Holness is Wellness
Over recent decades, interest has grown steadily in holistic health throughout North America. There is now widespread understanding of “holism” as a term applied to wellness. The four elements thought to comprise holistic health—mental, emotional, physical and spiritual are given equal weight.
In its simplest form, holistic health includes consideration of all four of these aspects of life. Each is equally important to the “whole person” approach to a productive life and a sense of contentment.
To some people, the idea of “getting healthy” involves putting more emphasis on physical health. They tend to focus only on diet, exercise routines and cutting back on alcohol or cigarette use. While this is a wonderful start to wellness, it is important to remember that the other three parts – mental, emotional and spiritual – are just as important. The decision to embrace holism is the start of an interesting journey.
Read on to find out how each one contributes.
Keeping our minds active and engaged through new learning experiences, such as non-fictional readings and educational/ instructional classes, workshops or programs, offers us new perspectives and strategies to experience life more openly and adaptively. Our jobs can also keep us mentally stimulated. Either way, when our interests or passions are engaged, these mental activities become all the more fulfilling and rewarding
Becoming more aware of your emotional self is crucial because feelings signal our psychological needs and whether they are being met. It is just as important to have an outlet for these emotions. This can be through conversations with friends, family members and counsellors or through some creative form of expression such as writing, dancing, singing, playing an instrument, sculpting, painting, drawing or any other artistic endeavour.
Paying close attention to what and how often we eat is vital to maintaining a healthy body. Regular exercise is also important. Making sure we find a balance between building or maintaining strength and stamina contributes to being fit. This can be accomplished by participating in martial arts, yoga, cardio or weight-training. Another essential for a healthy physical self is getting enough sleep every day, not just ‘catching up’ on the weekend.
Religion and spirituality can offer us inspiration, guidance, hope and help us make sense of life’s meaning, purpose, obstacles and struggles. Some find this through formal religious ceremonies. Others find spiritual experience just walking or sitting in meditation. Regularly nourishing your spiritual self can lead to finding inner peace, to experiencing connectedness and to cultivating altruistic love and respect for all beings. There is also a social benefit to religious expression which comes through membership in a collective. Religious affiliation provides a sense of identity, community and belonging.
What Difference Can Holism Make?
In considering the four main aspects of the human experience, holistic health addresses:
Mental health issues like anxiety and depression
Learning life skills like relaxation and meditation
Coaching about healthy living
It is common that social, cultural, spiritual, and physical needs are included in achieving desired results. For example, any search on the subject of holistic health will result in a barrage of articles and advertisements that focus on herbal remedies, vitamins, supplements and natural or raw food diets.
St. John’s Wort tea benefits some people experiencing anxiety and depression while valerian tea can help alleviate insomnia. Last month, our newsletter similarly focussed on the benefits of nutrition, not just in relation to physical health, but to mental health as well. That article noted that eating particular foods and eating regularly are both directly linked to lower rates of anxiety and depression.
While close attention to what we ingest can facilitate both physical and psychological wellness, we require more than just good eating habits to sustain and maintain our bodies and minds. Our spirits also need to be nourished, too.
So how does one work towards this balance and holness? It can be helpful to start by charting these four main aspects of self (mental, emotional, physical and spiritual) to assess how well they are nurturing, expressing and exercising ALL of who they are.
Once health and wellness seekers accept the interdependence and interrelatedness of all our parts, the journey to holistic health begins. The desire to lead a more fulfilling and balanced life is a noble goal.