One of my favorite quotes from the scholar Hippocrates is: “It’s far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.” I really appreciate this quote because it acknowledges something that I believe in, that each unique individual should be treated as such when their health is being evaluated. Whether that is from a medical professional, a qualified herbalist or aromatherapist, or even when you are booking your regular massage appointment. Each and every person has a uniqueness to them and their situations. When that is taken into account, this can start a holistic approach to their wellness journey.
So what does a holistic approach to wellness involve?
When I think of holistic health, I don’t think of just one thing. I think of it as a giant puzzle that needs to be put together so we can get a better picture of the person as an individual. This can involve looking at several different factors of their life such as physical health, their mental and emotional health, and also looking at their spiritual health.
The level of physical activity that someone participates in regularly is an essential piece of holistic health. It is stated by the Centers for Disease Control that only 21% of Americans are actually meeting the standards of physical activity levels. This statistic equates to only one out of every five people. On top of that, only three out of every ten high school students are getting a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Quite scary isn’t it? Naturopathic doctors Michael Murray N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno N.D. believe that physical activity improves our body's systems and functions by improving our musculoskeletal system. This includes strengthening the muscles, enhancing our range of motion, improving the flexibility of our joints, and helps our bones to become stronger. Some of my favorite ways to incorporate more physical activity are by practicing yoga, going for a walk around the block, and even just running around in the backyard with my dog.
Mental & Emotional Health
One of the most essential factors in holistic health approaches is our mental and emotional health. It has been shown that social isolation, loneliness, and exclusion are lifestyle factors that are directly linked to our physical health, especially in the geriatric communities. This can make it difficult for people to seek out appropriate education or knowledge on how to better improve themselves. Many communities now have specific programs aimed towards the senior citizen population to help address these difficulties. Mental and emotional health is also important because it has a direct effect on our immune system. When we experience a range of negative emotions such as fear or anger, our brain is stimulated to release certain hormones from the endocrine system.
When this happens, our immune system functions decrease which can make us more susceptible to illness and disease. Practicing stress-reducing techniques and incorporating them into our daily routine can be beneficial in supporting our immune system. Some simple ways to do this can include conscious breathing, practicing yoga, meditating, and focusing on self-care. My personal favorite way is to log off of social media for a while and just focus on being fully present in the moment with what I am doing, whether it’s reading a book or playing a board game with my family.
You may think I'm about to go into a discussion about religion, but I'm actually not. When I speak about spiritual health, it follows more of the idea of longing to find a purpose in our lives or to seek out community or fellowship with others and to have a sense of belonging. The University of California actually has a beautiful definition for what spiritual health means, “…a personal matter involving values and beliefs that provide a purpose in our lives… it is generally considered to be the search for meaning and purpose in human existence.” What makes you happy? Like, genuinely happy? Do more of that! Acts of kindness, charity, or even exploring various paths of spirituality. In the end, we all just want to belong to something more and understand what our purpose is. One of my favorite books, Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss, says “This intuitive sense of connection is moving us as a planet toward a holistic understanding of health and disease, of the environment and its biodiversity, and of social priorities for service and charity.” By finding a spiritual connection, whatever that may look like for you, it can bring a sense of kinship to individuals and can help support or guide them through all of life’s crazy ups and downs. We can have support from fellow peers in finding a more positive outlook of the situation and having hope and trust in the outcomes.
Like our friend Hippocrates says, “If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then is it possible to help him.” Taking a holistic approach to our health may seem overwhelming and a lot of work, but it has so many benefits and is entirely worth the journey. So what are you waiting for, are you ready to do away with what is holding you back from being the best version of yourself possible?
About Natalie Rogers, HHP
Natalie is an alumnus of the American College of Healthcare Sciences and graduated in 2018 as a holistic health practitioner focusing in herbalism. She is the owner of Sacred Perennial, LLC and offers consultations to clients with a focus on stress relief and pain management using a holistic approach to wellness. Natalie has a gift with empathy and understanding with her clients by providing them a safe space to speak about their health concerns.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, September 12). Facts about Physical Activity | Physical Activity | CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/data/facts.htm
- Murray, M. T., & Pizzorno, J. (2012). The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Atria Paperback.
- Science Direct. (2017, November 8). The relationship between physical and mental health: A mediation analysis. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953617306639
- Grave's Disease Foundation. (1992). The mind-body connection: how your attitude affects your health. Retrieved from https://www.gdatf.org/site_media/uploads/bulletins/bulletin33.pdf
- Myss, PH.D., C. (1996). The seventh chakra: Our spiritual connector. In Anatomy of the spirit (pp. 265-284). New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
Image credits: Pathway by simonwhitebeard / Pixabay, Woman Running by skeeze / Pixabay, Women Relaxing by silviarita / Pixabay, Woman Meditating by dimitrisvetsikas / Pixabay.