• 03/07/2023

What Is Holistic Wellness? 

what is holistic wellness

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If you’ve been searching for a new doctor of late, you might find many practitioner offices claiming to take a “holistic approach to wellness.” What does this term mean? 

Holistic wellness matters even if you never step foot in the office of a western MD or DO. It encompasses multiple facets of total patient care, from addressing physical imbalances to mental and social health needs. 

Because this approach uses a wide lens when examining all factors influencing a person’s health, many patients find it offers more genuine deep healing. Is it right for you? What is holistic wellness? Let’s take a deeper dive.

Holistic Medicine, Defined 

The National Institutes of Health define holistic wellness as an approach that considers the psychological, familial, societal, ethical and spiritual dimensions with biological health. It has more to do with practitioner attitude than specific techniques, which may vary, as each patient is unique. 

For holistic medicine to work, it requires active patient participation. You’re encouraged to take charge of your health by implementing self-care practices into your daily life. For this reason, critics of holistic medicine claim it places too much emphasis on individual patient responsibility instead of relying on the strict scientific method to find a program that works for everyone. 

Supporters claim that a one-size-fits-all wellness approach is flawed and impossible to implement. Everyone has unique life experiences that influence their health, from stressors they may never mention to therapists to genetic differences. For example, even the best medicine wouldn’t help patients allergic to it. 

Examples of Holistic Medicine

Holistic medicine is sometimes easier to see in action than define. An example of a holistic wellness program may include the following: 

  • Sleep interventions such as designing the bedroom environment for rest and avoiding substances that impact circadian rhythms
  • Nutritional interventions that address individual food allergies and deficiencies, calm systemic inflammation and cater to health conditions
  • Moderate fitness programs that support mobility, flexibility and independence
  • Complementary mental health therapies, such as art and animal therapy
  • Acupuncture, chiropractic treatments and massage
  • Socioeconomic interventions like job retraining 
  • Encouraging healthy interpersonal relationships through various support groups

What Are the Benefits of a Holistic Approach to Wellness? 

Holistic wellness offers the ultimate in individualization. For example, a patient struggling with depression might attend weekly group and individual therapy sessions with occasional visits to a nutritionist to review their meal plan and how their food choices impact mental health. 

Another benefit to holistic wellness is pragmatic and economic. Let’s face it, many Americans lack a reserve of copay dollars for endless professional appointments — some have no health coverage at all. The patient-centered focus of this approach means you can use many of these techniques without ever visiting a doctor, although you might have to do some heavy-duty research to find the best interventions for you. 

8 Ways to Introduce Holistic Wellness Into Your Life 

Are you ready to introduce holistic wellness into your life? The following eight activities can help you feel better. 

Pro-tip: Instead of jumping into everything at once, take a one-thing-at-a-time approach. Make this year the one you gradually overhaul your life with gentle improvements. 

1. Take a Deep Dive 

What’s lacking in your health? This activity requires mindfulness. You might start by performing a body scan to identify physical areas of concern, then widen the lens to your life as a whole. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How is my diet? Do I sometimes feel bad after eating certain foods? Is my reaction to them physical or psychological? Could I have an allergy or sensitivity, or have I mentally labeled some foods as “bad?” 
  • How is my activity level? Do I get sufficient movement daily? If not, what might I enjoy doing enough to stick to the program? 
  • How Is my relationship with my family? Friends? Colleagues? 
  • How does daily stress affect me? What techniques do I currently use to manage it — is there a better approach?
  • How can I sleep more soundly?

2. Start a Moderate Fitness Program

According to the World Health Organization, you need 150 minutes of moderate movement at a minimum each week to maintain health. That’s roughly 30 to 45 minutes daily.

Fortunately, you don’t have to train for a marathon or survive a punishing HIIT class. You might enjoy activities like the following: 

  • A brisk walk 
  • Working in the garden or vigorous housecleaning 
  • Biking to work on an e-bike 
  • Playing on a recreational softball league
  • Following a yoga program on YouTube 

3. Learn to Give (and Receive) Massage

Massage is fabulous for soothing sore muscles and encouraging closeness through the healing power of touch. Learning how to give one can bring you and your partner closer. 

However, you can also use these techniques if you’re solo. For example, rub your feet after a long day before soaking them in Epsom salts. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with swapping back rubs with a friend! 

4. Sip Some Herbal Tea 

Herbs aren’t a part of every holistic wellness program, but some practitioners swear by them. After all, pretty much every single medication known to human beings originated in nature, and a large percentage of them are plant-based. Why not go to the source? 

Ideally, you should check with your doctor before starting supplements, as some herbs may interfere with prescription and over-the-counter medications. For example, taking St. John’s Wort for depression may render your birth control pills less effective, so use a backup barrier method or avoid the plant. Most teas are mild, but please educate yourself and check for potential interactions. 

5. Adopt a Favorite Hobby

Imagine getting a prescription to participate in your favorite hobbies for a few hours each week. Does that sound dreamy? It’s part of holistic wellness. 

Part of total health is finding meaning and purpose in life, which hobbies help you do. You might plant a victory garden, get into birdwatching or explore your astronomy hobby with a telescope.

6. Reach Out to Your Support Squad

Humans are social creatures, and nurturing your relationships is part of holistic wellness. Who’s an old friend you could call or a relative with whom you’ve lost touch? 

You might also find respite in support groups. There’s one for nearly every health condition and life circumstance, some meeting online while others take place face to face. It’s incredibly validating to talk to others who have “been there.” 

7. Nurture Your Spiritual Side

You may not espouse any particular faith system, but nurturing your spirit is part of holistic wellness. What does it mean to be human? What is our purpose? 

Spend some time pondering these questions and seeking answers. If you engage in religion, take time to practice your faith weekly. 

8. Get a Good Night’s Sleep 

Nearly everyone can use holistic wellness tips to improve their sleep hygiene. The following practices can help you get your Zzzs and feel better each day as a result:

  • Reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex. Avoid taking work to bed. 
  • Banish electronics from the bedroom, as the blue light keeps you awake. Invest in an old-fashioned wind-up alarm clock. 
  • Create a comfortable atmosphere. Dim the lights, drop the temperature a few degrees so that it feels good under the covers and use a white machine or earplugs to cancel out noise. 

What Is Holistic Wellness 

Holistic wellness encompasses the entire person, mind, body and soul. It examines multiple factors influencing health and requires individual participation to work most effectively. 

Fortunately, holistic wellness techniques offer promise in today’s world. They validate the patient by acknowledging the unique factors detracting from their health and positively addressing them. They also provide meaningful interventions that you can DIY regardless of socioeconomic status.

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