“Deep breath ? let the air fill your lungs and cleanse your soul. Exhale and feel the stresses of your life melt away.” This may be something you hear when you walk down to your favorite yoga studio for a session of relaxation and exercise. Mind, body and soul are core focuses of yoga practices that are also reflected in holistic medicine.

Holistic health is the practice of finding balance between all aspects of life to achieve optimal health as Socrates once said, “The part can never be well unless the whole is well.”

Maintaining physical health, developing positive mental habits, healthy social relationships and finding your spiritual calling is your wellness guide.

The American Holistic Health Association website defined holistic medicine as: “a system of health care which fosters a cooperative relationship among all those involved, leading towards optimal attainment of the physical, mental/emotional, social and spiritual aspects of health.”

Alternative health care seems to be used as a secondary method of treatment in the United States, instead of used as preventative methods. So in this article, I want to touch on the topics that have been identified in the definition above and provide supportive information on each area that was acknowledged.

Holistic health and Physical health

First of all, in holistic health, the category of physical health is much broader than just exercising. Your physical wellness is not only your activity level, but includes your 5 senses: touch, feel, sight, taste and hearing. To maintain physical health you should strive for whole nutrition, proper weight, exercise and a sufficient amount of rest.

Whole food nutrition is recommended in this lifestyle and is defined as “a food that is considered healthy because it is grown naturally, has not been processed, and contains no artificial ingredients” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

Diet also includes water; you should be sure you drink pure filtered water. Although, majority of the United States has safe drinking water that does not mean that certain contaminates won’t leak into the water systems.

Next, sensory impressions are important to overall health, according the Ayurveda (a 5000 year old Indian system of preventative medicine and healthcare). As stated by the Ayurveda, you should incorporate sound therapy, healing sights, aromatherapy, the six tastes of food, and therapeutic touch into your routine.

Furthermore, when developing a workout routine, try choosing an exercise that you would enjoy such as: dancing, skating, lifting weights etc. You should strive for 20 minutes of physical exercise at least 3 times a week.

Additionally, lack of rest is the biggest reason people lack balance throughout the day. Along with lacking mental clarity, studies show that people who have less than 7 hours of sleep a night are at higher risk of: obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, immune functions, and the common cold.

Several studies have shown that people who slept less than 6 hours a night, were higher risk for obesity while those who slept for 8 had the lowest percentages of body fat. People who sleep less than 5 hours are higher risk for type 2 diabetes, but increasing the length of sleep has shown to impact blood sugar control and cut the effects of type 2 diabetes.

The common cold is 3 times more prevalent in people who sleep less than 7 hours of sleep than those who sleep 8 or more. Sleep will not reverse poor health choices, but it allows your body to recuperate from the wear and tear of your daily life along with other physical routines and proper diet. Secondly, people need a variety of emotions met regularly to help bring a balance to both mental and emotional health.

Fredrickson’s study

Scientist Barbara Fredrickson has done a study that has proven that positivity affects your overall health.

In Fredrickson’s study, she showed that positivity leaves two major effects ? broadening our perspectives of the world and building up emotional resiliency. Positivity is shown to help people with faster recovery from fewer colds, cardiovascular stress, healthier sleep, and a greater sense of overall happiness. Fredrickson also states that to work towards positivity you should practice 3 emotions: forgiveness, gratitude, and emotional resiliency. On the other hand, Stress is a giant debilitating factor in your mental and emotional health. Along with physical effects, emotionally, you may feel more anger, anxiety, depressed, fear, frustration, indecisive, irritable, inflexible, tearful, or withdrawn.

Stress takes a toll on your personality, your sex drive, and your ability to properly function throughout the day. A low amount of stress has been shown to help motivate people to complete tasks, but it can quickly lead to a debilitating mental problem instability. Identifying the cause or causes, learning to relax, and making lifestyle changes are steps that you can take to self-help before reaching out for professional help.

Cognitive behavioral therapies are used by professionals to help treat stress and have great results. Alternatively, your outlook on life and your day to day emotions can affect your overall health and is just as significant to maintain whole body health.

Various social scientists have studied the effects of relationships on our overall health. In the studies, they have compared social isolation and social integration . Absence of social relationships verses the overall involvement in social situations and the quality of those relationships. Berkman and Syme (1979) showed that the risk of death among adults with the fewest social ties are more than twice as high as the adults with the widest range of social ties. Further studies show that cardiac death was 2.4 times more likely among those with fewer social connections and that incorporating more social activities, improved health and quality of relationships. The quality of relationships is equally important.

Those who have low quality relationships or an insignificant amount of social ties are more likely to experience developmental obstacles along with : progression of atherosclerosis, autonomic dysregulation, cancer and delayed cancer recovery, cardiovascular disease, chronic conditions, depression symptoms, high blood pressure, impaired immune function, inflammatory biomarkers, mobility limitations, recurrent myocardial infarction, slower wound healing, and self-rated health. Supportive relationships with others help build immunity, cardiovascular functions and endocrine functions while reducing wear and tear on the body. Psychologists suggest that our social interactions stimulate our emotional and mental health.

Lastly, the evidence showing that spiritual practices are associated with better health and wellbeing is continually growing. ‘Spiritual’ is a term used very loosely in this section as I will be referring to contemplative practices. This practice is not necessarily connected to a specific religion or type of belief system, but it focuses on your connection with yourself and others around you. Furthermore, contemplative practices guide you to concentrate on one specific practice. Common practices in contemplative practices include, but not limited to: meditation, prayer, yoga and journaling.

Numerous spiritual communities encourage you to be social which is one of the main categories in holistic health. Spirituality helps to strengthen your relationship with yourself, your creativity, your life purpose and your relationship with a chosen higher power while allowing you to trust your inner knowing. Your spirituality should feel like your heart; it fills your chest and allows you to live. One of the main reasons why spirituality is linked to overall health is that it is a stress reliever. Spirituality gives you a sense of purpose, connects you to the world, allows you to hand over control, while expanding your support network and will typically result in a healthier lifestyle. Studies have shown that spiritual persons tend to live longer. Spirituality also enhances recovery from surgeries, or illnesses by improving physical functions accompanied by higher self-esteem, less anxiety and fewer worries of health. Choosing your path to spiritual enlightenment is shown through every part in your body.

Did you find your clarity?

Do you know what aspects of your life are affecting your overall health?

Evaluate your lifestyle choices and determine which habits need to be altered. Instead of trying to treat your symptoms use your new found knowledge of holistic methods to prevent deterioration of your health. Remember that your core focuses lie in physical, mental/emotional, social and spiritual aspects of your life. These focuses are your guide to wellness!

“Now take a deep breath. Exhale all the troubles in your life. Breathe in again and fill your body with clarity and strength to be able to create the changes you need to better yourself. Namaste.”