Western medicine is a powerful system of knowledge and practice that is unparalleled for curing diseases once they take hold. What is lacking is a holistic approach.
Western medicine usually treats diseases and their symptoms without looking at the underlying causes of disease. Treating the whole person, on the other hand, requires looking at lifestyle, mental health, underlying conditions, and other factors to help people live healthy lives now and in the future.
Say you have high blood pressure. A standard approach would be to prescribe medication that thins your blood. That’s a great way to treat the immediate problem but a holistic approach would go deeper to find the root causes of the issue:
- Is it the result of a poor diet? Let’s find an eating plan to deal with the problem long-term.
- Is stress a big factor? Maybe you need to change careers or start meditating.
- Have you been too sedentary? Let’s develop an exercise regime to help you get active.
Holistic is big-picture health – investigating how and why illnesses arise and treating the real causes to alleviate problems now and prevent them in the future.
Holistic healthcare is preventative
A holistic approach to health understands how all aspects of physical and mental health are interconnected and affect one another. It can stop one health problem from snowballing into something bigger.
If you have a limp and ignore it – or simply numb it with painkillers – don’t be surprised if pain arises in other parts of your body as it overcompensates for the untreated problem.
A more serious example might be someone who has a fibromyalgia flare-up due to family stress. The flare-up leaves them bed-ridden and they have to miss work. Being stuck at home and in pain makes them feel guilty and useless and that develops into a depressive episode. Due to the depression, they overeat and gain weight, putting extra pressure on joints and extending the flare-up.
It’s not as simple as treating the disease alone. What about the stress that caused the flare-up? The lack of support when bed-ridden? The need for tools to manage a depressive episode?
That’s why a holistic approach to health is so important! Here are 5 ways to take care of your health holistically:
1. Find holistic healthcare professionals
Whether your doctor practices holistic healthcare themselves or simply supports your health journey, it’s important to have a professional who gets it.
You should still get regular checkups and go to the doctor when you’re ill but find a doctor who knows your health care doesn’t begin and end with fixing today’s problem.
Try finding an GP who is happy to explore complementary medicine or has also trained in osteopathy or nutritional science. It might be easier to assemble a supergroup – your doctor plus a physiotherapist, nutritionist, psychologist, and whoever else you need. Even a spiritual guide can be part of your holistic healthcare.
Whatever approach you choose, the important thing is to make sure you’re taking care your whole self.
Ask your doctor questions to see where they stand, such as:
- Are they happy to combine physiotherapy or osteopathy with other treatments?
- Do they understand the link between mental and physical health and how important it is for healthcare?
If you find that your doctor is dismissive of these ideas, keep looking.
2. Happy mind, healthy body
While no one can cure a disease with willpower, your state of mind does affect your overall health. Creating a positive attitude and a happy mind can lead to less illness, more resilience, and quicker recoveries.
Think about what makes you happy and peaceful, and try and bring more of that into your life. Whether it’s going into nature, painting, or long dinners with friends – find what nourishes your mind and pursue it!
Some healthy habits for your mind (and body) are:
- Deep breathing sessions
- Taking time to be creative: draw, colour in, journal, play an instrument
- Practising yoga
- Talking with friends and family regularly
- Funny movies – seriously, laughter is really good for you
- Making time for gratitude every day
- Positive affirmations in the morning – they might feel silly at first, but they do work
3. Daily meditation
Meditation isn’t just for monks and hippies – research has shown that meditating has amazing effects on your health.
Researchers who studies breast cancer survivors found a clear link between meditation and positive recovery outcomes. It wasn’t just that those who meditated were in a better mood, they actually showed better healing outcomes at a cellular level!
But you don’t need to wait for a disease to strike – start meditating today and enjoy the health benefits. Even 15-20 minutes a day is enough to see big results.
4. Skincare: health from the outside in
If you want to be healthy in the long-run, you need to change your daily habits. As well as eating better or meditating, it’s important to consider your skincare routine.
Your skincare routine may seem very innocuous. After all, it’s just a few products 2-3 times a day – and it’s not like you’re ingesting them. But actually, your skin is a highly absorbent organ and what you put on your skin affects your overall health in major ways.
If you’re covering your skin with harmful chemicals every day for years, that has a negative effect on your long-term health.
On the other hand, if you’re applying healthy, natural ingredients to your skin every day, you’ll be healthier all-round.
Investigate the products on your shelf. Are they packed with things like sodium laurel sulphate (SLS), parabens, alcohol, formaldehyde, propylene glycol, or artificial fragrances? If so, it’s time to rethink your skincare.
Replace those harmful skincare products with all-natural, organic ones. Keep an eye out for preservative-free, organic products with healthful ingredients such as:
5. Eat well and exercise
This one is pretty basic but too many people neglect it or only pay attention to one half of the equation. Exercise and diet are both essential!
You need to keep your body active for muscle development, heart health, blood pressure, brain health, and many other reasons. But how you’re fuelling your body is just as important, especially for maintaining a healthy weight.
You’ve probably seen a lot of conflicting information out there about the best diet to eat. Much of the advice is well-meaning and usually partly true – excluding ‘miracle’ diets, weight loss pills, and other scams that prey on your anxieties. But the fact is, your ideal diet must be tailored to meet your needs, your health goals, and even your genetic profile.
So, don’t just get the gym membership – find a good nutritionist as well. By fuelling your body the right way, you’ll get the most out of your workouts and make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.