Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What is Holistic Wellness?

Holistic wellness is a combination of two models of health, holistic health and wellness, that have been around for more than fifty years. These are not treatments but philosophies of what health is. Both wellness and holistic health emphasize that each person must take conscious responsibility for becoming and staying healthy. Health becomes a way of being, rather than a destination. Both of them also see achieving and maintaining health as more than caring for just the body, but including other dimensions of life as well. Holistic health sees health as encompassing the body, mind and spirit, while wellness also includes the emotional, social, environmental and vocational dimensions of life.

The word holistic comes from wholism, the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its component parts. The seven dimensions of holistic wellness together become something more. They impart meaning and purpose to life and collectively provide a feeling of wellbeing. Wellbeing transcends bodily health. Someone who has an acute or chronic health condition, or who is dying can have wellbeing, though few health practitioners would call them healthy.

To achieve the wellbeing that comes from holistic wellness requires holistic living – living in harmony with nature and the universe and with yourself as part of these.. This requires conscious awareness. First an awareness that everything in life is important, and then awareness of what is required and what you are actually doing or not doing. For example, when looking at how you care for your body you would need to know what foods are necessary for good nutrition and which foods you need to eat more or less of. Then when planning meals or grabbing a snack you would need to stay aware of how they fit these criteria.

Holistic living and holistic wellness may sound like a lot of work, but the trick is not to aim for perfection. Start small. Start gradually. It does not have to be all or nothing. Set the intention to change one thing that that you believe will increase your wellness (giving up sugar, for example) plan what you will do and then pay attention. You might start to notice what triggers your craving for something sweet, or what happens if you add only half the amount of sugar to your coffee than you usually do. With intention and attention your sugar consumption will start to decrease. Celebrate your successes and be gentle with your failures. Noticing how you react to these is also raising your awareness in the emotional and spiritual dimensions of your life.

The muscle for both holistic living and for holistic wellness comes from setting an intention or a resolve to do something, putting the intention into action or failing to do so, noticing what led up to that action or resulted from it; then again taking action. There is no failure unless you give up.

The awareness that is part of holistic living allows not succeeding to show you what you need to change in order to succeed. You may need to change your beliefs about yourself or others, the way you treat yourself, your habitual emotional reactions, or many other things that you may not previously have realized were holding you back. Remember that holistic wellness is not a destination, but a way of being - one that involves commitment and awareness.

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