One of the key principles of many forms of holistic therapy is to consider the individual as a whole and target the optimal health balance across not just the body, but the mind and spirit too.
This page will explore all four key dimensions of an holistic approach: physical, mental, spiritual and social wellbeing, sharing best practice advice for each one so that you can start your own holistic journey today.
What is holistic therapy? | What is a holistic approach? | What is holistic therapy good for? | How can I improve my physical health? | How can I improve my mental health? | How can I improve my spiritual health?| How can I improve my social health?
What is holistic therapy?
Holistic therapy (also referred to as complementary therapy) considers the patient as a whole rather than individual symptoms. As such, holistic health considers your physical, mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing, balancing these as an entire system. This is very different from conventional medicine which is focused on diagnosis and treatment of specific symptoms with drugs and surgery (and aligned to the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry)!
What is a holistic approach?
A holistic approach is a philosophy to healthcare that involves considering the patient as a whole and attempting to balance four key dimensions: physical, mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing. A holistic approach is not only applicable when healing a patient with an existing illness, but also to prevent the illness from occuring in the first instance. As such, a holistic approach is an important element of achieving a state of excellent health. You may see slightly different opinions on what should be included in a holistic approach – one such example is a holistic development approach which is more tailored to children.
What is holistic therapy good for?
Holistic therapies and medicines play an important role in maintaining your overall health and wellbeing. Instead of addressing specific individual symptoms in a fragmented way, holistic medicine is interested in understanding the underlying causes due to imbalances in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing as a whole.
As a result, holistic medicine can be useful for supporting:
- Physical health such as aches, pains and illnesses
- Mental health including stress and anxiety
- Social health including feeling of belonging
- Spiritual health including feelings of incompleteness or lack of purpose / identity
Here are some more ideas for living a holistic life.
How can I improve my physical health?
What are the key elements of good physical health?
Good physical health requires taking the necessary steps to achieve and maintain a healthy body as well as ensure a safe environment to live and work in.
In order to enjoy a healthy body, it is your responsibility to take ownership of key factors such as eating, exercise and sleep. Separately, to achieve a safe environment, it is important to take steps to minimise potentially harmful pollution in your surroundings including chemicals and noise.
Why is it becoming increasingly important to eat a healthy diet?
Good diet and nutrition is central to obtaining optimal physical health, however in today’s world this is becoming more difficult to achieve due to several major trends:
- Nutrients in soils used to grow food are becoming depleted due to farming methods and extensive over-farming
- Food production becoming more reliant on undesirable pesticides, hormones and antibiotics much of which ends up being consumed
- Unhealthy additives, preservatives, saturated fats, trans-fats, processed foods and commercially grown foods have become commonplace
What is considered good diet and nutrition?
There are various best practices which relate to good diet and nutrition, these include:
- Eliminating or minimising unhealthy foods such as processed foods and artificial substances from your diet
- Increasing intake of whole-food diet rich in fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, nuts, seeds and organically raised meats
- Reducing intake of red meats, fats and dairy products
- Drinking around 2 litres of pure water each day (i.e., not coffee, fizzy drinks, juice, etc.,)
- Consuming supplements and probiotics to combat potential nutritional and bacterial deficiencies
How much exercise is required to maintain good physical health?
Regular exercise provides many health benefits across all age groups, including prolonging life. Best practices to consider when it comes to exercise include:
- Focusing on frequency and duration rather than intensity. For instance, slow paced distance jogging or brisk walking most days is likely to be better for you than a single short high intensity workout
- Incorporating a variety of exercises such as aerobic, muscle-strengthening and stretching
- The World Health Organisation recommends adults under 65 doing at least
- 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical exercise each week such as brisk walking or slow paced jogging, or
- 75-150 minutes of high-intensity aerobic physical exercise each
- Muscle-strengthening activities at moderate or greater intensity on at least 2 days a week to build and maintain muscle mass
- Creating exercise goals, starting at a comfortable level and building up as tolerated
Why is sleep important and what can I do to improve my sleep?
Although adequate sleep is important as it plays a crucial role in your body’s regenerative processes, people are sleeping up to 2 hours less and not as deeply as prior generations.
This is particularly worrying as sleep deprivation is linked to many health issues including impaired immunity, increased susceptibility to disease, impaired cognitive function and increased levels of stress and depression.
Becoming aware of your sleep habits and patterns is crucial in achieving good levels of deep sleep and ultimately good health. In addition, the following guidelines can be applied to give you the best shot of having satisfying, uninterrupted and deep sleep:
- Understand your body and see how much sleep you require every night to function optimally the next day and build your routine around this
- To the extent possible, maintain a good circadian rhythm by waking up and faling asleep at the same time everyday including on weekends and holidays. It is important to avoid the temptation to stay up late or lie-in excessively.
- Avoid naps during the day as this may prevent you from sleeping well at night
- Eat a healthy diet, avoiding substances that may interfere with serotonin levels such as coffee and alcohol
- Exercise regularly to reduce stress which is conducive to getting a good night’s sleep
How can I create a safe environment to live and work in?
Keeping the environment you live and work in safe and healthy is another important factor behind good physical health.
The following guidelines can be applied to achieve a safer and healthier environment:
- Ensure your house or place of work has plenty of ventilation and fresh air
- If ventilation and fresh air is not possible, use indoor plants to oxygenate the air and keep it moist
- Consider using humidifiers to reduce levels of more difficult to breath dry air as well as air purifiers to keep the air clean
- Avoid synthetic products such as plastics and polyester and instead opt for more natural products such as those made from wood, cotton and metals
- Ensure regular cleaning of your home and place of work using non-toxic cleaning products; don’t forget to clean areas particularly prone to bacteria and mould build up such as ceilings and carpets
- Minimise burning of charcoal and wood, using appropriate mitigations where possible as harmful particles can increase risk of conditions such as heart disease and strokes
- Avoid smoking or breathing in second-hand smoke
How can I improve my mental health?
What is mental health?
Although there is no universally agreed definition of good mental health, it is typically associated with factors such as the condition of your mind, level of contentment, beliefs and attitudes as well as your ability to fulfil key activities and functions.
Why is good mental health important?
Good mental health is important for overall health as the mind is strongly linked to the body.
For instance, high levels of stress results in over-production of the stress response hormone, cortisol. This can lead to health concerns such as
- Low testosterone levels
- Inflammation which is closely tied to most chronic diseases
- Close down of digestive system
- Poor heart and cardiovascular health
- Muscle aches
- Weight gains
What self-care approaches can improve mental health?
There are various self-care approaches that can be used to relieve stress, improve your mental resilience and overall wellbeing.
Affirmations – positive statements used to change the way you think about your own life or health to reduce the impact of negative or irrational thinking. An example could be, “I am in control of my own life and destiny, I build its foundation and choose its contents”.
Breathwork – regular practise of breathing exercises will increase self-awareness including awareness of your own breath, allowing you to reconnect with the “natural flow of life”.
Journal writing – daily record keeping of your own experiences and thoughts to release frustrations, increase acceptance and open up new perspectives.
Relaxation exercises – regular practise of relaxing activities such as meditation, biofeedback and visualisation to ease stress and tension as well as improve circulation and sleep
Regular exercise – regular exercise is a great way to boost your endorphin levels, your body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators
How can I improve my spiritual health?
What is spiritual health?
Spiritual health involves having a meaningful connection with spirit. It is important for building committed spiritual relationships through which you are able to receive and impart unconditional support and love.
Spiritual health is an often overlooked element of health that can lead to deepened awareness of yourself and enable you to find long-lasting peace of mind.
What self-care approaches can improve spiritual health?
You can use various self-care approaches to improve your overall spiritual health, reinforcing your awareness of yourself as a socially connected and spiritual individual.
Prayer – when practised sincerely on a regular basis, prayer can be effective at improving feelings of wellbeing and reducing levels of stress
Gratitude – acknowledgement of all the things you are grateful for on a daily basis including friendships, kindness and help from others; helping you change your perspectives on life and preventing you taking life for granted
Meditation – detachment from the stresses of modern life by focusing on your breathing and surroundings in the present moment without dwelling on the past or future; provides strong links to improved physical and psychological health
How can I improve my social health?
What is social wellbeing?
Social wellbeing (or social health) involves having a meaningful connections with family, friends and your community. It is important for building committed relationships through which you are able to receive and impart unconditional love.
What self-care approaches can improve social health?
You can use various self-care approaches to improve your overall social health.
Volunteering – giving back to others in the community including those less fortunate while asking for nothing in return. Such activities are proven to increase positive emotions and even longevity.
Regular socialisation – regularly interacting with others and forming deeper relationships to increase happiness, sense of purpose and well-being
DISCLAIMER: The Site cannot and does not contain medical / health advice. The medical / health information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before seeking any form of medical advice, diagnoses or treatment based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with your GP or other qualified health practitioner. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something mentioned on this Site. The use or reliance of any information contained on the Site is solely at your own risk.