On the importance of a holistic approach to health
Traditional medicine – and to a larger extent traditional science, too – come from a very masculine place of measuring and...
Traditional medicine – and to a larger extent traditional science, too – come from a very masculine place of measuring and testing, where the body – the medical subject – is regarded as something that can exist in perfect health, whatever the state of existence of the subject inhabiting it. What I mean by this is that traditional medicine looks at people and their health in a very narrow way, with regards for the physical aspects only, and without taking into consideration the mental, emotional, or spiritual state of a person.
From this approach, curing someone or maintaining a healthy body is purely a matter of applying scientific knowledge to the physical body. But, I hear you say, what about all the research that shows how body and mind are undeniably connected, how our emotions influence our physical state, how our mindset can have a positive or negative impact on curing disease, and so on?
Indeed, what about all that? What about Dr. Lissa Rankin’s “bold” statement that caring for your body is actually the least important part of your health?
I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Dr. Rankin last year in Portland, and I have to say that, ever since, my understanding of health and wellbeing has really expanded. I’ve come to understand that health is a global concept, with an infinite number of parts working together or against one another. Trying to stay healthy by looking after your physical body only is just addressing a part of the story, and will never allow you to be truly healthy.
According to Dr. Rankin (and many others in her field of holistic medicine and health), besides a well-functioning body, to be healthy, among other things, we need a positive and resilient mindset, more positive than negative emotions, and a sense of purpose and belonging to something which is greater than ourselves. Without this – and more – our physical bodies can suffer, and sustainable and profound health is much harder, if not impossible, to attain.
Now, I’m not a doctor, and of course I’m not making any medical claims with this post, but as a human being concerned about her health and that of others, I believe that there is more to health than just the body. That’s why, in this post, I want to address what are commonly known as five distinct, yet intertwined, aspects of holistic health: the mental, emotional, physical, environmental, and spiritual elements.
So, let’s take a slightly closer look at these five aspects, and see how they can influence our wellbeing.
- Mental wellbeing
The way you think about things, the way you look at life and at yourself, at your achievements, and at your potential, is not only essential for your growth and happiness, but it also influences your health, in every aspect, all the way down to your physical body. And that is what your mental wellbeing is all about. To become more resilient, you can work on having a positive – and growth – mindset, as we’ve explored in The Boho Loft.
- Emotional wellbeing
Your emotional wellbeing is everything that has to do with you feeling good about yourself and your life. Feeling good about themselves and their lives enables people to be part of society in a meaningful way, and to deal with all that they have to do in their everyday lives. Things that can influence your emotional wellbeing include: self-esteem and self-confidence, your relationships, your work/life balance, and even your financial security.
- Physical wellbeing
Traditionally, talking about health would be more or less all talk about the body. In this case, however, following the bold statement from Dr. Rankin above, we’ve decided to take a holistic approach to health, and to see our physical wellbeing as one of the five main aspects of our health, and not the primary one.
When we talk about physical wellbeing, the first thing that comes to mind is, of course, taking good care of your body. This is what many of us know most about, simply because this is what we traditionally have been taught by our doctors and the medical profession, in general. More and more, however, the importance of nutrition – what we put into our bodies every day – is being recognized as an essential part of not only physical, but also mental and even emotional, wellbeing.
Then there is movement, and rest. The sleep revolution, started by Arianna Huffington, who made it her mission to get the world more sleep, even claims that if you want to succeed in your life and your career or business, guess what? You need more sleep! What a beautiful example of how health is being redefined.
- Environmental wellbeing
An aspect of health that is very often undervalued is the environment that we live and work in. This environment should be peaceful, the air should be clean, and the surroundings should exist in accordance with Nature and should invite you to want to be a part of it, and to want to live there and work there.
There are two aspects to every environment we find ourselves in: an internal aspect and an external aspect. What I mean by this is that you have the spaces you live in and then you have the external environments which those spaces are built on. What you want is to have a healthy indoor environment, and a healthy outdoor one, too. If one of these two (or both) is not positive and healthy, this can be harmful to your health.
And ‘healthy’ here again must be looked at holistically, so it doesn’t mean just the air you breath, or what your walls are made of (although that’s important, too). But more important than these elements are things such as: whether your home or work environment is inviting, and safe, or whether it has enough light or is quiet enough, and etc.…
- Spiritual wellbeing
I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll surely mention it again. When you feel you’re part of something greater than yourself, you’re happier, and you feel good and grounded. Thanks to these feelings and that connection, you know you have a purpose in life, and each morning you wake up with a reason, and hopefully also with awareness of your own uniqueness as part of the bigger mystery.
Feeling spiritually connected like this is important to being healthy, and there are many ways to gain a greater spiritual awareness and connection to the divine mystery: meditation, mindfulness, stillness, creativity, and so much more. But what my spiritual mentors have really taught me in recent years” is that a spiritual practice requires discipline. You need to do the work in order to reap the benefits.
This is only an overview of the different aspects that matter for us to be healthy. In The Boho Loft, we go into much greater detail about each aspect, with an audio lecture, additional resources, reading material, and so on. As part of that, there are downloadable worksheets to help you learn more about yourself, and your health, too.
And here’s a link for you to a bonus download from the resources section of the membership site: natural remedies to lift you up – whatever mood you’re in!
Make sure to comment and let me know how you approach your health, and what you think is the most important part of being and staying healthy.