did Clean living – this intensified quest for wellbeing – come about?
To rewind a little… The word “zen” entered widespread usage in the West in the late 1990s and its usage increased in proportion with the increase in stress that was felt by individuals confronted with the demands of society, not least the profitability demanded by financiers, companies, etc.. Human beings had to generate profit and speed up their output for the sake of productivity. Demands were placed on them to perform in every way (professionally, in their private lives, etc.).
The thirst for wellbeing, and for pressure release through an array of practices, then became appropriate and has been unquenchable ever since. In the early 2000s all of the following were thriving: the development of spas; the growing value attached to a healthy lifestyle: nutrition / exercise / treatments / rest; personal development; the idea of illness prevention, of being proactive about your own health, of taking care of oneself. Only it was not very attractive: there was talk of diets (the word “detox” had not yet popped up!), and of healthy habits that put people off for the most part. Going down the organic and natural route was bound up with cult-like connotations. And yoga? It was seen as a practice reserved for fanatics! Spirituality? Highbrow and very much “out there”!
All that changed in the 2010s thanks to three key factors that were all connected: the predominance of the Generation Y cohort, the inception of Instagram and the rapid development of tech. In next to no time, tedious self-care practices became glamorous, on trend, and were totally revisited through images and words. A new “detox” philosophy enabled upgrading and cleansing of every facet of life! Make way for healthy juices, gluten free products, mindfulness via meditation and all kinds of yoga and qi gong, the proliferation of experts and feelgood books, bringing the key to happiness or positivity to the people, etc..
Make way for experience, the watchword of the 2010s! Young people plunged right into this healthy lifestyle and plastered it all over Instagram. A flurry of images extolled the virtues of a super-attractive lifestyle, with superfoods, exercise, body-positive imagery, incredible wild beauty spots, etc.. And on top of that, new electronic appliances – devices connected to data streams and science – made it possible to measure your performance during exercise, record your sleep patterns and gauge your level of fitness, with a view to improving them.
Everything became possible et accessible! Career switching was legion: there was a proliferation of coaches, yoga and exercise instructors, wellbeing gurus (like Gwyneth Paltrow, to mention only one). The quest for balance and for an optimal state in a world of stress became and remains the holy grail! Not to mention the longevity revolution that leads to new strategies: the “not one day older” mantra and full youthfulness.
Good health has become a marker of beauty, radiance and glow. As a switch to a holistic lifestyle, clean living even chimes with epigenetics, since according to scientist Joël de Rosnay, “environment influences 85% of our DNA”.
The new ways of taking care of your body
This fork in the road heading towards more naturalness in our lives, the idea of treating ourselves with respect and that of overall awareness have fused together into a complete personal ecology. This is far removed from the 1980s, when fitness, upbeat gym routines and all kinds of hyperactivity were all the rage. These days it’s about getting settled, learning to breathe like in the famous Breathwork book by Susan Oubari and Emilie Veyretout, viewing yourself with kindness and gentleness.
Norms and demands are no longer appropriate, thanks to Millennials who proudly fly the flag of #bodypositivism and inclusiveness. A great many clean and natural beauty product start-ups proffer bodycare advice, for an improved overall look.
Merely applying a cream is no longer enough – no-one is fooled into believing that any more! Cue skin brushing, self-massage with the advent of facialists (Marie Depoulain, Delphine Langlois, Fabienne Crocq, etc.), a healthy diet and the keys to getting a good night’s sleep, etc.. Skincare regimens are comprehensive in nature, with the motto “better every day”. There’s a complete multitude of practices and messages. Collaborations between brands, coaches and experts in various sectors are everywhere, especially on Instagram.
But the real plus of the younger generations’ contribution is that they have found the way to de-stress via collective, sensation-based, enjoyable solutions like Parkrun. Doing something that feels good and taking care of your body has become the new cool, the new fun and really makes you want to join in!
What better way to embrace healthy illness prevention practices than the clean living way?
Body & Soul
The rise of individual awareness, and in particular that of Millennials over the past five years, has shaken things up remarkably. Astrology, “witches”, mysticism, the power of stones, yoga, meditation. All of these areas hold considerable appeal. Taboos are imploding, not least those concerning women. They are speaking more and more frankly about issues ranging from periods to sex to the menopause.
The search for meaning in our lives is being amplified, all the more since the first lockdown in March 2020. What was truly a “wake-up call” put our values and what we regard as essential back into our lives, front and centre. It questioned us on our priorities. Wellbeing practices and homemade crafts (cooking, making your own beauty products or household upkeep products, etc..) went into overdrive, thanks to the many online courses, live Instagram content and tutorials available. Spiritual awakening is being amplified because “body-soul” practices have real transformative power! All of this contributes towards the democratisation and desirability of clean living. Even when it comes to beauty, treatments and massages are getting attuned to the vibrations of stones, to enchant our very essence. Talismans and crystals are guiding us towards cosmic beauty. In order to experience an emotional benefit, like a healing portal.
When it comes to clean living, the real phenomenon happens via yoga and meditation. These practices have stress-busting effects and proven positive action on longevity (via the modulation of the expression of certain genes, including pro-inflammatory ones). Although yoga, relaxation and exercise were once scoffed at, these days if you state that you do neither, you’re going to be shown up! Even among the intermediate generations, practices with esoteric connotations like kundalini yoga have chimed in a big way thanks to Anne Bianchi and Lili Barbery-Coulon, two former beauty journalists. It was quite daring and brave of Barbery-Coulon to offer live sessions on Instagram. She did so at the beginning of the first lockdown, at 18:00 every evening throughout it, in order to teach and commune with those watching using as yet unknown mantras and poses. This could have seemed completely odd. In total,10,000 people followed her live sessions to try and change their lives and head towards cleaner living!
Listen to yourself and steer clear of dogma!
To achieve harmony between body and soul, and adhere to the clean living lifestyle, we need to listen to ourselves. To say no more being dictated to, and no more trying to do everything well. There’s a handy pointer for doing so in the 80/20 rule. Essentially applied to nutrition (healthy eating), it can however be applied to all areas of wellbeing. It consists of engaging in healthy practices 80% of the time and “junk” practices 20% of the time. The idea is to include some pleasure, fun, and not fall into the trap of being overly strict! It’s the perfect trick, and nice to do when transitioning towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Listening to yourself is also about learning how to treat yourself with respect, and paying attention to your biorhythms. About considering your mental load (family, private, work…), taking account of your activity level, your emotional state, your environment (the city, the open air, etc.), in order to make choices that match your inner self. A breakthrough moment can also lead you to change your habits. Years ago, a stranger at the next table told me: “My body is not a rubbish bin!”. This sentence has always stayed with me. Ever since, I have paid attention to satiety signals (it takes 20 minutes for the information to reach the brain), and been careful to leave the table a still little bit hungry – to hold onto my vitality and keep my energy levels up.
Lending meaning to your actions
Lastly, to be in a happy mindset for clean living, it’s fundamental to get involved, get committed, find the meaning in our lives, and find the guide ropes of what drives us on. Meaning is a link to passion and creation, which puts us in a state of flow, in positive psychology terms “the state of maximum concentration, of full commitment and of satisfaction in the completion of an activity”. Putting awareness and sound ethics into your purchases, and into your behaviour as a consumer, make it possible to put meaning into them and to act in accordance with your values. A great question to ask yourself each meaning upon waking is that advocated by philosopher and writer Alexandre Jollien: “Who, what move, what action is going to bring me joy today?”.
In conclusion, the quest for good health and wellbeing is reinventing lifestyles and skincare regimens and inviting us to embrace Clean Living. With illness prevention, stimulation of the senses and pleasure, there is a broad array of solutions for reaching a state of replenishment. Listening to your body and your emotional response makes it possible to refine your perceptions and be guided through your choices. It’s about lending meaning to and putting more awareness into your actions and into the process of making your everyday purchases.
And the quest for wellbeing and clean living is entering a new era: that of wellbeing with a spiritual aim. For good physical and bodily health, moments of inner peace, feelings of being in harmony with your inside and outside spaces give you a glow, drawing strength from a feeling of love and gratitude towards life.