6 foundational practices for your best relationships

Who doesn’t want the best relationship possible? Everyone of us wants the best we can get.

For your relationship or marriage (and therefore your life) to be at its best, it really starts with you being your best.

You must be at your best. We tend to think that being at our best requires lots of hard work, creativity,  and large gestures to try and impress the one we love. While those are admirable and desirable efforts, much of what helps us to be at our best in our marriage or key relationship is both simple and profound.

Here are six foundational practices that must be a part of every healthy and life-giving relationship.

I call it the SPEEPS© Self Care Plan.

I know, I know, you may think these practices are way too simple. (And you’ll notice the acronym I created is also a palindrome. Of course you will.) So if they were that easy, then why aren’t we all doing them? The results are self-evident when we practice these most days.

1. Sleep

The bottom line is, sleep is God ordained. Many people try to cheat sleep, only to create lots of physical and mental issues. God designed us to rest, and if we try to do it our way, sooner or later, the body will win. We end up with physical issues that require tens of thousands of dollars in surgery and medical treatment, anger issues (just try being nice and gentle when you’re exhausted- it’s a lot harder), or relational strife. 

The benefit from a restful night’s sleep is FREE. Creating a rhythm of life where you are rested well most days sets the stage for your love life and your productive life.

You might just be amazed at how much richer and fuller your life and relationships are when you develop a pattern of healthy rest. And, if you want your tomorrow to go well, it will largely depend on your plan to get a good night’s sleep the night before.

2. Pray

God designed us for connection with Him. The God who hung the stars and intricately formed the caterpillar is interested, very interested, in connecting with you. There’s a song by an eclectic band, the Lost Dogs, that is a favorite of mine. The title is, Pray Where You Are. I encourage you to look up the lyrics or give it a listen. Here’s the chorus.

Oh, pray where you are
Pray where you are
In the fields and in the factories
There’s no limits, rules or boundaries
At work or school or driving in your car
Pray where you are

If you can free yourself from any preconceived notion about what “counts” as proper prayer, you will feel the benefit in your spirit and in your energy and outlook for life and your relationships.

Largely, this step is about two ‘tudes- solitude and gratitude. Take the ear pods out, put the phone aside (with the notification sound OFF) and just “be”. Allow yourself to think and listen to the world around you, and see what comes to mind. Then, before you re-enter the fray, take a few moments to rehearse gratitude. All the way down to the simple pleasures of your life. Name them, and feel the joy. Gratitude is the mother of joy.

3. Eat (well)

Much like an engine is designed to run on a specific fuel, God designed our bodies in a similar way. We would never consider putting anything but the right kind of fuel in our car tank, but we sometimes abuse our body with what we eat that is counterproductive to effective digestion and nutrition.

As the world we live in continues to engineer and re-engineer food (how crazy is that last statement??), our personal responsibility to monitor the nutritional value of what we eat increases. There’s a phrase from the computer world, garbage in, garbage out. I’d say the same is true for our bodies, except with a much higher adverse outcome. (In full disclosure, yes, I do eat some Oreos from time to time, but work to make sure that is more the exception.)

4. Exercise

Sleep and exercise are our two cheapest antidepressants. No matter how active (or inactive) you like to be, the body was designed for use. Even if you have a physical job, that may not qualify as exercise, depending upon how stressful your work is.

Exercise does not necessarily mean training for an Ironman. It may be fitting in something small and simple like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, or taking the dog for a little bit longer walk around the block. It could mean stretching while watching your favorite show. There are so many apps and training programs that it can be overwhelming.

Just think about how much better you would feel if you could take 15 minutes using a stretching app while you talk with your partner or while you watch the children play in the backyard.

Exercise is best summarizes as: move. Every system within our body benefits from intentional movement.

5. Play

The downside of becoming an adult is usually we stop making time to play. Play is simply doing something that adds joy to your life. That could be reading, sports, animals, gardening, hiking, travel, you name it. Play may involve other playmates, and it is important to have at least one thing that we love to do that we can do by ourselves. Play re-creates. That’s why it’s called recreation.

6. Serve

Life feels much more fulfilling when we extend ourselves to others. It’s true that most all of us try the “me first” route to happiness before we can learn that what satisfies our heart is giving and helping. Really, this is a self evident life principle, no matter where or when you live, what color your skin is or what your native tongue is. Serving doesn’t have to consume large blocks of time, though it’s a good self discipline to set aside time for “service projects”, whatever that might look like in your life. Serving is as simple as making coffee for your spouse, asking the neighbor who lives on a fixed income if they need anything from the store while you’re there, holding the door for someone, or offering a word of encouragement or kindness to someone in your path. You know how to serve, and I’ll bet you know when and where there are opportunities to do so.

Here is a key tip: Give yourself grace.

No one can do all six of these foundational practices well every single day. I encourage you to develop a “most days” approach. Live so you can say, “Most days I sleep well, pray, eat well, exercise, play and serve.”

Here’s another key tip: don’t overdo (or under do) one area.

Perhaps you’ve seen an equalizer on an audio soundboard or settings on a monitor or other device. Visualize each practice of the SPEEPS© Self Care Plan as a slider. If one slider is way off in relation to the others, the result won’t be as desirable or harmonious. Yes, you can even overdo praying or serving, because the extra time and energy allotted will have to be taken from somewhere else, likely one of the other five practices.

So- what next?

More people than you might think stumble through many days sleep deprived, stressed, anxious, get angry at the slightest provocation, eating and drinking carelessly, or doing whatever soothes them in the moment, only to fall into bed, tossing and turning through a fitful night’s sleep, and waking up to do it all over again. 

Is this you? Do you want something better? Do you want to enjoy your life more? Do you desire more energy, more peace, more fun, more satisfaction?

I invite- no, I challenge you, to take control of you and your choices. Read more as I guide and encourage you to create your personal SPEEPS© Self Care Plan to live your healthiest, most satisfying and enjoyable life, in body, mind and spirit.

This content may not be shared without permission.

Rev. Greg Griffin is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and Forgiveness Coach in private practice in Marietta, GA. His specialty is relationship repair and rescue- helping partners, spouses, and parents and their adolescents. He’s also the author of Dungeon Times Survival Guide, and Vital Faith.

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