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A Guide to Holistic Health: Part One

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We’ve all heard of holistic health in one way or the other. Whether through natural medicines, essential oils, ancient medicines or meditation; the rising popularity for natural alternatives for modern problems has caught a lot of people’s attention.

But what actually is holistic health? Over several posts, we’re going to take a close look into holistic health, from the areas of your life it can help, to how to integrate it into your lifestyle. Starting with, of course, what on earth holistic health means and where it comes from.

What is holistic health?

Holistic health, put very simply, takes into consideration the whole person, mind and spirit as well as body.

The word holistic comes from the Greek ‘holos’, meaning whole, and refers to treating the whole person, with an account for social and material factors, rather than just treating the symptoms. In philosophy, holistic refers to the ‘belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole’. This means that when we consider something, such as health, we consider the entirety of it as a system, not just the individual parts.

Holistic health is an approach to healing, rather than a specific style of healing. And it can include both modern and traditional approaches. You can drink lemon and honey for a sore throat, for example, but you need antibiotics for infections. That being said, we do often associate it with Chinese medicine, because the Chinese approach to healing serves as a pretty good model for the holistic approach. It considers the person’s health and their context, understanding the natural environment, lifestyle, relationships, work, play and diet. Everything is a balance between mind and body and spirit, and when we are ill, is it the lack of balance and so taking care of our individual lifestyle is crucial for good health.

Within holistic health, we include practices such as:
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Massage
  • Herbalism
  • Chiropractic
  • Nutrition
  • Therapy

As well as general western medicine, personal training and physical therapy.

What are the five areas of holistic health?

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Social
  • Spiritual

When we address all five of these areas we can live our healthiest lives, relying on the balance to keep us in good form. When one falls, another might too. For instance, we’ve taken a look at the relationship between mental and physical health before – and how suffering from a mental illness such as depression can have physical affects on our body, such as fatigue or changing eating habits. As such, we engage all five areas in holistic health to keep ourselves well.

We’ll go into each one of these areas individually, with a look into how to best make the most of them in our lifestyles.

History of holistic health

Whilst its resurgence has a modern feel to it, the holistic approach is an old one. As with many things, we can trace it back to the Ancient World. As well as the Chinese method mention before, we can also follow holistic methods back to the Ancient Greece, with Socrates and Hippocrates, the father of medicine who believed in the healing power of nature.

the part can never be well unless the whole is well” – Socrates

Similarly, we can trace herbalism through almost every society on earth, as the most simplistic and oldest form of health care. Think of all the stories of hedgerow witches or witch doctors using the natural, traditional approaches we’ve heard of. Furthermore, Ayurveda is the Indian practice that incorporates the five elements of the universe, the seven elements of the body and the three biological elements ‘doshas’ that they represent. Find out more about Ayurveda here.

Holistic Health vs modern medicine

Holistic health is not a direct alternative to modern medicines, rather an approach that can be incorporated with it. There are times when we need modern medicine, times when traditional could work, but we should always be taking care of our emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing as well. Holistic health is the combinations, the balance, of all of these, with the understanding that when all are balanced, we are at our healthiest.

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