Holistic health, often confused with alternative medicine, is a way of life rather than a set of treatments and therapies to heal specific ailments and issues. The approach is centered around the person as a whole and their interaction with their environment.
Holism is the theory that part of the whole cannot be understood or even exist independently without reference to the whole itself. Essentially the whole is great than the sum of its parts. This can be applied to many disciplines and has been used in understanding human wellness for centuries. Principles of holism were practiced by Hippocrates in ancient Greece, early Islamic age approaches to health focused on combining spiritual health with biological medicine, both traditional Ayurveda and Chinese medicines emphasize the importance of a whole.
Today there are five key components to holistic wellness that when treated individually come together for holistic wellness on a deeper level allowing for more healthy and joyful way of living. These are physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual health.
This is what most people think of when it comes to health. It’s important because issues with physical health, unlike the other components, are normally accurately measured and tracked meaning problems can be addressed directly through specialists. Physical exercise, sleep and nutrition all play a part in the quality of physical health.
Traditionally emotional health has always been overlooked in favor of physical health. In today’s world however, with the increasing significance of mental health, the ability to engage in emotional self-regulation is considered vital. Often our emotional state can often affect our physical health and the health of those around us. Emotional self-regulation allows us to recognize, identify and define our emotions and their triggers. Common ways you can support your emotional health is to seek out therapy, practice mindfulness, meditation, stress reduction habits and by using a journal to understand your thoughts & feelings.
Intellectual health refers to our cognitive abilities and how our brains function. This varies greatly from person to person and depends on interest, what may be intellectual stimulation for one individual may bore another. The focus is on being regularly engaged on a cognitive level, this doesn’t necessarily have to come from a book or lecture as you may think. Learning a new skill, engaging in an immersive conversation with someone different, watching a documentary and visiting a new place are all conducive to good intellectual health.
This refers to the state of one’s personal social network. Deep connections with family, friends and community have often shown to be key to one’s happiness. A strong social network gives us a sense of belonging and we as humans are social beings, looking to engage in positive social interactions. Toxic relationships have been shown to harmfully effect both physical and emotional health. You can improve your social health by making time for the people you connect with, get involved with local community and not being afraid to walk away negative relationships.
This is the most difficult to define and varies the most. For one person this could mean their connection with god and prayer, to another it may be a weekly visit with a spiritual medium, to someone else it could be regular practice of yoga and meditation. Spiritual health should focus on how you connect with your inner soul and the world around you.