I’d like to think I’m a pretty practical person.
I question everything. I don’t follow along easily. I like to do my research and make sure I research both sides of an argument before I make my point.
That being said, I also believe that to truly understand how something works, it helps to test it out yourself. No matter how much reading you do, you’ll never know what a massage feels like until you receive one. You will never know what it’s like to work with a physical therapist until you work with one who suits your needs.
That’s what we’re here to talk about today: Your needs and how they can be met.
What is Holistic Health?
Holistic Health (or Healing) is a form of healing that looks at the whole person, rather than just looking at a person from a reductionist point of view.
Let’s say, for example, you go to a physical therapist because of some knee pain. They could simply address the knee since you haven’t told them about anything else in your body that could have caused it, or how it could have happened, or your history with said knee pain. This is usually what a family physician will do. They will refer you to someone else because really, there isn’t much they can do just by looking at your knee.
A well-trained physical therapist will know to look above and below the knee. They will know to ask what you were doing when the knee pain came on, how long you’ve felt the pain, the severity of the pain, whether you feel it at different angles, and much, much more.
Holistic Healing involves multiple complementary medicines and “alternative” healthcare practices that often overlap in modern-day western medicine, and go beyond simply looking at symptoms in order to support you physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and mentally.
Without getting into too many examples, it’s important to note that Holistic Health paints the patient as a person rather than their disease. It means fostering a team approach to healing rather than putting all your money on one person to have all the answers.
Why we need Holistic Health
We’re living longer lives now than we ever were. With that said, we also experience different levels of stress, fatigue, and are consuming nutrient-depleted foods from poor soil. On top of that, we are exposed to tons of chemicals in the products we use on our bodies, on our clothes, to clean the house, as well as pollution in the air. Holistic healing also means addressing the cause of the problem or condition rather than simply alleviating or treating the symptoms.
I used to work at a small independent gym with a group of my friends. We all had very different training styles but all understood the importance of each and every one of our skills. We developed relationships with other healthcare practitioners like massage therapists, acupuncturists, physical therapists, yoga instructors, chiropractors, nutritionists, and naturopaths.
The important thing to note here is that none of us thought we could do it all. I can’t give my client everything they need, but I can easily refer them out to someone I trust and visit for my own needs!
I’ve mentioned just 5 aspects of Holistic Health below, but there are many more, so don’t be afraid to do some research and find what resonates with you!
Your physical body is typically the first thing you’ll notice, especially if something is wrong or hurting. You may find this one easier to track, as it is something you can feel or see more easily than the other aspects of Holistic Health.
You can support your physical well-being by sleeping 7-9 hours a night, being active at least 30 minutes a day, limiting your intake of processed foods, and eliminating smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
This one is a struggle for me, but a few days/nights of not getting quality sleep and eating poorly will affect me negatively and makes going to work quite difficult for me. Reminding myself that these short-term “fun” gains are not worth the long-term pain I’ll feel in the next few days is enough to reel me in sometimes. Other times, I just deal with the consequences and set up a plan so I can get back on track!
I’m not sure about the Baby Boomer generation, but as a Millenial (oldest of the Millenials, not the young hip kind), I have put a lot of emphasis on Self-Care and making sure I am mentally and emotionally taking care of myself and those closest to me. I notice it everywhere around me, and I know I’m not alone in this.
I know how my emotional well-being can affect my physical health. For example, when I’m depressed, getting in the mood to work out is much more difficult, and I notice my mood takes much longer to improve when I’m not physically active.
Emotional health refers to our daily moods and emotions. These emotions can affect your health positively by making you feel more determined or fulfilled. They can also affect you negatively, especially if left unaddressed, by making you less motivated or feel withdrawn from the usual things or people you enjoy.
In order to improve your emotional well-being, you may consider talking to a therapist or social worker. This is a great way to process emotions verbally. Another way to do this on your own would be to keep a journal where you can record your thoughts (negative and positive), feelings, and highlight the things for which you’re grateful. These are all things you can go back and look over in the future to remind yourself how far you’ve come.
This aspect of Holistic Health is a tough one, especially coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many of us were in lockdown, forced to wear masks, and unable to see family or friends, face-to-face interaction was fairly minimal.
Those of us who foster a strong connection with family, friends, and our community are often the most fulfilled. This has been tough in 2020 and the beginning of 2021, but as the community begins to open up, little things like supporting a family-owned restaurant or coffee shop make a huge impact.
If you are not able to travel to see friends, perhaps finding ways to connect close to home will work better for you in the meantime. Try seeking out more in-person connections or get involved by volunteering at an organization you care for. I like to spend time helping out at a shelter close to my condo. I also visit some of the homeless folks in encampments in the city to ask them what they need.
Being social should not be limited to friends and family. Get out there and see who needs your assistance or who may need a friend. You never know what kind of connections you’ll create!
Because I’m not very religious, I knew I wasn’t going to be as receptive to the spiritual aspect of holistic health. Just because you aren’t religious, does not mean you can’t get in touch with your more spiritual side!
I’m not saying you need to bring out your Incense, Tarot Cards, or stones and gems, but you can totally do that if that’s what you resonate with! But you could also consider praying more or practicing your faith.
I have been trying to meditate for a little bit each day. For me, that means going on long walks with no distractions, sitting in silence for 10-15 minutes, or spending time in nature and away from the city sounds. Sometimes I’ll listen to a Joe Dispenza guided meditation and light incense or sage. This aspect of holistic health is constantly changing for me.
Hiking is my #Church.
This aspect tends to overlap with our emotional and physical health. The difference here is that our Mental health refers more to our cognitive abilities and brain functions.
Ever heard of: “If you don’t use it, you lose it”? Obviously, you won’t lose your brain, but you do risk certain parts of your brain shrinking if you do not activate them. Imagine being able to prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia?! You can with the help of a variety of brain exercises!
- Learn something new, like a language or trying a new sport.
- Play an instrument and learn how to read the notes on a page.
- Read a book or a blog article (like this one)
- “For example, our temporal lobe allows us to recognize words and sounds, while our frontal lobe is responsible for reading fluency and comprehension.” – Danni Peck
- Brainer Teasers (a crossword puzzle or a Rubiks cube)
- Stay social (through Zoom calls, telephone, or in-person)
It’s also a good idea to feed yourself brain-healthy foods, like Omega-3s (Fish oils or Chia seeds) or Antioxidants (berries, artichokes, dark chocolate, and pecans). These nutrient-dense foods can improve your memory, mood, and boost your concentration, as well!
Although I love the idea of Holistic health, I do want to emphasize that I do not think that this should replace traditional medical care.
If you are in need of medication for a condition, illness, pain, etc, don’t be afraid to see your family physician first and then accompany your healing with some Holistic additions.
Many of these options are not affordable or accessible to those in need, so it’s important to advocate for more affordable or free Holistic Health options. In Canada, we’re pretty lucky to have our healthcare covered (for the most part), but many companies will also offer health benefits that can be used toward many Holistic options, such as:
- Sensory Deprivation Tank (Epsom salt float!)
- Yoga classes
Whatever it is, make sure to find something that works for you. If that is a prescribed medicine from your doctor, be sure to take it as recommended. Ask your doctor if you can supplement on the side with things like acupuncture or massage. Some of the Holistic Health options are completely stackable and will not interfere with your medication, but you want to make sure you aren’t hindering the effects of your doctor’s orders, either.
Have you tried any of these Holistic Healing practices? Is there someone that you go to that you would like to give a shoutout to? Perhaps you’ve been practicing something for a while and didn’t realize it was holistic, such as prayer, or exercise.
Anything that heals you physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and mentally is a form of Holistic Medicine, and I think there is something truly empowering about that! Share below how you seize your own health and are able to heal yourself and those closest to you.