We live in difficult times. There are more pollutants in our food and environment than at any time in history. Lifestyle diseases are soaring, physical fitness levels are nose-diving and anxiety/ stress are gnawing at the very roots of society. But there is a silver lining. Holistic Health, which is an approach to life that considers the whole person and their interaction with the environment, is gaining in importance.
Holistic Health emphasizes the inter-connectedness of mind, body and spirit. Gestalt summed this up beautifully in saying, “the whole is more than the sum of its parts,” and Hippocrates insisted that the human body can heal itself without medical intervention. On the other hand, conventional medicine focuses on the illness and neglects the whole person as it is easier to treat a symptom such as cough rather than delve into underlying causes.
Why Holistic Health?
Everything is interconnected in some way. When something goes wrong in one part of the body, it has a cascading effect elsewhere. For example, stress can trigger a flare-up in rheumatism, which in turn can render a person temporarily bedridden and prone to depression. Since the mind-body connection is strong and thinking has a bearing on our feelings and lives, the holistic approach is the way to go. A holistic health practitioner is concerned with all parts of the human body and as an adjunct, a holistic dentist not only dwells on the tooth and gums, but on the person attached to the teeth and gums.
Evolution of Holistic Health
Ancient healing traditions in India and China, dating back 5,000 years gave prominence to a healthy way of life that was blended with nature. Socrates warned against favoring a part of the body to the exclusion of the whole. The term holism was, however, introduced by Jan Christiaan Smuts only in 1926 to refer to living things as entities greater than and different from the sum of their parts and it gained currency only in the 1970s. Holistic ideas fell out of favor during the 20th century as medical advances led people to believe in the marvel of modern medicine and the ability of synthesized drugs to conquer disease-causing micro-organisms and other microscopic invaders.
However, the honeymoon period vis-à-vis modern medicine was short-lived. It was soon discovered that the remedy could be more disastrous than the disease itself and many chronic conditions do not respond to medical treatments. This forced many to return to holistic healing as holistic principles offer practical means to vitality and well-being.
The Basic Principles of Holistic Health
Holistic Health is based on the law of nature that the whole is a function of the constituent parts. Just as the earth is constituted of air, land and life systems that are dependent on one another, an individual is a whole made up of inter-dependent physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions that work at their best only in relation to each other. Moreover, this entire person constantly interacts with the environment. For example, individuals who suppress anger can develop serious illnesses such as migraine headaches over a period of time.
Holistic Health is not merely the absence of sickness, but a continuum along a line. The line represents all possible health variations, with the far left end representing premature death, the far right end indicating maximum wellness and the center-point demonstrating an absence of disease.
Holistic Health is based on the premise that we own responsibility for our health and personal responsibility is the starting point to self-healing. Each person holds a unique set of beliefs, values and attitudes and there is no place for a one-size-fits-all treatment strategy.
Holistic Health is an ongoing process that demands a personal commitment to move towards the right end of the wellness continuum by creating a personal well-being plan.
Path to Holistic Health
Holistic health is an achievable reality for those who are willing to adopt a multi-dimensional and integrated approach to personal well-being.
Getting out of the stuffy home and gym to do yoga in the bosom of nature, is just what the doctor ordered. The yogic experience can be further nourished with positive affirmations and guided meditation.
It is a good habit to start the day on a positive note. An exercise in awareness and calmness at the start of the day’s proceedings can place an individual in a positive frame of mind to deal with the trials and tribulations that are bound to come one’s way during the day.
Saying ‘No’ to Negativity
Our modern society is infamous for negative influences in the form of food, environment and people. The only way to lower stress and enhance health is to act to lessen and eventually eliminate the toxicity in our lives.
Thoughts make a person. By the same logic, our thought patterns could pose the toughest obstacles to a healthy journey. Affirmations are positive thoughts that are meant to inspire a person to achieve a goal and create the necessary mindset.
Food is essential to good health. One should drink half the body weight in ounces of water each day, drink between meals and consume all fluids 2 hours before bedtime. It is also advisable to avoid hydrogenated oils, and make use of coconut oil and leftover fat from pasture-raised meats for sautéing purposes.
A holistic approach to health goes beyond the problem at hand to fix it and prevent a recurrence in the future. The definition of health and wellness has evolved from simply a lack of illness and disease to a more holistic state of being that integrates the mental, physical and emotional aspects. Jack Ma, Chairman and Founder of Alibaba, summed up this growing trend in a ’17 summit by pointing out that the customers of today want to be healthy and happy, and owning the most expensive goods has taken a back seat.
|This article was contributed by fellow NYU students. If you would like to make a contribution to the NYU Dispatch, please email us.|