We must seek and find a balance between mind, body and spirit to bring a sense of reason to a world filled with chaos.
Life is so fast-paced these days and we all know that the stock response to asking, or being asked: “How are you?” is a quick ‘fine’, ‘not too bad’ or even ‘OK thanks’ because, let’s face it no one is really interested in knowing more. But, just because you and your body are devoid of disease or sickness, are you really enjoying optimal wellness?
How do you find balance?
To find balance, we must first become whole.
Jan Smuts first defined ‘holism’ in 1926 as ‘the whole is different to the sum of its parts’, and relates to the idea that various systems; physical, social, biological, etc. should be viewed as a whole and not on an individual basis.
Holistic health therefore, refers to treating all aspects of a person’s health, including psychological and cultural factors, rather than only their physical conditions or symptoms.
The importance of holistic health and wellbeing?
We humans managed to exist and survive long before the invention of modern-day western medicine. OK, so life expectancy was lower, mortality rates higher and let’s not even talk about hygiene, but for the most part common, every-day ailments could be cured simply and effectively.
Don’t get me wrong, western medicine is great and has enabled us to undergo surgery safely and given us many wonderful life-saving treatments. However, its one downfall is that it merely treats the symptom of the illness rather than looking at the body as a whole to see what the underlying cause may be.
Turning to holistic health, doesn’t mean turning your back on western medicine, it simply means being open to looking at different ways to approach healing, disease prevention and life itself.
Holistic health emphasises the importance of connecting mind, body and spirit as one, to support your whole body and achieve maximum well-being.
The concept also encourages you to be responsible for your own well-being and to make conscious choices when it comes to anything that can affect your health, e.g., stopping smoking, limiting your alcohol intake, exercising more regularly.
But how can we approach a truly holistic approach to our well-being?
What choices can we make to help us experience wellness on a deeper level that will allow us a more joyful and healthier way of living?
The 5 Pillars Of Holistic Health
There are five main areas in holistic health; physical, emotional, social, spiritual and mental. A balance of these five elements creates a balance within your body, giving it the strength to assist in healing itself.
When these five elements are strong and connected, we are more able to flourish and grow as a person and live each day in the healthiest, happiest way possible.
When you think about health, you instinctively think about your physical body.
When you think about physical, you instinctively think about exercise. (Anyone else hate the gym?)
However, your physical wellbeing is about having a healthy, balanced functioning body and is mainly a combination of exercise, diet and sleep:
- Try and sleep for eight hours a night so your body can truly rest
- Try and eat healthily; plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, limit, or preferably avoid processed foods; crisps, chocolate, biscuits … all the good stuff
- Try and exercise for 30 minutes every day. You don’t have to pump iron down at the gym, simply find a form of exercise that you like. Even a brisk walk is better than nothing
- Don’t smoke and limit alcohol consumption
Emotional wellness relates to your self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth along with your ability to navigate your feelings. It’s not to be confused with mental wellness but does overlap with it.
Can you, and do you accept, own and express your emotional needs and feelings when required? Or do you, like some people bottle them up, supress them and end up feeling worthless?
Life is a rollercoaster and if you are aware of your emotional wellbeing then the smoother the ride will be, otherwise you’d better hang on.
So, how do you take back control of your emotional wellness?
- Try and maintain a positive attitude, even though it may seem tough at times
- Find a stress reliever – be it whacking a tennis ball across the court, swimming or even just using one of those squeezy stress balls – and learn to manage your time
- Do you have someone you can talk to? When you’re feeling emotional, why not seek out your best friend and have a chat. In my experience, there is nothing that can’t be solved over tea and carrot cake
- Why not try journaling? If you don’t feel comfortable talking, writing it down is a brilliant way to take the weight off your shoulders. Don’t forget to write down successes as well as problems
Social wellbeing is generally linked to any social aspect of your life that supports your greater wellbeing, such as family, friends, lifestyle, groups you are part of, your culture, religion, etc. In other words, our connection with others can help us feel included and give us that sense of belonging, which in turn, supports the other four pillars of holistic health
Building and maintaining networks takes time, but it’s important to build a support network around you, so that when life gets tough you have people who care about you and that you can turn to for support and understanding.
Research has shown that people who spend time with others have a greater level of happiness.
But, family aside, how do go about building a support network?
- Get involved in the local community
- For many women, our first foray into the local community is generally through the NCT or our children’s schools
- Other outlets include church, local clubs and societies or voluntary organisations
- Don’t be afraid of setting boundaries. Some people are social vampires and suck the life out of you, some bring a toxic energy to the party. These people you simply need to cut loose, or they will negatively impact your health
- Facebook may be great for keeping in touch with friends and family around the world, but why not schedule time to call them, or go ‘old school’ and write a hand-written letter. This can help strengthen the bonds that bind, more than you can imagine
This is not about following a specific religion or belief system, rather it’s about personalising your journey. It is your ability to experience meaning and purpose in your life by connecting with your inner soul and the world around you.
It is the source of your inner strength, inspiration and motivation
As such, it is the most personal of the pillars and will be different for everyone, depending on how you define it. Being able to access and connect to a more ‘spiritual’ way of being can help lower anxiety, stress and depression levels and cultivate more positivity and gratitude.
You can support your spiritual wellness through:
- ‘Me time’, which is prescribed to be taken on a daily basis. Use this time to simply relax or discover/rediscover a hobby or interest. Just make sure you have no distractions
- Take time to reflect on your values. By keeping them in your mind, you will find it easier to ‘yes’ to things that matter and ‘no’ to things that don’t
- Journaling also helps with your spiritual wellness. For this particular pillar, practice gratitude along with writing down and reflecting on your goals
- If you are religious, take some time to practice your faith
A healthy mindset helps us battle life’s stresses and challenges
These days mental health awareness is very much at the forefront of everything. Unlike emotional wellness which refers to our moods and emotions, mental wellness refers to our general mental capability that affects how our brain functions.
We all have mental health, just like we all have physical health. And sometimes, just like with our physical health we need to give our mental health a workout.
Good mental health helps us maintain boundaries and good communication in our relationships as well as helping us make good choices, have more confidence and recognise our value and potential.
Learning to live in the present is one of the most useful ways we can help improve our mental health, instead of beating ourselves up about the past or worrying about the future.
Other ways we can help improve our mental health include:
- Keep your brain active and learn something new. Learning opportunities and problem solving not only help challenge your brain, but they give you a sense of achievement and improve your confidence
- Do something for someone else. By helping other, you also help yourself. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, a simple smile or a ‘thank you’ can be enough. But by being kind and valued for what you do can help improve your self-esteem
- Don’t be afraid to seek help and guidance if you feel the need. Gone are the days of not speaking out and being ashamed of seeking help. Take control and get the help you need, if necessary.
We are all uniquely individual and there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to striving for optimal health. The pillars merely act as a guidance and if one area is lacking then other areas could be compromised as well.
Only you know what wellness means to you. The common thread for all of us is that it requires a holistic approach.
Now I’d love to hear from you.
What does wellness mean to you?
Are there any areas of your life that could be improved?
Drop us a comment below!