The word "holistic" is used a lot these days, whether talking about the delivery of health care or even just as a lifestyle choice. Back in the day, we would sometimes write "wholistic" rather than "holistic", but the meaning was essentially the same: it was about considering mind, body and spirit together, rather than just the mechanistic view of health that arose from the strictly medical model.
So, taking the notion of holism into consideration, what does it mean for you to be whole? How do you find "wholeness", and if you're having trouble finding it, where do you look?
Looking At The Big Picture
Holism is really about looking at the big picture. For example, if you're feeling run down and out of sorts, it means you just don't look at how much you've been sleeping. Instead, you examine your sleep patterns, dietary choices and general physical well-being, and you also look at your emotional health, various stressors in your life, and perhaps even your spiritual well-being. That would be a more holistic approach than simply wondering whether you've had enough sleep this past week.
Big picture thinking helps us to look more closely and critically at our lives with a great deal more perspective, taking, if you will, the 10,000-foot view that gives us a larger vantage point. And from that vantage point, we see more aspects of our lives that may be out of balance or otherwise in need of attention.
The Emotional Is Physical
There is plenty of research that has conclusively demonstrated that our emotional health and our physical health are directly related; in fact, they're intertwined more than we ever thought possible. The nervous system in the gut is almost seen as a second brain by some scientists, and that "gut feeling" you have about something isn't just an old wive's tale---it's science. Those nervous system connections in the gut actually tie our emotions to our physiology, so doesn't it make sense that your emotions can dictate how you feel physically, and vice-versa?
When you're worried, anxioused or stressed, do you experience neck or back pain, or do you get headaches or stomachaches? This is an example of the communication between the emotions and the body.
Even The Spiritual Counts
Spiritual distress (not to be confused with religion) can be connected to other aspects of our health as well. Grief, loss, spiritual disconnection or other spiritual "emergencies" can cause us to feel poorly and may sometimes manifest as pain, lethargy, fatigue or other physical symptoms.
It's All Connected
The point is to elucidate the fact that being whole means examining and being aware of all aspects of ourselves, including the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. These aspects are all intertwined, and if we're not paying attention to them all in some way, we may suffer on a certain level until we do.
Sure, we can take great care of our physical bodies, but if we have unhealed emotions or traumas that haven't been dealt with properly, these can certainly come back to haunt us. Conversely, if we go to psychotherapy and deal with our emotional issues but totally ignore our physical health, there will of course be consequences for us as well.
So, balance and equal attention to all aspects of life and wellness are the central meaning of wholism, holistic thinking, and being whole.
What areas are you ignoring? How could your health and well-being be more robustly nurtured in a holistic way? Look closely, and find the areas that are calling out for attention. And when you pay attention to all of the aspects of who you are, then you're making great strides towards wholeness.