Holistic Health – A Mind, Body, Spirit Approach
Although it may feel like a fairly new concept, the idea of holistic health dates back to the 4th century BC when Socrates warned against treating one part of the body while ignoring the interconnectedness to all the other parts of the person. (George, 2011) The ideology of holistic health is based upon the premise that as a person we are interconnected with our mind, body, and spirit, otherwise called our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects. Each of these parts is interrelated and combines to make up the whole. How we take care of each of these aspects impacts how we feel as a person. When we look at all of these parts as interconnected, we can then implement holistic thinking and action to bring about whole-wellness. The goal in holistic health and wellness is to bring each of these aspects to its optimal well-being. (Walter) The absence of illness does not necessarily mean that we are at our fullest state of well-being. It merely means we are not ill. But we can always improve our overall sense of well-being.
The American Holistic Health Association (AHHA) describes health on a continuum from illness causing premature death on the left of the continuum, to neutral, no illness at mid-point of the continuum, and optimal wellness on the right side of the continuum. Consider where you are on the continuum and realize that you have some control over where you might be currently and where you want to be in the future. Our daily life style impacts our wellness. In fact, according to the AHHA, 70% of our daily life style and environment impacts our health. Medical care accounts for only 10% of our health issues and heredity is only 20%. (American Holistic Health Association) This means that we can do something about where we are and where we want to be in our health and wellness.
Holistic health requires one to take personal responsibility in which daily choices are used to take charge of one’s own health. The pursuit of holistic health and wellness becomes a lifestyle with a personal commitment. We all hope we are operating from a preventative philosophy and implementing our daily choices to enhance our overall well-being. For instance, we may choose to work out regularly because we know that the physical workout of the body will help our body stay in better working order. But we also know that we will feel better emotionally. There is a definite interconnectedness that we experience immediately. We may realize on an intuitive level that our depressive thoughts are impacting our immune system and therefore, actually causing our chronic colds. We may choose to look at the emotional elements that get in the way of thinking better thoughts.
But what is going on when we choose not to make the changes that we know are best for us? We all know that just knowing that something we are doing isn’t good for us doesn’t seem to help us stop from engaging in the habit. We have to look at our whole self and address the parts that may be blocking us from following through on changing our lifestyle for the better. Wellness really means caring about ourselves enough to make the necessary changes or finding the support to help us make the changes.
If we are ill, then holistic thinking can guide our process as well. We can explore our options and look at all the components for our emotional, mental, spiritual and physical health. We can move into using holistic medicine techniques. When we apply “meaning” to an illness, we are using holistic medicine. Holistic medicine also means increasing patient involvement, so ask your doctor questions. Don’t assume anything, but be your own best advocate. And consider both conventional (allopathic) and complementary (alternative) therapies (Walter) for your health needs.
Western medicine is moving more towards holistic health, preventive work. The belief that we place our health in the hands of the doctor comes from the ideology that disease primarily comes from factors outside of ourself such as germs. Then we, as the patients, expect the doctors to fix the symptoms of our unhealthy lifestyle with a pill or treatment without changing the lifestyle habit that caused the illness. This outdated perspective places the responsibility for our health outside ourselves. While it might be nice to think and believe that a pill will save us or increase our health, the bottom line is that we have to take charge of our health and wellness. The good news is that it matters! The bad news is that it matters!
American Holistic Health Association. (n.d.). www.ahha.org. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
George, A. (2011, April). The Holistic Health Approach to Vitality and Wellness. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from Associated content.com.
Walter, S. (n.d.). Holistic is an Adjective . . . not a Noun. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from American Holistic Health Association.Tags: holistic health, mind - body - spirit
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Janie Pfeifer Watson
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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