There are many things we can do to protect and improve our mental, physical, and emotional health. We can begin by recognizing that our thoughts and emotions exert a powerful influence on our overall health and well-being.
Holistic health looks at the person as a whole: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It recognizes that if one part of the whole is out of balance, it can negatively affect health in other areas. It also emphasizes things people can do proactively to promote health and well-being, rather than waiting for illness to strike.
Research has shown certain holistic practices can help relieve stress and boost the immune system.
The idea that health is holistic predates modern Western medicine and has been around for thousands of years. And it makes great sense now, when many people are spending more time at home and are looking for things they can do to stay healthy and maintain a positive outlook.
More than one-third of Americans use some form of complementary and alternative medicine, according a 2004 government survey. That percentage is likely higher today as more people look for ways they can take charge of their own health.
Holistic health does not reject traditional Western approaches to medicine, such as psychiatric therapy and pharmaceuticals, but acknowledges that simply treating illness is not enough. Holistic health offers valuable options that can help some people achieve better mental balance, either in addition to or independent of other methods. We believe that this mental balance contributes to the overall health of mind and body.
Holistic practitioners embrace the intrinsic connection between mind and body. When it comes to mental wellbeing, a holistic approach will usually take into account not only medical and psychiatric issues, but spiritual and emotional ones as well.
For example, a holistic approach to achieving mental balance might include training your thoughts to reshape situations toward a more positive or productive view. You might simply choose to try and block the negativity of others, or focus on finding the silver lining in a difficult experience.
Another example would be making shifts in your daily routines that help you improve your mental state. Examples of holistic health practices you can easily practice at home:
- A daily walk outside might significantly boost your mood and help you cope with stress.
- Cutting back on junk food might make you feel more energetic physically, which could leave you feeling more positive mentally.
- Practicing mindfulness and meditation may help you relieve stress, maintain a state of calm and equanimity, and avoid a downward spiral of frustration and sadness in the face of difficult situations.
- Breath work may improve the way you respond to difficult circumstances. When you’re upset or stressed out, do you ever find yourself holding your breath or breathing shallow? Doing this can prevent sufficient oxygen from reaching your brain, and may affect the way you function and think. Try practicing purposeful, deep breaths, especially during stressful or anxious moments. Don’t stop at one or two deep breaths — make it 5 or 10. Inhale slowly over 5 seconds or so, then hold it for 5 seconds, and release it for 5 seconds.
- Energy healing methods such as The Emotion Code, done on yourself or with a certified practitioner, can help you release trapped emotional energy that could be affecting you both mentally and physically. For instance, unrecognized and unresolved feelings of anger can make a person more prone to fly off the handle, while Trapped Emotions of sadness, disappointment, frustration, embarrassment, or guilt can make people more prone to these feelings years after the events that precipitated them. Releasing them in a few simple steps could play a key role in achieving the mental balance.
- Aromatherapy may be beneficial. A lot of people swear by certain scents from essential oils or other natural sources for boosting mental wellness. Of particular interest are orange, rose, ylang ylang, bergamot, lavender, and chamomile. Appropriate use of these scents in a diffuser may help you feel more calm or mentally clear.
There are many other holistic health tools that may help boost your health and well-being. Mindfulness, yoga, nutrition, religious beliefs, and other practices can be used in conjunction with western medicine, therapy, energy healing, and more. Consult a health care provider when necessary, and consider holistic health as your ally in determining what works best for you.
By Dr. Bradley Nelson