Holistic Health; What the heck does it mean?
The term “holistic” can come with a lot of connotations. Some associate the word with “hippy”-remedies involving expensive herbs and supplements to achieve health. Others might think it involves converting to veganism, practicing yoga or meditation 5x a day, or doing “energy” work. While Holistic treatments can definitely involve these ideas, it is more about looking at health and wellbeing from a bigger picture.
The truth is, holistic simply means thinking of the body as a system of incricite parts, all intimately connected, and affecting each other; rather than trying to isolate, dissect and fix individual symptoms. In holistic nutrition and health this means addressing mental, emotional, social, environmental and spiritual health rather than just physical systems.
An example; a person struggling to make physical progress despite efforts to exercise and eat healthy. When this happens a person may become frustrated by their lack of progress, resort to extreme measures, or give up completely. A holistic approach would ask them to consider what they are thinking about while they are working out and the situations they are in while they are eating.
If this person is working out but distracted and thinking about all the responsibilities they have looming afterward, this could be a clue there is mental and emotional stress that needs to be addressed before they can fully commit to their training program. A holistic approach might involve journaling about their major stressors for 5-10 minutes before each training session so they can create more space in their minds to focus on their body/workout.
By beginning to acknowledge the stress in their lives they can become more aware of how it affects them physically and make changes required to reduce stress. This will improve the quality of their workouts as they will be more present in their training and improve their mind-muscle focus.
If this person is eating constantly in a state of stress, either on the go or at work, their body is not in an optimal state to digest and absorb the nutrients from the healthy foods they are eating. If the body is not absorbing nutrients it will continue to feel starved and deprived and continue to hold onto the weight as protection. A holistic suggestion could be for them to take 5 deep slow breaths before each meal and then take 30 seconds to express gratitude for what they are consuming. This will switch their bodies from a “fight or flight” (aka stressed) nervous system
state to a parasympathetic or “rest and digest” state. As a result the body is more readily able to breakdown, absorb and utilities nutrients and feel nourished and satisfied afterwards.
Over time these practices will become normal and the reduction in mental and emotional stress will allow physical progress to happen more readily.
From this example we can see that our mental, emotional and physical health are all very closely related. When one area is suffering, the other areas will be affected in some way or another. When looking at the areas as a whole, it will be easier to focus on any weak points. The more we try to separate our mind and body issues, the further we get away from the root problem, and the longer it takes to achieve what we want.
You are a beautiful being worthy of happiness and health in body mind and spirit. I challenge you explore your health and life from this holistic perspective.