People often say “what are you doing for Christmas?” and I will reply: “eating, sleeping, relaxing and doing some exercise”. That may sound indulgent or frivolous, but it’s genuinely true. By December I find most people, including me, are feeling worn out and a bit frazzled and taking time out to restore our balance is important (although I appreciate it can be difficult for people with family, caring responsibilities or other demanding roles).
Therefore when I saw a new book in the library called The 4 Pillar Plan: How to relax, eat, move, sleep your way to a longer, healthier life I thought it sounded like how to make my Christmas time last all year. Excellent!
The author (Dr Rangan Chatterjee) is a GP and has written a very approachable, people-friendly book which is relatively easy to read and absorb, and with practical steps which you can put into action to improve your health and well-being. A lot of it is common sense, or things we know about, but he backs it up with research and also provides examples of how it’s worked for patients in his GP practice.
What I particularly liked about the book was the recognition that the body, illness and health are all interconnected, and we need an holistic approach to well-being. The recent pain workshops I had attended, and my massage training all reinforce the point that we should not focus merely on a symptom, but look at the wider issues going on – either in our own lives or if we’re therapists of some sort, in the lives of others. Dr Chatterjee notes that the majority of the ‘big’ health problems in the UK are related to lifestyle choices rather than genes.
The book is divided into four life areas (pillars) of relaxing, eating, moving and sleeping, with five small life changes per pillar which can be made and which can have significant impacts on our health and wellness. The table below has a quick summary of the five actions under each pillar. Rather than perfecting one pillar and missing most of the others (which would be an unbalanced lifestyle), he suggests aiming for getting two or three per pillar in each pillar, and then adding more gradually.
|Me time every day||Reduce sugar intake and retrain your taste buds||Walk at least 10,000 steps a day||Create an environment of absolute darkness for sleeping|
|Digital detox day every week (e.g. screen-free Sunday)||Eat five different vegetables a day||Do a form of strength training twice a week||Spend at least 20mins outside every morning|
|Gratitude journal||Eat all your food within a 12 hour window (or less)||Do HIIT twice a week||Create a bedtime routine (including no-tech-90)|
|Daily stillness/ meditation practice||Drink eight glasses of water a day||Take mini micro moves throughout the day (‘exercise snacking’)||Manage your evening ‘commotion’|
|One meal eaten at a table a day||Reduce intake of processed food which has more than 5 ingredients||Do gluteal muscle exercises to wake them up||Have caffeine before noon|
You might disagree with some of them – for example, I recently read some research that indicated the 10,000 daily steps target is not as good as aiming for three blocks of 10 minutes of brisk walking a day, which the NHS in the UK is now promoting as Active 10. However, the intention is the same – get moving!
The book, although only published in the last week of December 2017, has already won one award. It’s definitely worth checking out.