Holistic approach to health and wellness

Introduction

Holistic health and wellness is an approach towards life that considers multidimensional aspects of health and wellness. It encourages practitioners to recognize the whole of a person: physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual health. While modern medicine has brought life-saving advancements, it often has a siloed approach to health, your body is often treated as sections of individual symptoms and pieces rather than the whole system. This is why a holistic approach to health and wellness is so important to truly achieve optimal wellness in the body, mind, and spirit.

Importance of holistic health and wellness

A holistic approach to health and wellness is needed to address the root cause of the problem rather than just the symptoms. It takes everything into account and encourages you to take charge of your health and fitness. It is essential to prevent illnesses and find long-term answers for existing illnesses.

While people are living longer today, they are also experiencing chronically high levels of stress and fatigue, consuming nutrient-depleted foods, and are exposed to harmful chemicals through our air, water, cleaning, and personal care products daily. 

Many people living with chronic diseases are living with undiagnosable symptoms and modern-day medicine has failed them. It is time to take a holistic way to treat and support the health and wellness of the billions of people living on this planet.

A holistic way towards health and wellness also takes into account the many external and environmental factors which could be supporting or impacting our overall health and wellness. It is important that we have a systematic way of addressing health in the future.

7 Aspect of holistic health and wellness

When it comes to holistic health and wellness we are looking beyond the physical body and are addressing physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual health. All of these 7 aspects of holistic health are what allow you to truly live each day in a healthier way. Since if one aspect of health is compromised, most likely other areas will be compromised too.

PHYSICAL

Nutrition

Nutrition is intimately tied to physical health, this is especially true because nutrition must be personalized based on your age, sex, activity level, and body need.

A balanced diet requires that you consume nutritious foods that feed your body and mind. The USDA recommends you fill half of your plates with fruits and vegetables. The other half should be mostly grains, along with a modest portion of protein.

Diversifying your plate with food groups will help you acquire the necessary macronutrients and micronutrients for muscle growth and recovery, and other bodily wear and tear.

Strengthening this pillar requires careful attention to your diet and appropriate supplementation. Life’s stressors and time commitments can make these tasks difficult. But nutritional support will allow you to fight against the daily grind and provide you with the foundation for holistic health and wellness.

Exercise

Most people believe in exercise when they hear “physical health.” Regular physical exercise can’t be ignored. But it’s not the only aspect deserving your attention.

Your body needs more than exercise. Physical wellness also includes good sleep, hygiene, hydration, and a healthy diet. If you’re evaluating your physical health, ask these questions: Are you getting enough quality sleep, regular and restful sleep?

Researchers at the National Sleep Foundation recommend at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night for an Adult. For University students, parents, and workaholics, this can be a tough number to meet. I have written a blog on how good sleep ensures better immunity. Since immunity is deeply linked to good sleep hygiene. 

Most people know physical health as the only aspect of health. This happens due to our physical body which often shows symptoms of either optimal or suboptimal health. Physical health symptoms are also easier to measure, versus other non-physical signs and symptoms that can’t be measured.

When it comes to supporting your physical health there are a few key practices that everyone can benefit from and can make a huge difference in your overall well-being:

  • Regular deep sleep for 7-8 hours each night. Regular sleep will allow your body to repair and energize.
  • Eat nutrient-dense food that is high in a plant-based diet with ample amounts of protein and fat.
  • Maintain a healthy blood sugar level by eating meals and snacks every 3-4 hours.
  • Move your body for a minimum of 45 minutes each day. While you can exercise more as per your health target, everyone can benefit from at least 45 minutes of exercise each day.
  • Limit processed foods and hydrogenated oils which are inflammatory. That can increase the risk of chronic conditions like heart diseases and diabetes.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.

EMOTIONAL

Emotional health is a very important aspect of overall health. If you are emotionally healthy, you are in control of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You will be better able to cope with life’s challenges. You can keep problems in perspective and bounce back from setbacks.

Emotional health is often overlooked. Your emotional health is as important as your physical health since your emotional health can affect your physical health if it is not prioritized.

Ways you can support your emotional health:

  • Be aware of your own emotions. Since emotional awareness helps you know what you need and want (or don’t want!). 
  • Express your feelings in positive ways. Feelings not only can protect and guide you. It can help you to seek out positive experiences,  avoid danger,  connect, understand and relate to others. 
  • Keep a journal to record your thoughts and feelings. Use your journal to record what you are grateful for as it can help bring positivity into times of stress.
  • Seek out therapy if needed. Therapy is a good way to get support for emotional health.
  • Practice mindfulness to reduce stress.

SOCIAL

The social aspect of health is about connecting with others to form positive relationships. Social relationships create a support system that can carry you through life problems. Harvard’s Study of Adult Development which ran for 80 years, collected data on hundreds of participants. Researchers found that participants who spent more time with others reported greater levels of happiness.

Some social aspects include

Income

People who have higher incomes are healthier and live longer than people with low incomes. They are better able to live in safe neighborhoods. They have good access to healthy foods. They also have better access to safe spaces for exercise or other activities.

Care

Similarly, the impact of surrounding yourself with those that care for you can’t be understated. When the demands of life increase, stress also mounts, the ability to turn to someone for support and understanding is very important. Building networks takes time and energy but is worth the effort. And it will continue to serve you throughout your life.

Connections

Research has found that the happiest people have deeper connections with their friends, family, and community. This is the reason why religion is connected with happiness as it can provide you a deep sense of community and support, no matter what faith a person chooses.

Ways that you can support your social health:

  • Meetup new people through social networks, community events, or volunteer service.
  • Schedule to reach out to out-of-state friends and family. 
  • Connect with someone new and keep those relationships strong.
  • Revisit the idea of pen pals. Connecting with loved ones through handwritten communication can really strengthen bonds.
  • Make time for an in-person connection. While technology has allowed virtual connection, it still does not provide us with the same level of happiness as an in-person connection does.
  • Get involved in your local community. Whether this is through local volunteer organizations, clubs, or programs at your kids’ school. Getting involved in your local community is the best way you can support your social health and improve happiness.
  • Set boundaries with people in your life that may increase stress. Also do not be afraid to walk away from friendships that are negatively affecting your health.

SPIRITUAL

Spiritual health and wellness acknowledge your search for deeper meaning in life. When you are spiritually healthy, you feel more connected to not an only higher power, but to those around you. You have more clarity when it comes to making everyday choices, and your actions become more consistent with your beliefs and values.

Spiritual health and wellness do not mean that you need to become religious, although the two often have overlapping principles. Spirituality is commonly viewed as a sense of purpose, direction, or meaning, without which, values can fall by the wayside, turning life’s balance. 

You can cultivate spirituality through meditation, prayer, or other activities that foster a connection to nature or a higher power. Spiritual health and wellness is about personalizing your journey. 

You may practice mindfulness as a way of checking in with your intentions, guiding your actions, and maintaining a values-based approach to life. How you choose to strengthen your spiritual health and wellness is up to you.

Ways you can support your spiritual health:

  1. Dedicate time for yourself free of distractions, interruptions, and major activities. This time you can relax, reflect, meditate, or pray.
  2. Keep a journal. Writing regularly can help clear your mind and the goals you’ve set.
  3. Identify your top three values in life. Reflect on them often. Keeping these values in the front of your mind will help guide everyday decisions.
  4. Spend time in nature as it will relax you, give mental health benefits, and foster emotional well-being.
  5. If you are religious, take the time to practice your faith

MENTAL

Mental health and wellness include your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how you think, feel, and act. It also helps you determine how you handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence to adulthood.

Your mental health and wellness often overlap with your emotional and physical health. The big distinction between your mental and emotional health though is that while your emotional health refers mostly to your daily mood and emotions, your mental health refers to your cognitive abilities that affect how your brain functions.

Ways that you can support your mental health and wellness:

  • Keep your mind active by seeking out problem-solving practices that challenge your brain.
  • Consume nutrient-dense foods that are high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that will help you reduce your overall inflammation levels and support cognitive function.
  • Avoid excessive drinking, smoking, and consuming recreational drugs.
  • Improve gut health with gut-healing foods like bone broth and prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods. Since the brain is directly connected to the gut a healthy gut is essential for a healthy brain.

INTELLECTUAL

Intellectual health and wellness mean striving toward continued intellectual growth, and creativity in life. This includes continued learning, practicing problem-solving, improving verbal skills, keeping abreast of social and political issues, and reading books, magazines, and newspapers.

Intellectual health and wellness are strengthened by continually engaging your mind.  Doing so can help you build new skills and knowledge that inspire and challenge you, and help you grow. You might choose different ways to keep your mind sharp depending on your mood and resources. Engaging in intellectually stimulating conversations and debates can strengthen your intellect.

Some people experience intellectual blessings through self-discovery and personal advancement.  Academic efforts, community activities, or personal growth are other ways to get intellectual wellness.

Ways to support intellectual health and wellness:

  1. Consistently learn new things or skills based on your interests.
  2. Join a book club or local library.
  3. Take up journaling or another self-reflective activity.
  4. Teach to learn.
  5. Help and volunteer. 

FINANCIAL

Financial well being

Financially healthy is a state of being in which you can meet current and future financial commitments, your future is secure financially and you make choices that let you enjoy your life. Financial wellness also reduces your preoccupation with money needs and improves your mental and physical well-being.

To be financially well is to live within your means and plan for the future appropriately. It is tough to accomplish, but small steps can pay off big-time in the long run.

Financial wellness might sound the least exciting. But pursuing betterment in this area will surely strengthen the other pillars of holistic health and wellness. After all, financial troubles are one of the top stressors. Taking small steps to invest in it and saving money can really lighten the burden on your everyday life.

Ways to support financial health and wellness:

  1. Pay off your debt as a priority.
  2. Make a plan for your goals.
  3. Make safe investment a priority.
  4. Create a budget and stick to it.
  5. Set aside a fixed amount for entertainment, dining out, and recreation.

Conclusion

Holistic health and wellness mean different goals to each individual. And being in good health gives each person the ability to reach their personal goals. When your body, mind, and soul are happy, you’re better able to reach your full potential. 

 The 7 Pillars to holistic health and wellness reflect on the most basic needs for humans and will help you understand if you are missing anyone of it which is causing you pain. Figure out which ones most require your attention. And remember, strengthening each one will provide you a foundation for living your life with the best the world can offer you.

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