There’s a lot of dialogue (and no shortage of advice!) surrounding holistic health these days. What seemingly started out as a buzzword that translated to “take care of yourself” has now swept across nations (and newsfeeds) to influence countless people.
So what’s all the ruckus about anyway?
What is holistic health?
Holistic health combines conventional and alternative health practices to focus on the wellbeing of the whole person–body, mind, and spirit. In addition to physical and medical treatments, holistic health goes beyond what you can tangibly see and test to encompass mental, spiritual, emotional, and psychological factors. Its practices recognize the human body as one interconnected system and view ailments as imbalances or symptoms of deeper problems.
Holistic health providers educate patients and promote self-awareness in order to fix problems at their root rather than to simply alleviate symptoms. If a patient comes to a holistic healthcare practitioner with a headache, the practitioner may suggest a conventional pain reliever if necessary. However, he or she will likely also inquire about other elements of the patient’s health: diet, exercise, work, sleeping habits, other health issues, etc. It’s not uncommon for a holistic health practitioner to discuss emotional and spiritual aspects of the patient’s life as well.
What it ain’t:
Myth #1: Holistic health practices oppose conventional health practices.
Conventional medical practice treats the body and ignores and the mind and spirit. Conventional mental health practice treats the mind and ignores the body. Holistic health recognizes the interconnectedness of the body and defines health through physical, mental, and spiritual well-being – aiming to improve all aspects. Its philosophy is that of a complete approach, whereas the aforementioned practices are incomplete in their fragmented focus on only one aspect of the whole person. This is not to say that holistic health states that conventional practices are wrong; rather it recognizes an incompleteness in conventional health practices and aims for more comprehensive approach.
When a patient experiences an ailment, holistic health practitioners will look for underlying causes of symptoms rather than simply masking them with pharmaceuticals. Practitioners might also offer organic and alternative remedies. However, practitioners do also recognize the value of conventional approaches and promote the use of pharmaceuticals or surgery if/when absolutely necessary.
Myth #2: Holistic health is for hippies.
Holistic health works toward bettering every aspect of one’s life–something that anyone and everyone can and should work towards. Its practices aim to empower patients by raising their awareness of their body’s interconnectedness and natural processes. If you define people who take care of themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as “hippies,” that’s fine I suppose (not really).
Let’s not limit self-care and awareness to the 1960s. We could all use a little more “peace and love” anyway, right?
Myth #3: Anyone can learn holistic health. Why pay a hippie doctor?
To some degree, anyone interested in learning more about themselves can learn how to better their health. With self-awareness comes body-awareness, mind-awareness, awareness of emotional habits, and potentially spiritual practice(s).
However, self-awareness isn’t the equivalent of the knowledge gained through an official Holistic Health Practitioner Training Program. These 600-900+ hour programs encompass anatomy and physiology, acupuncture & Chinese medicine, homeopathy, nutrition, herbal medicine, reflexology, kinesiology, clinical practice, aromatherapy, and more. Oh, and if you are a believer of Myth #1: these “hippie doctor” programs are designed to work synergistically with conventional medicine – not in opposition to it.
**Note: while these training programs clearly go beyond self-awareness, it’s always important to do your research when choosing a healthcare professional – holistic or conventional.
Myth #4: Holistic health is a scam to get people to pay more for organic products and treatments.
Holistic health definitely emphasizes using natural products and services to promote a clean lifestyle and to increase patients’ awareness of their body’s natural processes. As noted in Myth #3, this kind of healthcare uses these alternative practices to explore different aspects of the body, mind, and spirit.
Holistic health isn’t a sales product–its benefits can’t be found inside a pill capsule. However, just as conventional doctors have the power to prescribe unnecessary pharmaceuticals, holistic healthcare practitioners have the ability to recommend unnecessary treatments, products, etc.
Ultimately, your wellbeing is your responsibility. Do your research on practitioners, products, and practices. It may be said to work, but does it work for you?
What does holistic health look like in practice?
Holistic health emphasizes the health of the body, mind, and spirit. A holistic lifestyle, then, is a pattern of thoughts and activities that benefit the whole person in each of these aspects and in balancing all of these aspects.
Holistic lifestyle changes might include:
- Eating more raw or local food
- Exercising regularly and in a variety of forms
- Shooting for 6-8 hours of sleep per night
- Seeking personal counseling
- De-cluttering your living space (both a cause and symptom of stress)
- Shifting to chemical-free beauty products
- Doing what you feel will benefit or balance any/all aspects of your health.
Holistic healthcare treats the mind, body, and spirit to re-establish balance and serve each person as a whole.
Practicing a holistic lifestyle doesn’t require a full-on body and lifestyle cleanse. The purpose of this approach is to empower people to be aware of the connections between each aspect of themselves. When making lifestyle changes, assess for yourself what feels imbalanced in your current state of being and begin there.
As with anything, these changes take time. It’s called holistic health “practice” for a reason. Be mindful of your choices and patient with yourself.
Leave a comment!
- How do you define and practice holistic health?
- What questions do you have or myths have you heard?
- What can you do today to create more balance in each aspect of your health?