Care for body, mind, and spirit are often thought to be three different pursuits. But what if we rewrote the narrative of what wellness looked like? What if we combined those three separate entities into one method that emphasized overall well-being in our lives?
That’s the idea behind holistic wellness, which encourages an all-encompassing view of health. While the concept has entered the national conversation more in recent years, this approach has been utilized around the world for centuries. Its origins in Western culture can be traced back to Socrates, who, in the fourth century B.C.E., wrote “the part can never be well unless the whole is well.”
Are you looking to change your quality of life and move towards your most optimal health? Holistic wellness may be the answer for the healthiest you.
What is Holistic Wellness?
Health and well-being are often thought to be black and white–you’re healthy or you aren’t. The holistic approach instead centers on quality of life, considering the many factors that make up an individual’s lived experience. It allows practitioners to gain an understanding on how their physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health synchronize, both in harmony and in distress. Instead of simply treating problems as they arise, holistic wellness encourages individuals to consider how each part of his or her body is consistently working together for a healthy life.
Say that you are experiencing regular stomach aches. Traditional wellness practices might advise you to take a particular medication to treat the symptoms, then continue to take on an as-needed basis. A holistic approach to health is completely different. Instead of treating the symptom, you would work with a holistic health provider to identify the root cause, examining your whole person: diet, exercise routine, vitamin levels, stress and other lifestyle factors. This would help eliminate the cause of the issue altogether, as opposed to just dealing with the effect–helping you feel better for loner.
Why is Holistic Wellness Important?
For decades, Western thought around healthcare has been flawed. Our society has focused on short-term solutions to long-term health issues, emphasizing a fast-moving, sometimes high-risk lifestyle that overlooks the whole person for the sake of an easy fix. More recently, the sentiments around these practices have changed as mindfulness, meditation, chiropractic care and other slow-paced holistic practices have been shown to have major health benefits, especially in dealing with chronic disease.
More than just following an up-and-coming wellness “trend,” the holistic approach is a way for individuals to find his or her voice and power in his or her lifestyle or healing process. Holistic wellness is often best found through a team of practitioners (for instance: a primary care doctor, specialists for any major medical conditions, a counselor or therapist, a dietitian, a trainer or fitness instructor). Hand-picking the team that is right for you is incredibly empowering, especially when so often we feel shunted around the medical system without much agency.
Many times, members of your wellness team will talk and work together to make sure that your needs are being met and any problems that arise are assessed. By bringing their particular experience into the mix, a better, more all-encompassing treatment plan–one that actually brings long-term results–can be achieved. This kind of collaboration is not necessarily guaranteed within the realms of traditional wellness and, to us, is one of the major benefits of the holistic approach–you will be taken care of.
The Components of Holistic Wellness
Physical health is the category we most often consider the end-all, be-all to health. It relates directly to your body and physiology and is most often determined through a medical lens: your bloodwork, your existing conditions, your exercise routines. Most often, physical health is denoted in measurable and tangible ways, using science and data that has been employed for many years.
Don’t have a team of doctors you feel is working for you? Finding a new internist is a great place to start. Find a practitioner near you.
Mental health is a vital part of overall wellness, though often overlooked by traditional medical practices. Above just cognitive ability, mental health practitioners look at less tangible factors than physical health, such as stress, happiness, sadness, and emotional response. While there has been a lot of stigma around it over the past few centuries, the idea that mental health is extremely important and not shameful has really taken hold in the past twenty years. In fact, there have been more and more studies showing that it is not only good to focus on mental health for mental health’s sake, but that there are also crucial ties between emotional wellness and physical performance.
If you have been struggling with your stressors in your emotional health but don’t know how to start taking care of it, you are not alone. Psychology Today has an incredible database of mental health professionals that can help you begin your journey to healing.
Financial health, occupational wellness, the deep connections between family and community, the safety of your surroundings-these can all be indicators of environmental health. Though it may seem like it wouldn’t make that much of a difference, our social health and the worlds in which we inhabit have a huge impact on our overall well-being. There are even specific environmental health professionals that can help you figure out what steps you need to improve your health in these areas. The American Public Health Association is a great place to start on the path to social wellness.
Those who are spiritually healthy have peace, balance, and fulfillment in life. This branch of wellness looks at what it means to lead a purposeful life and can also focus on different dimensions or capacities of human existence.
Many people find spiritual wellness through religion, but it is not the only path. Meditation, mindfulness, acupuncture, visualization, and manifestation can also bring about peace and understanding in a secular sense.
The common belief is that we no longer participate in “traditional” learning after we graduate from school. However, in holistic wellness practices, this is emphatically untrue. It turns out that life-long learning, known as intellectual health, is a vital component of overall well-being. And while you don’t necessarily have to crack open Catcher in the Rye to achieve it (luckily!), you should be exercising your brain like you exercise your body. Keeping up-to-date on current events, doing a nightly sudoku or crossword, or mindfully honing your time management are all ways to expand your intellectual health.
How to Achieve Holistic Wellness
This seems like a lot, right? Don’t worry, just by reading this article, you are already on your way to finding balance through holistic wellness.
A big part of starting this new approach is through research. Learning about the different factors that contribute to our well-being can help us define in which areas we are most ready for improvement. It could be that you work out every day but struggle with mediation. Or maybe you love crossword puzzles but struggle to puzzle out your own emotions. Wherever you feel you are lacking, seek out that help first.
It’s important to note that holistic wellness is a life-long journey and not something that can be “achieved” overnight. Start off small–visit your doctor for updated bloodwork, download a current events podcast, sign up for a new pilates class. Once you are ready to get more serious about your practice, seek out professionals to build out your wellness team. They should be able to guide you through a customized process.
How Do I Practice Holistic Wellness?
Holistic wellness can truly be practiced in all areas of life, but one of the easiest approaches is to start at your internist’s office. Next time you go to the doctor, be sure to tell him or her that you are interested in a more holistic approach. They should be able to point you in the direction of a counselor or therapist, provide you with resources on meditation and environmental wellness factors, or “prescribe” you a daily brain teaser.
Something outside of medicine that can be a great exercise in holistic wellness? Gardening! Gardening involves all of your senses and, it turns out, promotes all five areas of holistic wellness. Getting outside each day helps your physical, mental and environmental health. The act of growing can also lead to peace about the cyclical nature of life, as well as stimulate your brain.
Holistic Wellness FAQs
Holistic wellness is a lifestyle that encourages individuals to consider how each part of his or her body is consistently working together.
The holistic approach is a way for individuals to find his or her voice and power in his or her lifestyle or healing process. It also emphasizes slow, meaningful healing over quick fixes, which leads to longevity and peace-of-mind.
Holistic wellness focuses on the individual as a whole. Instead of focusing on specific problem areas or certain problems as they arise, the holistic approach examines how all parts of a person are working together to sustain life.
Holistic wellness programs are life-long lifestyle changes that promote overall health. They are personalized to the individual and typically created in conjunction with a doctor, counselor or therapist and other members of a health team.
Holistic wellness coaches are professionals who create customized wellness plans for clients. While it is nice to have a quarterback for the journey, health coaching is not required to life a holistic lifestyle.
The five aspects of health are physical health, mental health, environmental health, spiritual health and intellectual health.
By looking at the big picture instead of an individual problem area, holistic wellness provides a way to examine all aspects of your well-being. Knowing more about your whole body, mind and spirit leads to a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.
Holistic wellness practitioners often see improved habits and lifestyle changes, more vitality and resilience against disease, higher self-esteem, reduced stress and anxiety and lower levels of depression.
Start Your Wellness Journey
Holistic wellness is the future of health. Start your journey in the garden with one of our garden kits.