Your mind, body and heart benefit from living in harmony with nature.
Ayurveda, or the science of life, promotes healthy living through educated food choices and an awareness of your body’s different life energies, or doshas. When people reference this ancient philosophy they often speaking of a holistic lifestyle. What do they mean when they say that?
Unlike most modern medical traditions that treat a patient’s physical symptoms without diagnosing the underlying cause, holistic medicine aims to treat the whole person while taking into account both the social and mental situations of a patient. The goal is to make you feel like a whole person in body, mind and spirit while taking care of what ails you in a safe, effective manner. Allowing you to feel like you’ve been nurtured and allowed to prosper as an individual is a hallmark of this lifestyle, and something many don’t understand.
There has been a lot of commotion about holistic living and whether it is a valid method of treatment, as well as buzz about natural medicine in general. The term “holism” came into existence in 1926, when African statesman Jan Smuts wrote the book Holism and Evolution. In it, he described holism as “the tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution.” To sum it up, a holistic lifestyle sees you as more than an anxiety disorder or bronchitis. It takes an in-depth look at who you are as a person and tries to balance all parts of your life into one cohesive unit. Some see this as a passing fad, much like certain celebrity diets, and not a valid way of life. But is it really?
In recent years, the world has seen an increase in people wanting to live happy, healthy lives through food, exercise and general well being. Yoga has exploded in popularity, and Ayurvedic medicine is being recognized in the Western part of the world for its incredible healing properties. Vegetarian Times, a magazine dedicated to a non-meat lifestyle, recently published a study called Vegetarianism in America, which states that 7.3 million Americans (3 percent of the population) call themselves vegetarians. Another 22.8 million Americans follow a vegetarian-inclined diet, which works out to be approximately ten percent of the country’s population. This has placed holistic medicine/lifestyle at the forefront of our vocabulary, yet some still see it as a hipster fad that will soon fade out of existence.
That may not necessarily be the case, though. It’s possible that there has been a general shift in the way we think about our health, and not just the physical aspects of it. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 65-80% of the entire world’s population primarily uses holistic naturopathic medicine as their go-to health care source. That means at its highest statistic, almost 6 billion people avoid traditional Western medicine for a more “all-over” approach to healing. This could explain why holistic living is at the forefront of medical news, and why so many people are hopping on the proverbial bandwagon. This is not to undermine the need, benefits and incredible advances of Western medicine, however. Without it, we would not have treatments for cancer, and many other diseases, which can prolong life or even cure the patient. But Western medicine is proactive in treating disease as separate from the “whole”, not in treating the person through analysis of all contributing factors. Long-term healing requires a holistic approach.
Components of a Holistic Lifestyle
Now that you are a little more familiar with the history and science behind holistic medicine, let’s look at the areas that make up the components of this alternative form of medicine. People tend to confuse healthy and holistic, and though they have a similar goal in mind, healthy living is not always conducted in a holistic manner. There are a few areas that should be considered when talking about holistic living: physical, emotional and spiritual health. Each area means something different to the individual practicing it, which means there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when trying to strike a delicate balance between the most important health aspects and how you live your life.
Physical health is the primary focus of most people, but signs of illness may or may not be rooted in a physical cause. Western medicine treats the symptoms of the illness, with pharmaceuticals being prescribed to help cure a disease. However, whatever ails you might not be as simple as looking at a sore throat or determining your hands have arthritis; it might be a deep-seated emotional issue that has never been diagnosed. According to the principles of Ayurveda, if your doshas aren’t aligned you will experience a disruption in your energy until they are properly balanced.
Emotional health means keeping a healthy mind, whether it is through meditation, yoga or daily affirmation. Negative emotions will upset your body’s natural balance, causing not only anxiety and stress but also sometimes an actual physical pain. Anyone that has experienced profound loss or disappointment knows that heartbreaking sadness can lead to feelings of physical discomfort, leading to more pronounced symptoms and a feeling of being sick. It’s important to take care of your emotional needs just as much as your physical ones. A holistic lifestyle helps to find a balance of both that works for the individual.
Spiritual health means you have peace with who you are and have a broader sense of where you fit in the natural order of the world. Our spirit is the essence of who we are and when the body and mind are at odds with each other, the spirit suffers, as well. It’s important to make time every day to take an assessment of all areas of our lives to ensure we are on the right path to being a whole person, inside and out.
To start adding these components to your life, keep it simple: be mindful of the foods you choose and try to eat organic whenever possible. Avoid processed foods and refined sugar, and consider a vegan, vegetarian or even pescetarian diet. Adhering to a meatless diet has been proven to enhance health and general well being over time.
Both yoga and meditation are great for your physical, mental, and spiritual health. They focus on mindful thinking, being aware of you in relation to the world. These exercises are meant to calm anxiety and strengthen your willpower, which are great qualities to have if you want to lead a holistic lifestyle. Spiritual health can also include small acts of kindness and compassion for others, letting go of a grudge against someone and forgiving them for their hurtful act, attending a religious sermon or surrounding yourself with non-material things that make you happy.
Take time on a daily basis to engage with your inner self for more patience and a sense of peace and live in a state of gratitude. We are all guilty of not taking the time to reflect. Take time to meditate or do yoga, or both.
There is significant evidence to support the benefits of transitioning to a holistic lifestyle, but the ultimate goal is to find a balance that works with your own unique self. Being committed to a holistic lifestyle is a personal choice, and one that will lead to a better style of living for the rest of your life.