Holistic Health: Four Focus Areas
Oftentimes, when we find ourselves feeling less than optimal, perhaps even self-diagnosing ourselves as being “sick,” we are thinking within just one particular realm of what makes up our true health. More times than naught, we are likely assessing our health within the realm of the body, or our physical health. We notice that we have a sore throat or that we feel pain in our lower back or that we feel heated with a low-grade fever. All of these are examples of noticing sensations within the body.
The body is a source of constant, numerous sensations that include both our 5 senses perception and our inner, felt sensations of internal body processes (the workings of our inner organs like the heart, stomach, lungs, bladder, kidneys, liver, intestinal tract, etc.). Certainly, these areas are important to address, and in some cases, to address urgently in order to feel better.
But assessing our physical health is really just the start of understanding the status of our overall health and well-being. In order to know if we are truly healthy, we have to assess our health using a holistic approach, one that encompasses the health of the following 4 areas: Physical health (the body), Mental health (the mind), Emotional Health (the feelings and emotions) and Spiritual health (the soul or spirit).
Just a quick note that many holistic health providers would likely add a 5th category, Financial health. Though this is a worthy additional area to include in a holistic health assessment, (and please feel free to do so yourself!), I would argue that a person’s relationship with money involves several external factors that we do not fully control ourselves, and that we may still achieve a sense of health and wellness, regardless of our financial situation.
So, how do we assess this? At any given point in time, when you have a few moments of alone time and there are no other pressing things vying for your attention , just focus attention briefly on each of the following 4 areas and ask yourself some questions for each area.
Tip: It may help to write some of these things down in a journal. If you use this approach, let whatever you jot down flow from you organically and try not to self-edit.
- The Body: What do I notice in my body at this moment? Is there any pain or discomfort that I notice in my body? If so, do I know why? Are there things that I feel or notice in my body that feel good? Is my body at the point that I want it to be at? If not, what are my health goals for my body?
- The Mind: What am I thinking about at this moment? What have been the patterns or themes of my thoughts recently (today, this week, this month)? Which thoughts have led to me feeling at ease and happy lately? Which thoughts have caused me stress or made me feel anxious, sad or upset lately?
- The Feelings/Emotions: What do I notice feeling at this moment? Do I feel any specific emotions such as happy, elated, content, sad, angry, anxious, stressed, tired, bored, apathetic, etc.? What do I need to help me with continuing, increasing, or decreasing this current feeling?
- The Spirit/Soul: How do I feel connected to my soul or spirit? Do I sense a connection to something or anything greater than myself…or even a community of people or another person? Do I feel a connection with nature or humanity that creates a feeling of peace? If not, can I identify how to achieve this sense of peace?
Summing Things Up
After taking a few moments to reflect on each of these 4 areas, it can help to step back and do a quick mental inventory. Ask yourself which areas, if any, need some improvement in terms of health and then you can begin to plan the steps needed to achieve your health goal in each area. You can reach out and consult with professionals in any or all areas of health. For the body, you may need to consult your physician, nutritionist, fitness trainer, chiropractor, and/or acupuncturist, etc.
For both the mind and the feelings, you may work with a therapist or counselor to address the various ways to think more positively and to feel better. For the area of the spirit or soul, you may consult with a religious leader like a Priest, Rabbi, Minister, guru, spiritual teacher, etc.
If you are working with a helping professional, talk with her or him about using a holistic approach to health and you can focus on each and every area mentioned above. This way, you will be working towards a more holistic approach to health.
Interested in learning more about holistic health? There is a great book that I would like to recommend entitled, Whole Health by Dr. Micolla that walks you through many of the tenants of wellness that were explored here.
FYI: Though many therapists already embrace a holistic approach, some traditional therapists may focus solely on the mind and emotions, and ignore the important effects of the body and the soul in creating your overall sense of health. So, make sure to advocate for the kind of therapy that best suits your needs.
Once you find that you are mostly healthy in each of these 4 areas, than you have achieved the status of being “well-rounded” health-wise and you deserve the right to feel proud of that!