Following my brother’s suicide in April 2017 I discovered the Calm app and meditation, it helped me immensely with anxiety at the time, learning to focus on my breathing rather than that which had happened. In recent times the app has introduced Masterclasses, a wonderful addition whereby experts talk on relevant topics such as depression, anxiety, and one I happened to listed to on the weekend by UK doctor Dr Rangan Chatterjee entitled “The Four Pillar Plan”.
Dr Chatterjee’s Masterclass was quite interesting and inspired me to head to Amazon.com to purchase his book for a more in-depth understanding. In his Masterclass he identified the four pillars as being: relax, food, move and sleep. He mentioned having been a traditional doctor, treating the symptoms rather than the causes, but then reaching a point in his practice he felt things just weren’t working.
He had a mother bring in her son one day, he’d cut his wrists and the psychologist had sent them for a script to treat depression. His initial thoughts were to prescribe an anti-depressant drug, but then he stopped, after having listened to the boy’s story that included bullying and taunts of his looks he switched to enquiring how long he spent on social media each night. “Four hours or so” the reply. He prescribed not medication but rather limited exposure to social media for the week before returning. His mood had improved and continued to improve week after week.
The Four Pillar Plan involves looking at four key areas of your life and lifestyle. Relax, the first pillar involves taking time for self and switching off from the world. Here Dr Chatterjee suggests making use of the airplane mode on our phones and considering turning off of notifications that constantly beckon our attention.
The second pillar, food, involves minimising the processed foods in your diet and increasing the ‘rainbow’, having at least 5 different coloured vegetables in your diet each day as well as good fats like avocado and nuts. He mentions research showed eating within a 12-hour window had positive effects on blood sugars and sleep.
The third pillar, movement, involves getting off arse and working towards those 10,000 steps we all hear about in national health programs. Also, include strength training within your exercise regime as he mentions loss of muscle mass independently affects mortality, improves resilience and executive brain function, and our ability to resolve conflicts. He suggests even doing as little as the 5-minute kitchen workout eat day can give benefits, this involving lunges, squats, tricep dips, floor press-ups etc. Also suggested were regular, throughout the day, 2-minute movement “snacks” whereby we get the heart working through mini-workouts.
The final pillar, but by no means the least, is sleep. Dr Chatterjee mentions we are currently experiencing a sleep depression epidemic that is leading to increases in stress and anxiety, and poor food choices. Another side-effect of long-term sleep problems is Type-2 diabetes; increased build-up of beta amyloid protein within the brain leading to Alzheimer’s disease; memory decline; and chronic disease. His prescription to improve things? We need to embrace morning light as increasingly we’re staying indoors more and more and not getting enough natural light; a dark room when we go do sleep at night, and switching the tech off 90 minutes before you go to sleep; keep your caffeine intake before noon; and avoid drinking in the evenings.
I’m only part-way through the kindle book thus far, it’s a really good, easy read. I’d encourage your having a read, it’s inexpensive at only a few dollars on Amazon Kindle:
The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life
by Dr Rangan Chatterjee