What is Holistic Health? And What Does It Really Mean?

The word “holistic” is used quite frequently these days, but what does it actually mean? What is holistic health and what does living a holistic lifestyle actually entail? 

Per the dictionary, the word holistic means “characterized by the belief that the parts of something are interconnected and can be explained only by reference to the whole.” In regards to “holistic medicine,” it is defined as “characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of an illness.”

What is Holistic Health? And What Does It Really Mean?

What is Holistic Health? And What Does It Really Mean?

My journey into “holistic health” began when my husband and I discovered that 2 of our 3 daughters had severe food allergies and then subsequently our youngest daughter also had Lyme Disease. They were allergic milk, egg, peanuts & most tree nuts. Traditional medicine had no cure for anaphylactic food allergies, other than to avoid the food and carry an epi-pen. That lead me on a journey into alternative therapies.

What I discovered consistently with Eastern & Alternative medicine is that the approaches worked with more than just the physical body. In fact, they also addressed emotional and mental aspects in correlation to the illness or the health issue.

What is Holistic Health? And What Does It Really Mean?

Alternative Medicine & Approaches

In many alternative therapies such as acupuncture, which is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the belief is that the physical symptom is an end result of the energy that is not flowing or has been blocked. The root cause of this distorted or blocked energy can often have its stem in some emotional issue from childhood, a trauma that has occurred, a limiting belief pattern, etc.

In TCM, certain organs correlate to certain emotions. For example, the emotion of anger is stored in the liver, or fear is stored in the kidneys. In this way, a practitioner is working with ways to alleviate the physical symptoms but also techniques that can help with the emotional root cause or energetic block or distortion.

The results I had witnessed using holistic & alternative therapies, with my children overcoming their food allergies and Lyme Disease and then overcoming my own struggles with life-long depression & anxiety were quite tangible.

In fact, the benefits were so life-altering that after being in the corporate world for over 20 years and working in finance roles in prestigious companies like Nike, Inc. and Deloitte & Touche LLP, I left to pursue a career in holistic health.

In my experience, as a Holistic Health Coach, I have come to interpret “holistic health” as supporting the whole person and not just focusing on specific symptoms.  The symptom is often how a person becomes aware that they have an issue because there is some sort of discomfort or pain they may be experiencing.

What is Holistic Health? And What Does It Really Mean?

The Four-Legged Stool

With my clients and at my center Holistic Life Community, I work to support them “holistically” which consists of supporting their mental, emotional, physical & spiritual health. If you compare each of these components to one leg in a four-legged stool, if one of the legs is missing or is shorter than the others, it will be much more difficult to keep the stool upright. Most often a person needs to compensate in the other areas to stay balanced.

  • The “Mental” component is how we talk to ourselves, the language we use, and our internal dialogue. Many times we have lower and different standards to how we talk to ourselves versus how we talk to and treat other people.
  • The “Emotional” piece relates to our ability to process all of our emotions. Many of us have certain emotions that we avoid. Often times we use external sources such as food, shopping, alcohol, drugs, etc. to avoid feeling certain emotions. There is a woman by the name of Dr. Joan Rosenberg, a psychologist and head of the psychology department at Pepperdine University, that has done many Ted talks and written several books regarding how life changing it can be when we start to feel and process all of our emotions instead of avoiding and suppressing them.
  • The “Physical” piece relates to what foods are we putting into our body, how much water are we drinking, and are we doing any type of exercise or movement? 70% of our immune system is in our digestive tract, so of course the quote “You are what you eat” truly does apply to our bodies and how we feel physically.
  • The “Spiritual” component is not about organized religion or going to church on Sunday, but it’s about believing in a higher power, something greater than yourself.

I use natural techniques that are accessible and readily available such as herbs & plants, the healing power of nature, breathing techniques, organic foods & diet, water, movement, and energy work such as Reiki & shamanic techniques.

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What is Holistic Health? And What Does It Really Mean?

People often ask me if I believe in or still go to Western Medical Doctors? My answer is “yes of course”. I see the best solution often as being a combination of both worlds. This philosophy of combined approaches has become much more common in Western Medicine. In fact, the prestigious Mass General Hospital in Boston, MA uses Integrative Therapies in its cancer ward as they have seen the positive impact these therapies have had on their patients.

I have tried many alternative therapies over the years and some that have worked well while others have not. My recommendation is just to be open to trying something new. You won’t know unless you try. My life and the life of my family have been changed by alternative therapies. There have been some powerful alternative therapies that have had a significant quality of life improvement for many people.

Talk to people that have had sessions using a particular technique or have had sessions with a specific practitioner. The best-trusted feedback is often word of mouth through a friend, or family member, or someone that has actually experienced the process.

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