What is Holistic Health?
Holistic Health is a “whole person” approach to health care. It takes into account every aspect of a person’s being, like fitting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Where some approaches to medicine may focus less on a person’s home environment, gut health or spirituality, the holistic viewpoint seeks to see how each part of our mind, spirit and body work together, to form a healthy person.
What’s the Difference?
Some traditional approaches to medicine generally consider good health to mean the absence of disease. It may put each disease in its own separate box and treat it in isolation. Holistic health considers good health to be not just a lack of disease, but the mind, body and spirit working harmoniously together as part of an interconnected system.
Who Can Benefit?
Because holistic health digs down to the root cause of health problems, and connects dots together that may have seemed unrelated, it can greatly help people who have seemingly mysterious symptoms that other approaches to medicine may have struggled to resolve. Many of us have experienced first-hand, or have read articles about people who have been told by a doctor that their symptoms were all in their head.
Holistic health can also have a very positive impact on people who suffer from multiple health issues, that need to be treated in a variety of ways. The benefits of many holistic health methods cross over one another and can relieve both physical and emotional concerns as well as being beneficial to a spiritual practice. Meditation yoga is just one example of this.
And while traditional approaches to medicine are extremely helpful, sometimes it can come with side effects that some people cannot tolerate well. Others may find the traditional setting of a doctor’s office or hospital overwhelming. For these people, seeing a holistic health practitioner may feel less confronting. Even those who are comfortable being treated by more traditional approaches to medicine may find the holistic approach aids their treatment, combats its side effects and contributes to their long-term physical and emotional recovery.
The Five Pillars of Holistic Health
The five pillars of Holistic health are widely considered to be:
Rather than being separate entities, they overlap and contribute to each other, forming part of an important whole. An imbalance in one area can negatively impact one or more of the others.
Physical – the health of our physical body. Everything from our hair, skin, nails, teeth, eyes, ears and bones, to our internal organs and blood vessels. This type of health is more easily quantifiable than the others and may be the only type of health that some people consider. In order to look after our physical health we can get enough sleep, eat a variety of vegetables and healthy protein, exercise regularly, avoid toxins and drink plenty of water.
Psychological – mental and emotional health. A healthy brain allows us to understand, comprehend, learn, process, communicate and function. A healthy mind helps us to cope, adapt, and participate in relationships, work and society. A healthy emotional state allows us to express ourselves positively, to develop resilience, to experience joy and feel fulfilled. Ways in which we can care for our mental and emotional health include maintaining a positive mindset through affirmations and meditation, keeping our brain and body fit through crosswords, reading and physical exercise in nature, doing activities that bring us joy, and seeking counselling or other help when needed.
Social – the health of our relationships with others. Studies have shown that loneliness is actually detrimental to our health, and that people who have a network of friends and family for support are generally healthier and live longer than people who are isolated. Social health encompasses our ability to cultivate and maintain relationships with other people and live positively within a community. To nourish our social health we can join groups, clubs or sporting teams, do volunteer work within our community, or simply make an effort to spend time with friends and family on a regular basis. If we are in toxic relationships, we can choose to try to repair these, or to remove ourselves altogether, so we’re able to develop new, healthier ones.
Environmental – the healthy state of our environment. This includes everything from the greater world that we inhabit and the neighbourhood we choose to live in, to our workplace, and the home we fashion for ourselves. A healthy environment is one that brings us joy, makes us feel safe and secure and does not compromise our physical or mental health. At work, this means setting healthy boundaries and removing ourselves from toxic situations. At home it includes maintaining a clean, tidy space filled with things that spark happiness. And in the community, it can mean helping to keep our town free of litter or volunteering to plant trees.
Spiritual – a healthy connection to the universe and ourselves. Some would argue that if our spiritual health is strong, all the other pillars will fall into place naturally, as it means a strong alignment with ourselves, nature, a higher power or the universe. Spiritual health gives us meaning, a sense of purpose, a calm knowing, peace and fulfillment. It can improve our intuition which can have a positive impact on our health journey, because when we have a deeper connection to ourselves, it is easier to pinpoint what part of our health is crying out for attention. On the other hand, spirituality can help us to focus on a picture larger than ourselves, meaning we obsess less over our individual challenges. Improvement in our spiritual health can come from yoga, meditation, prayer, forest bathing, reading enlightening texts, volunteerism, practicing mindfulness or broadening our horizons through travel.
Which Holistic Health Path Is Right for Me?
There are numerous health practitioners in holistic health that can help with everything from pain, gut health, hormonal imbalances and bacterial infections, to depression, anxiety, and stress. Here are just a few examples:
- Yoga and tai chi instructor
- Chinese herbalist
- Reiki practitioner
- Remedial massage therapist
- Music therapist
- Life coach or counsellor
- Licensed medicinal cannabis prescriber
- Meditation guide
- Pet therapist
- Holistic health care is a “whole person” approach to wellness and can benefit anyone, even if their physical body is technically “disease-free”.
- One or more holistic health professionals may be able to help you find answers to your health concerns and suggest appropriate treatments that may work well alongside those from more traditional approaches. As with any relationship, good communication is key between you and your doctor, as well as your holistic health practitioners.
- Overall wellness of mind, body and spirit is the key to a happy life, and this can be achieved through both more traditional approaches and holistic medicine working in harmony with each other, as well as our own individual efforts.