Health is often understood as the absence of illness. While this statement isn’t incorrect, it’s not entirely true either. Our bodies and minds are complex; treating a disease isn’t enough to keep us happy and fulfilled, we need to make sure we can prevent it too. And this is where holistic wellness comes into play.
Holistic health is an approach that views health as multi-faceted, with its different components influencing one another. In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about holistic health; what it is, why it’s important and how to cultivate it.
What Does Holistic Wellness Mean?
Holistic wellness is a concept based on the assumption that you can only be healthy and well if you address all aspects of your life. In other words, it’s an approach that looks at a person as a whole and prioritizes a deeper understanding of self. When one of the aspects of self isn’t working the way it should, it will affect other parts as well. For example, poor physical health might increase your stress levels and a lack of meaningful connections might negatively affect your mood. You’ll find out more about holistic health components and the way they depend on each other in later sections.
Why is Holistic Wellness Important?
Understanding holistic wellness is important because it changes the way we view health. This can be best explained by the recently popularized concept of ‘the mind-body connection’ with the example of back pain. In the past, back pain used to be seen as a result of a physical injury or structural abnormality. If the pain was severe, the sufferer was referred for a scan, prescribed painkillers and ordered to attend physical therapy. Now, however, more and more specialists recognize the association between emotional pain and physical pain and look at the patient’s mental health, as well as other aspects of their lives to determine the best course of treatment. While a sedentary lifestyle and occupational conditions used to be considered the main risk factors for back pain, stress has recently been recognized as one of them too.  If it turns out that the patient suffers from chronic stress, the focus might be on helping them learn effective coping skills as well as doing exercises that can alleviate pain.
All aspects of holistic wellness affect each other; recognizing the way holistic health works is important because it quite simply gives you the best shot at becoming the happiest and healthiest version of yourself.
What Does a Holistic Wellness Specialist Do?
The role of a holistic wellness specialist is to look at every holistic component of your life and identify any deficits that might be affecting your health. In the next stage, a holistic doctor can help you set wellness goals and guide you through what works and what doesn’t serve your health; you’ll essentially learn how to connect with every aspect of your life and make sure it nourishes you.
What are the Seven Components of Holistic Health and How to Practice Holistic Care?
If you decide to get in touch with a holistic doctor, they’ll prepare a personalized plan that aims to provide you with holistic care by focusing on the following 7 components:
1. Physical Health
Physical health is the component that gets talked about the most; we’re surrounded by commercials that recommend us new supplements and treatments to boost our immune systems, and we’re reminded by our doctors to provide our bodies with the right nutrients in order to keep them healthy. However, physical health refers to others aspects of our well-being as well. For example, the role of sleep is to keep your heart healthy, reduce your stress levels and allows your mind and body to recharge. Similarly, exercise can influence your mood, keep your weight in check and make it less likely that you’ll be suffering from various diseases in the future. Every aspect of your life that might impact your physical health, including bad habits such as smoking or drinking, is considered when implementing a holistic treatment plan.
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Tips on Practicing Physical Wellness:
1. Eliminate one bad habit per month
If you want the change to be effective, take baby steps and start by improving one habit at a time. For example, if your goal is to eat less sugar, gradually eliminate sweets from your diet instead of trying to quit cold turkey.
2. Try having more active breaks
When you get to have a break at work, try not to scroll on your phone and let your eyes rest instead, then consider doing something active like having a walk or even doing yoga – even a bit of exercise can prevent back problems and improve your cognitive functions.
3. Improve your sleep hygiene
Try to go to bed at the same time each night and make sure that your environment is dark, quiet and cold enough.
2. Emotional Health
Emotional health simply describes emotions we experience throughout our day and the way they affect us. Without a healthy mind, there’s no healthy body and vice versa. The role of a holistic doctor here is to help their client understand what they feel and why. This will be followed by teaching a client how to better manage their emotions by typically introducing them to stress reduction strategies such as deep breathing and mindfulness.
Tips on Practicing Emotional Wellness:
1. Try to express your emotions
If you find it difficult to express your emotions around other people, start by naming what you feel every time you’re happy or upset.
2. Learn to sit down with your thoughts
If you struggle to recognize what you feel, make sure you put aside some time to sit down with your thoughts every day. When you do, focus on your breathing and try to observe your thoughts as they pass by without engaging in them.
3. Mental Health
The mental health component refers to our cognitive abilities, meaning that a holistic doctor will consider the way their client behaves, solves problems, understands complex ideas and learns from their experience. Cognitive deficits are common features of various mental health disorders, which is why it’s important to look at this aspect of health as well.
Tips on Practicing Mental Wellness:
1. Improve problem-solving skills
You can try visualizing your problem by drawing a diagram, which can help you understand it better, especially if it’s multifaceted. Next, you can write down possible solutions and their pros and cons.
4. Social Health
We all know that being connected to other people is important but not everyone knows why. According to previous research, relationships with others give us a sense of belonging which can increase our meaning in life and make us more resilient.  This aspect of treatment might involve explaining to the client why building a bond with others is beneficial to our health and teaching them social skills, such as setting boundaries, effective communication or conflict resolution.
Tips on Practicing Social Wellness:
1. Make it your goal to be sociable once per week
Reach out to an old friend or set up a meeting with your current friends. Life gets incredibly busy at times but you should always remember to catch up with your social circle.
2. Check up on your friends
If you struggle to find the time to meet, you can always send your friends a message to see how they’re doing. Even keeping in contact via the Internet is a good way to strengthen the connection.
3. Try to be more assertive
When someone asks you for a favor, consider if helping them is what you really want and if it serves you. Of course, it’s good to be selfless but people who agree to everything often do so out of guilt and at the expense of their own health.
5. Spiritual Health
Religious people are encouraged to increase their spiritual wellness by regularly engaging in their own religious customs. However, spiritual health doesn’t have to refer to faith as it’s also about finding your purpose in life, whether it’s related to a religion or not. Those who don’t have faith, are encouraged to find their spiritual meanings through various activities that involve connecting with themselves and becoming more open toward other people.
Tips on Practicing Spiritual Wellness:
1. Discover your values
Consider what your values are by writing down your happiest memories and things you care about the most, such as family, your job or freedom.
2. Practice self-compassion
Work on your inner dialogue and turn into your best friend; whenever you feel down or like you haven’t succeeded, make sure to comfort yourself and cheer yourself on.
3. Try yoga
Yoga can do wonders for your health; it helps you feel more connected, relaxes you and clears your mind at the same time so try to squeeze in a short practice before or after work.
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6. Financial Health
While money might not bring you happiness, lack of money can definitely impact your mental health. A holistic doctor might discuss your financial situation and assess whether it affects any aspects of your life and health such as relationships with others, motivation or self-esteem. If you have an unhealthy relationship with money, for example, if you tend to overspend when you’re feeling low, you might be taught coping skills that reduce a negative association and strategies to help you budget better.
Tips on Practicing Financial Wellness:
1. Set up a savings account and an emergency account
If you struggle with spending too much, a good idea is to set up separate accounts that will limit how much money you can withdraw.
7. Environmental Health
Environmental wellness describes the relationship you have with your environment and the way it affects you, which typically focuses on your professional life. Since you spend the majority of your day at work, the relationship with your colleagues, your work satisfaction, support from the management and all its other aspects can have a huge impact on your health. The purpose is to help you find more joy in what you do or make the decision to leave a toxic environment when necessary.
Tips on Practicing Environmental Health:
1. Keep your workspace clean
Cluttered space can increase your stress and affect productivity so try to make sure your desk is tidy.
2. Try to maintain work-life balance
Make sure you don’t bring work home, whether it means finishing up the latest project or dwelling on your day, and learn to say no to more workload to avoid getting burnt out.
And if You Don’t Know Where to Start….
As holistic health has so many components, the concept might be overwhelming at first. If you feel like you can’t give each area equal attention just yet, here’s what you can do instead:
1. Evaluate your life
A huge part of holistic wellness is understanding the way each component impact other areas of your life. For example, consider if the stress you experience at work might be affecting your relationships with others, how a morning run makes you feel and if eating unhealthy food decreases your mood. This should help you realize that health is holistic and motivate you to make changes in your lifestyle.
2. Make room for rest
Getting adequate rest can ease stress and benefit every component of holistic health so make sure that you take breaks whenever you can.
As you begin your holistic wellness journey, you’ll realize that it involves trying new things that you might be sceptical about, such as meditation or yoga, but try not to write them off before you give them a go.
4. Consider finding a holistic doctor
Finally, if you feel like this is too much to take in, you can always search for a holistic doctor who can guide you through the process of practicing holistic care and pick up on some problems that you might not be able to notice by yourself.
Learn more about contributor, Joanna Cakala