Holistic Health: 101

Patient Expert

Many of my coaching clients ask me to explain what "holistic health" means and why it is important. The easiest way I've found to explain it is to think about our health as a system in which no aspect is separate or distinct from another. In systems theory, you'll find a system described as a "configuration of parts connected and joined together by a web of relationships."*

What this means is that diet and exercise, although incredibly important, are just one part of the overall system. In order to achieve your optimum level of health and happiness, it's necessary to remember that what happens in other areas of your life, whether good or bad, impacts how you feel, how your body responds to diet and exercise as well as your ultimate success at achieving your health goals.

For example, from a physiological perspective, when the body is upset or under stress, it releases certain stress-related hormones that can deplete nutrients in the body and negatively impact your health. From an emotional perspective; no amount of "looking great" through diet and exercise will make you happy, and thus healthy, if you don't feel good in other areas of your life. Any positive results that you experience will most likely be temporary and unfulfilling.

The first step in approaching your health is to step back and look at your overall life from a big picture perspective to assess whether your life is what you want it to be: career, relationships, home life, family, spirituality, free time activities, etc. If you notice areas that you'd like to transform or change, spend some time looking for ways to do that. Consider taking a course in something new, finding a spiritual practice, opening up communication with those you have strained relationships with, or looking for a coach or counselor who can help you uncover answers you're unable to see on your own.

Diet and exercise are just one component of overall physical, mental and spiritual health. I feel that it's important that we always look for ways to maintain balance and address not only what we put in our bodies, but also how we feed our soul and satisfy our desire to live life to the fullest. When we can do that, choosing the right foods and the best ways to keep our bodies fit becomes easy and natural.

*Holistic Education Network of Tasmania, Australia"¨www.hent.org