Holistic Health - The 4 Quadrant Approach
Mind - Emotions - Spirit
Holistic health takes an expanded approach to well-being and considers our physical body, and mental - emotional - spiritual health. Most holistic programs emphasize the mind-body connection, alternative therapies, and spirituality.
Additionally, the role of social and environmental factors should also be considered in a holistic health program. If we were to exercise, eat well, have good psychological health, but live in a toxic environment, it would effect our health adversely. Environmental factors include the physical environment, as well as our work and living spaces.
Our social relationships also play a major role in our health, and psychologists have found that our social lives have a profound effect on our overall sense of well-being. Social factors also play a major role in our general level of happiness.
Mind - Body Connection
One of the cornerstones of holistic health programs is the mind-body connection and various practices and treatments that can help us to restore mind-body unity. Many people live in a fragmented reality, disconnected from their body's, and over occupied by their minds. An overactive mind can lead to anxiety, confusion, and stress. When we fail to exercise, eat well, and care for our bodies, a disconnect between the mind and body is likely present.
Caring for our minds is as essential as caring for our bodies. Our self - identities, belief systems and stories determine a lot about our feelings, moods and behaviors. In a system like yoga we combine physical exercises with meditation and self - inquiry to keep the mind healthy. This is why yoga is a very good practice for mind - body health. Other mind - body moving meditations like tai qi and chi kung can also keep a good balance between our mental and physical life.
How do you maintain good balance in your mind and body?
Mind - Body Practices and Therapies
Practices such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, self-inquiry, and body awareness exercises can help us to restore a deep connection with our bodies and experience more pleasure. Practices are things we can do ourselves in our own time and space.
Treatments and therapies can also help us restore our mind body connection. Hypnosis, massage therapy, acupuncture, guided meditations, biofeedback and somatic therapies can all be beneficial. Learn more about our class on somatic therapy.
In mind-body practices, a fundamental technique is to bring attention and mindfulness to the body. This may be done through breathing techniques, movement and meditation. By cultivating greater body awareness we develop the ability to listen to our bodies and their needs, be more present, and be better informed about how to best care for our bodies.
Often when we make decisions for our physical health, we fill our heads with information and make the decisions according to what are minds determine are best. This is frequently done with diets, as when one reads all about some new or fad diet, and decides to try it based on the information acquired. Seldom, do people actually check in with their body, and ask it how that particular diet feels to their body. When dietary decisions are made solely on mental information, even if it is backed up by knowledge, the body may not find the diet appropriate to its particular needs. For this reason, dietary choices should be made not only with mental information and knowledge, but also with body awareness according to how the body itself feels and responds to the diet. A similar thing could be said for exercise and other things we do for our physical health. When we are embodied, and cultivate a high degree of body awareness, we can acquire deep and intimate connections with our bodies, that make it easy to nourish and move them in the most enjoyable and beneficial ways.
The second major consideration for our physical bodies in a holistic health paradigm, is understanding how various external modalities like massage, supplements, bodywork, alternative treatments, drugs and surgery affect us. This includes all the physical treatments, including diet and exercise, that we use to optimize, nourish and support our bodies. In many books on holistic health there is an emphasis on complimentary and alternative treatments that take a holistic perspective on health and disease. While many alternative and complimentary medicines speak of a holistic approach, many of them rely on physical modalities for treatment, and are actually better suited for physical ailments and conditions. Although there is awareness of the mind-body unity and human spirit in alternative medicine, some of these practices are still primarily based in methods that work best on the physical level. Since there is an intimate connection and unity between the mind and body, holistic health approaches can sometimes get confused with the level at which particular treatment styles work best. For instance, treatments like massage and bodywork primarily target the physical body, but may also provide stress relief and emotional release on the mental-emotional levels. However, since massage works with physical pressure applied to the body, and is not necessarily the best kind of treatment for resolving mental and emotional disorders, we will classify massage as primarily being a physical treatment method.
Having said this, it is important to acknowledge the profound role that massage and manual therapies can play in releasing emotion held in the body. A gentle touch can have an amazing affect on our emotions, and provide warm comfort, help us to release grief and tears, or liberate long held emotions. With these powerful affects of massage, or other manual therapies, we may begin to think that these therapies can help us to resolve emotional issues. However, the point I want to make is that while these treatments may help us to resolve emotional tension held in the body, they do not address the underlying psychological and behavioral patterns that are related to our emotions. To effectively address the mind and emotional patterns, treatments like counseling, CBT, coaching, or other psychological methods are necessary. In conclusion, a truly holistic approach should consider the role of manual therapies in releasing emotion held in the body, and the necessity of other forms of therapy for addressing any root disharmonies in the mind and emotions.