If you’re new to the concept of holistic health, let’s just say that it focuses on making the entire person well, instead of only focusing on particular health conditions and symptoms, which is mainly how conventional health works. It includes how we feel and think, our physiological bodies, and our spirituality.
Although conventional medicine does some of this as well, holistic health is more likely to provide education and encourage self-awareness of all facets of health. If, for example, a client comes to a holistic practitioner to be treated for bad headaches, the holistic practitioner might ask about their diet, sleeping patterns, whether they exercise, if their work is stressful, etc. A conventional practitioner will likely prescribe medication for the headache.
Holistic health is all about changing up your lifestyle habits. Yes – it is certainly easier said than done! It’s paying attention to whether you’re getting some exercise, increasing healthier foods, reducing junk foods (dietary changes), and how you handle stress. Are you too sedentary or could you use more steps in a day’s time? Do you ever get your heart rate up into the aerobic level for your age? How long do you sleep at night and how deeply do you sleep? How good is your dental health (yes, even this matters)?
Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, food is medicine. If your diet is right enough and you begin to make improvements, over time you’re at least 75% on the way to having optimal health. For example, berries help fight disease and contain antioxidants. Broccoli and kale also have valuable antioxidants which protect cells from damage. Foods with fiber (vegetables, beans, grains, some fruits) feed beneficial bacteria in your gut, where 2/3 of your immune system is housed. Proteins contain amino acids, which build proteins, which help immune function, muscle synthesis, metabolism, and fats provide fuel and help in the absorption of nutrients.
However, before you take yourself off your medication, it is always best to work with a competent, proven health care provider! Don’t “doctor yourself” until you know more! (But you can always eat healthier. In fact – the sooner the better.) Adding a few supplements to your daily routine can also enhance the effect that a healthy diet can have on you. (But please check with your health care practitioner for potential contra-indications if you take prescription medicine. There aren’t many, but you need to know them, so you won’t hurt yourself.) Remember, healthy dietary patterns can decrease disease risk, while unhealthy eating can increase disease risk.
But wait – there’s a little more to this holistic health story. If you’ve done all of the above, adding mindfulness practices will get you even greater health benefits. This can be doing yoga, meditation, listening to binaural beats, doing Bible study – whatever seems to work for you in getting your mind quieted so you can live just in the moment instead of in the past or worrying about what you need to get done before the day is out. Staying calm and focused will help you stay on track and be able to hear your thoughts and sense your feelings better – but do so without self-condemnation please!
As always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
To learn more, view our course Living Healthy Holistically.
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.