Updated: Nov 8
How’s your New Year’s Resolution going thus far? If you are on track, amazing…keep doing what you are doing! If not, that’s okay too, but this may be a sign to consider exploring other areas of your health besides just the physical, (think: typical January fat loss goal.) Why? Because not only does your health involve much more than just "workouts" and "nutrition plans", but perhaps the areas outside of your physical health are actually the reason why you haven’t reached your health goal(s) yet. This is where the concept of "Deep Health" comes in, which may actually be the key to finally losing those elusive 10 pounds once and for all (if that is in fact your goal).
So what in the Sam Hill is "Deep Health" anyways?
The concept of "Deep Health" comes from the Sleep, Stress, and Recovery course by Precision Nutrition, and is defined as:
Thriving in ALL the dimensions of your life, not just physical wellbeing and includes;
Physical - Feeling vibrant, energized, and thriving. Performing and functioning well.
Mental - Being alert, focused, competent, and thoughtful. Learning, remembering, and solving problems well.
Relational - Being connected and authentic with others. Feeling supported and like you “belong.”
Existential - Feeling a sense of meaning and purpose in your life.
Emotional - Experiencing a full range of emotions and expressing them appropriately.
Environmental - Knowing your everyday surroundings support your health and wellbeing.
So, in an ideal world we are all thriving in these 6 areas of health, right? The issue with that however, as you also might have noticed, is that each of these areas are also potential sources of stress, or Deep Stress! So how do we manage these competing forces?
The key to reconciling these concepts is to understand that just as stresses are wide ranging and can compound and interact with one another, so too can the recovery methods in each dimension!
Besides calling up your travel agent and booking a spa beach vacation. What can you practically do RIGHT NOW to help yourself thrive, build resilience, and recovery in each of these categories?
The quick answer to this (without coaching you through a personalized 3R plan) is to first identify which area of deep health is your biggest source of stress or concern?
Next is to brainstorm ways you can possibly eliminate or even slightly reduce stresses in that category.
Then think of small ways you can increase rest, recovery, and resilience (3R's) in that category. (see list below for ideas).
Repeat this step for the other dimensions once you feel you have made a little progress :)
The reason we start with the dimension you perceive as your greatest stressor is because it's probably the biggest bottle neck to your progress. Thinking again about the physical goal of losing 10 pounds. Let’s say someone is mentally or emotionally stressed, this stress will most likely negatively impact their sleep, which then reduces their energy and motivation to go to the gym and/or make ideal food choices.
So in this case, it doesn't matter how good the workout or nutrition plan is. It's unlikely it will be executed properly or consistently until sleep/stress is managed.
Okay back to putting this stuff into practice. Another key that may help you is a subtle mindset shift. That is, try thinking of recovery on a continuum rather that viewing it on the extremes of life. For example: I’m either red lined/ burnt out at work or I’m vacationing on a beach drinking a margarita.
A way to do this is by seeing Recovery, Rest, and Resilience on different time scales. And for those that are super stressed and “busy”, the sweet spot would be found in the 5 min (or less) daily actions.
Although there are nearly infinite ways you can support your deep health. Below is a small list of ideas that show how you can use different time scales to improve all 6 areas of your deep health. (please send me any ideas you may have in the comments)
Hourly - 5 minute actions that can be spread throughout the day and could include:
Hugging a partner or a pet
Listening to some zen music to help you relax or focus
Go outside to soak up a few minutes of sunlight and boost Vit D
Water a plant (there's actually a 1970's study in which a group of residents of an elderly care home were assigned to take care of houseplants, after 18 months they were healthier and more active. The group that were not assigned plants to take care of died at twice the rate.)
Daily - “One off” actions done once that can improve the rest of your day
Gratitude list in the morning
Brain dump at night to clear the mind
Getting out in nature to calm the mind (and get vit D)
Smile and/or hold the door open for a stranger
Get off a stop or two earlier on subway to add some steps in
Call a friend after work to vent about your boss.
Put your phone in another room 2 hours before bed time
Curl up at the end of the day with a HUSH weighted blanket to reduce anxiety (THIS LINK with code:JOEYS will give you a discount)
Weekly - End of week rituals, reflections, or rewards that may help you unwind or reset after a busy week. Or using the extra time on weekends to move a little slower through the day.
Weekend naps (PN refers sleep to the "Rock Star of Recovery" because it helps improve every area of deep health)
Epsom salt bath
Visit with friends or reconnect with a friend from out of town with zoom dinner
Have kids or a pet? Just go out and PLAY! (here's a list of ideas and why play is important)
Monthly - Look ahead each month and pre-book appointments such as;
Self-care massage, physiotherapy, spa, hair, nails etc
Plan ahead and use up a banked vacation day to reset, refocus, or socialize
Volunteer or support a local charity
Join a club/ engage with your community, try taking a class (cooking,art,music etc)
Semi-Annually -Take a step back and reflect on all areas of your Deep Health
Make or update a vision board
Declutter your closet and donate to charity
Declutter your inbox (unsubscribe form unwanted e -mail subscriptions or social media)
I realize that not all the ideas are appealing to everyone. (Some people find cooking therapeutic, others hate it). The key is to explore and integrate practices that add rest, recovery, and resilience to your life whenever you can.
Overall, the take home point is that when we take a broader view of health, we have a greater chance of succeeding at whatever goals we choose (even if it is to loose those 10 pounds). And just like compound interest, even small investments of 5 minute actions or tiny habits, done consistently, add up huge over time.
Think of every act of rest and recovery is an investment not only your deep health, but in your future performance.
Thanks for reading. Please comment and SHARE this post if you found it useful. You can also join my private group here so you don't miss my next blog post:)
If you, or someone you know, needs help with a Deep Health approach, please reach out. Either online or in the gym, I specialize in helping busy professionals over 40 get fit without burning out. My personal training studio services downtown Toronto and is just steps away from the UP Union to Pearson Express Station.