Monday, July 4, 2022

The SIMPLE3 Plan: 8 Steps to Emotional and Physical Wellbeing

During these stressful times has your mental and physical health taken a hit?

If yes, you’re not alone. Many are struggling and are searching for ways to regain their health. It can be done and it’s not complicated or expensive. We can do it by going back to basics, and utilizing the methods that have worked for hundreds if not thousands of years.

The SIMPLE3 Plan pulls together 8 core areas to strengthen. The SIMPLE3 Plan is not a cure-all and if someone has a significant health concern, they will likely benefit from additional interventions. Nevertheless, these 8 steps form a foundation upon which to build. These 8 steps are simple and straightforward, but they are not easy. It will take effort to do them and you may not notice benefits right away. But unlike the latest fad treatments, which may or may not work, these powerful interventions have a successful track record for enhancing people’s lives

While spirituality is not the focus of this particular plan (see my other plans for that), each step has a spiritual component you can add. Spirituality infuses our lives with meaning and enhances our health as well.

Use a weekly checklist where you check off which of the 8 steps you did each day. While it is possible to do this plan alone, it is best done with a partner who will encourage you and help you stay on track. Think about who you can ask if they would be interested in doing this plan with you. Each week, discuss how you each did the previous week and if you will make any changes for the coming week. If you cannot find someone to do the plan with and need assistance with it, you can ask a therapist or life coach.

If you have a specific mental health condition (especially depression) please see a healthcare practitioner for personalized guidance; you may benefit from medications, dietary supplements, and/or therapy.

The 8 steps of The SIMPLE3 Plan are: Sleep, interact, meditate, pray, let go, eat, exercise and engage in productive tasks. The exponent 3 by the E stands for the last 3 steps which all start with the letter E. These steps are in no particular order, so pick which one you want to start with. If one of the steps does not resonate with you, leave it out for now. 

1. Sleep. Do you feel refreshed in the morning?

Actions:

Soon after getting up, go outside and get some sunlight, preferably in nature. If you can go for a brisk walk, jog, bike or run even better. While light in the morning wakes us up, bright light, especially blue light, in the evening can disrupt our sleep. Install blue light blocking software on your computer and smartphone. Some benefit from wearing blue light blocking glasses 1-2 hours before bed. When possible, stop using your smartphone and computer 1-2 hours before bed. If you find it hard to stick with that, download software which will shut off your internet at a specific time (best to have a family member set the password so you will not be tempted to change the settings).

Avoid things which can throw off your sleep cycle, e.g., napping past 2pm, caffeine later in the day, alcohol and exercising too late. Before bed, make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool. Stick to a schedule: stop eating at least 3 hours before bed (or only light foods if you must) and have a set sleep and wake time. Each week go to sleep 15 minutes earlier until you feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning. If you still struggle getting sufficient quality sleep, consider dietary supplements or medications at least temporarily, to help you get into a healthy sleep routine.

Spiritual: Before going to bed is a great time to pray and/or read spiritual texts, as part of your winding down routine. When we go to sleep, we give over our soul to God and He returns our soul to us in the morning. Upon arising, express your gratitude to God for giving you the gift of another day. There is a Hebrew prayer which expresses this called, “Modeh Ani.”

What do you think is the top cause for you not getting enough refreshing sleep and what will you do about it?

2. Interact. Do you have at least one person who you speak to regularly, talking about your challenges and goals? Do you look for opportunities to do acts of kindness?

Actions:

Each day, connect with someone by phone or in person. At least once a week, have a longer, more meaningful conversation, with a friend or family member. Life is challenging, we thrive on support and encouragement. If your social network is small, look for venues to meet new people. Volunteering, or going to lectures, events or weekends are some ways of meeting like minded people. Surround yourself with friends who lift you up and avoid those who bring you down. Relationships can be messy and during the course of a day we may harm others or be harmed by them, even inadvertently. Apologize as soon as you are aware that you hurt someone. When you feel hurt by others, find a calm time to let them know how you felt or work on forgiving them and moving on. Withholding forgiveness only hurts us, physically and emotionally. When we forgive, we remove a heavy weight we have been carrying.

Interacting with others is not only about fulfilling your social needs, it is also about helping others and being a force of goodness in people’s lives (start with your family). Each day, look for ways to be of service to others, it might be being a listening ear, sharing expertise, lending a helping hand, giving encouragement or a compliment, or making a donation.

Spiritual: Our social network has a big influence on us and can help us reach our potential, including our spiritual potential. Surround yourself with friends and mentors who lift you up and avoid those who bring you down. Seek guidance from those you respect who will help you grow.

What will you do to add more socialization to your life?

Which cause, organization or individual will you do more to help?

3. Meditate. Do you quiet your mind at least once a day?

Actions:

Throughout the day thoughts are racing through our minds. It is beneficial to spend time each day quieting down the mind. Sit for 5-20 minutes. Close your eyes and focus your mind on something. There are many different meditation techniques which help quiet down the constant mental chatter, find a technique that works for you. You may want to start with a basic breathing meditation. Breathing slowly and easily, mentally count after each exhalation, starting from one and going up to ten and then back to one. Or alternatively, focus on the sensation of the breath as the cool air enters your nostrils and the warm air exits. When you notice your mind has focused on other thoughts, which it will, gently bring your focus back to the breath. Calmly keep doing this again and again. Meditation is a learned skill as you train your mind to be able to have one point of focus on. Over time, you will get better at it and you will feel your body relaxing and your mind quieting down. Some find listening to a guided meditation helpful in the beginning. During the day if you notice your stress rising, take a moment to do a mini meditation to calm the mind and body.

Another form of meditation is mindfulness, where you focus on the activity you are engaged in and not get caught up in thoughts about the past or future. When you are mindful in the moment, you can best savor the joys of that moment.

Spiritual: The Piaseczna Rebbe advised after quieting down one’s mind to then fill it with thoughts of holiness by softly repeating a verse or spiritual phrase. Use meditation as a way to deepen your faith and connection with God.

Which meditative technique will you try and when will you try it?

4. Pray. Do you talk to God daily in your native language?

Actions:

Speak to God daily, preferably out loud. Express your gratitude for His blessings, tell Him your problems, that you know they are for your ultimate good but you’re struggling and need His help. Ask for His help in doing these steps or in any area of your life. Often, we keep our problems in our head. By speaking them out to God, the exact challenges and our options, and asking for His guidance, often the solution becomes clear to us. Pick a time that’s best for you. If you are an early riser, try doing it in the morning. If you are rushing in the morning, then try in the afternoon or evening. Start with just a few minutes and increase from there.

Get into the habit of speaking to God throughout the day, as He is with you always, encouraging and supporting you. In addition to informal prayer, pray from a prayer book and from Psalms, preferably with a translation you understand.

Prayer is also about having a spiritual mindset, believing:

That God is guiding your life for your highest good, even if you do not understand how.

That God is with you and will help you overcome your challenges.

That even amidst difficulties, God has filled your life with blessings. (Look for them throughout the day and thank Him for them.)

When will you set aside time to pray to God?

5. Let go. Is there something holding you back from being more successful?

Actions:

There is often something that we need to let go of or stop doing to enhance our lives. It may be letting go of a past event, relationships or self-limiting belief or stopping an addictive behavior. Addictive behaviors include excessive internet use, gambling, drinking, drug use etc. Ask yourself, “What do I need to let go of or stop doing?” Most people struggle with internet use and social media. Install an internet filter to put limits on the time you spend online and block access to things that take you away from living a spiritual and productive life.

Write in a journal or diary about an issue you struggle with or talk it over with a confidante. This can help you let go or at least reduce its emotional charge. Giving yourself self-compassion and cultivating an attitude of acceptance can also help reduce the charge of an issue. As important as it is to let go when you can, it is to ask for help, when you cannot. When dealing with trauma, toxic relationships, addictions, biochemical imbalances or other significant stresses, it is best to seek help from a professional trained in those areas.

Spiritual: Let go and let God. He is guiding you life for your highest good and all He wants you to do is make reasonable efforts; leave the rest to Him.

What do you need to let go of?

Are you ready to let go now?

If not, what can you do to get help?

6. Eat. Do you eat a whole foods diet?

Actions:

Consider the Mediterranean diet which focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats and proteins. Limit processed foods, sweetened foods and refined grains to special occasions. 

Use portion control and eat slowly and mindfully. As a society we eat much more and much faster than we should. If you are overweight, follow a more regimented program to be able to maintain a healthy weight.

Spiritual: As others have asked, “Do you live to eat or eat to live?” God made food tasty so that eating should be an enjoyable experience. At the same time, the focus on mealtimes should not be on satisfying our cravings, it should be on spending time with those important to us, sharing our bounty with guests, expressing gratitude to God and nourishing our bodies to give us the energy we need to make the most of our life.

What will you limit eating and what will you eat more of to make your diet healthier?

7. Exercise. Do you exercise at least 3 times a week?

Actions:

Daily or at least 3 times a week exercise for 25-60 minutes. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week (or a combination). Brisk walking counts. For enhanced benefit, see if you can exercise in sunlight, around nature and/or with a friend. According to recent research, more intense aerobic exercise was more effective at reducing anxiety than less intense. So if it is safe for you to do so, get a vigorous workout or do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) where you vary the intensity.

Three times a week do strength training exercises. Focus on large muscle groups in the upper and lower body. As mentioned earlier, research shows that this type of exercise is particularly helpful for enhancing sleep. Look for a book, App or video which shows you what exercises to do with minimal equipment.

Spiritual: When exercising, remind yourself that you are exercising because God commanded you to take care of your health and you want to give your body the strength it needs to serve God and fulfill your potential. If you are exercising alone, it is a great time to watch or listen to classes on spirituality.

What type of exercise routine will you try and when will you do it?

8. Engage in productive tasks. Do you do something at least a few times a week where you feel productive, that you are accomplishing and doing something of value?

Actions:

Is there something important you want to do that you have been delaying doing? Whatever you want to accomplish in life, if you are able to do it now, do it now. You likely will not have a better opportunity later on. If you struggle with procrastination, consider setting firm limits on distractions, such as internet use etc. In addition, prioritize tasks and spend at least ten minutes at the beginning of each day on your most important tasks. Enlist the help of others to check in with you and hold you accountable to your goals. To reach the next level of success, in any area of your life, seek out a mentor who has already achieved that level of success.

Schedule into your week activities that give you a sense of accomplishment. Set goals and break them down to manageable steps with mini rewards. Visualize yourself achieving your goals and reaping the rewards. Working towards a worthwhile goal creates positive momentum and you will feel good about yourself. Some examples of goals include learning something new, advancing your career, spiritual or personal development, or doing something which enhances the lives of others.

Spiritual: Developing our relationship with God is a pursuit of eternal value and a rich source of meaning and fulfillment. We do this through prayer, studying and observing God’s teachings to the best of our ability and engaging in acts of kindness. See my other writings for further discussion on spirituality.

What is the number one thing you are procrastinating or goal you want to achieve?

Who is your mentor and who will hold you accountable to achieve your goal?

How can you add more spirituality to your life to live a more meaningful life?

You do not need to do all 8 steps to see benefits. Begin with any step that resonates with you and start small. Enlist the help of others and check in with them regularly.

Here is one sample plan: Pray to God daily, thank Him for His blessings and ask for His help (step 4). Get up and go to sleep at a set time, getting between seven or eight hours of sleep to give you the energy to implement the other steps (step 1). Add more healthy foods to your diet and stop eating three hours before you go to sleep, do strength based exercises and go for a daily brisk walk preferably in the morning in sunlight (steps 6 and 7). Address your top unhealthy behavior (step 5) and start doing the top behavior you have been procrastinating (step 8). Spend quality time with family and friends and look for ways to be of service to others (step 2). Especially if stress is an issue, begin a daily meditation practice of even five or ten minutes (step 3). Once you are doing the above, pick one of the steps to take to the next level.

These 8 steps lay the foundation for a healthy life, emotionally and physically. Which step will you make part of your daily routine starting today?



For a more detailed plan specifically for emotional health, see The FAR Plan: A Three Prong Approach to Emotional Health.

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1 comment:

  1. This article couldn't have come at a better time and it is PURE GOLD!! Thank you so much! - Shachar

    ReplyDelete