Holistic health combines conventional and alternative health practices to focus on the well being of the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. In addition to physical and medical treatments, holistic health goes beyond what you can tangibly see and test to encompass mental, spiritual, emotional, and psychological factors. Its practices recognize the human body as one interconnected system and view ailments as imbalances or symptoms of deeper problems.
Holistic health providers educate patients and promote self-awareness in order to fix the problem at its root rather than to simply alleviate symptoms. If a patient comes to a holistic healthcare practitioner with a headache, the practitioner may suggest a conventional pain reliever if necessary. However, he or she will likely also inquire about other elements of the patient’s health: diet, exercise regime, sleeping habits, and other health issues. It’s not uncommon for a holistic health practitioner to discuss emotional and spiritual aspects of the patient’s life as well.
Myths of Holistic Health
#1. Holistic health practices oppose conventional health practices.
Conventional medical practice treats the body and ignores and the mind and spirit. Conventional mental health practice treats the mind and ignores the body. Holistic health recognizes the interconnectedness of the body and defines health through physical, mental, and spiritual well-being – aiming to improve all aspects. Its philosophy is that of a complete approach, whereas the aforementioned practices are incomplete in their fragmented focus on only one aspect of the whole person. This is not to say that holistic health states that conventional practices are wrong; rather it recognizes an incompleteness in conventional health practices and aims for more comprehensive approach.
When a patient experiences an ailment, holistic health practitioners will look for underlying causes of symptoms rather than simply masking them with pharmaceuticals. Practitioners might also offer organic and alternative remedies. However, practitioners do also recognize the value of conventional approaches and promote the use of pharmaceuticals or surgery if/when absolutely necessary.
#2. Holistic health is for hippies.
Holistic health works toward bettering every aspect of one’s life – something that anyone and everyone can and should work towards. Its practices aim to empower patients by raising their awareness of their body’s interconnectedness and natural processes. If your definition of a person who takes care of him- or herself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is “hippie,” that’s fine. However, it’s 2015. Let’s not limit self-care and awareness to the 1960s. We could all use a little more “peace and love” anyway, right?
#3. Anyone can learn holistic health – why pay a hippie doctor?
To some degree, anyone interested in learning more about themselves can learn how to better their health. With self-awareness comes body-awareness, mind-awareness, awareness of emotional habits, and potentially spiritual practice(s). However, self-awareness does not necessarily equate to the knowledge gained through an official Holistic Health Practitioner Training Program. These 600-900+ hour programs encompass anatomy and physiology, acupuncture & Chinese medicine, homeopathy, nutrition, herbal medicine, reflexology, kinesiology, clinical practice, aromatherapy, and more. Oh, and if you are a believer of Myth #1: these “hippie doctor” programs are designed to work synergistically with conventional medicine – not in opposition to it.
**Note: while these training programs clearly go beyond self-awareness, it’s always important to do your research when choosing a healthcare professional – holistic or conventional.
#4. Holistic health is a scam to get people to pay more money for organic products and treatments.
Holistic health definitely emphasizes using natural products and services to promote a clean lifestyle and to increase patients’ awareness of their body’s natural processes. As noted in Myth #3, holistic healthcare uses these alternative practices to explore different aspects of the body, mind, and spirit. Holistic health is not a sales product – its benefits cannot be found inside a pill capsule. However, just as conventional doctors have the power to prescribe unnecessary pharmaceuticals, holistic healthcare practitioners have the ability to recommend unnecessary treatments, products, etc. Ultimately, a patient’s well-being is his or her responsibility. Do your research on practitioners, products, and practices! It may be said to work, but does it work for you?
How to Begin Practicing a Holistic Lifestyle
Holistic health emphasizes the health of the body, mind, and spirit. A holistic lifestyle, then, is a pattern of thoughts and activities that benefit the whole person in each of these aspects and in balancing all of these aspects. Holistic lifestyle changes might include eating more raw or local foods, exercising regularly and in a variety of forms, shooting for 6-8 hours of sleep per night, meditating, and/or seeking personal counseling. One might also de-clutter their living space (both a cause and symptom of stress), spray a relaxing aromatic, or begin using chemical-free beauty products.
Ada Kelley, owner and operator of Essential Rejuvenation Therapy, an organic health and beauty spa in Chicago, IL emphasizes the importance of using natural and organic products in your health and beauty regime (read more about her story here). According to Ada and other advocates for holistic health, using natural alternatives that don’t harm animals or the environment enhances self-awareness and improves one’s physical appearance and mental wellbeing.
Practicing a holistic lifestyle doesn’t require a full-on body and lifestyle cleanse. The purpose of this approach is to empower people to be aware of the connections between each aspect of themselves. Therefore, when making lifestyle changes, assess for yourself what feels imbalanced in your current state of being and begin there. As with anything, these changes take time. It’s called Holistic Health Practice for a reason.
Be mindful with your choices, be patient with yourself, and enjoy the journey.
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Melissa Steginus is a writer and avid adventurer with a passion for empowering people and creating connection. With a background in social work, she now focuses on building community through writing and teaching yoga. An explorer at heart, Melissa spends her free time hiking, climbing, and pursuing her dream of living simply, creatively, and holistically. Connect with Mel
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