Holistic Health

holistic health

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Holistic health is a type of healing which encompasses our mind, body and soul as one in order to treat and cure diseases. This type of healing is characterized by multiple healing practices and alternative medicines. It is different from conventional treatments like allopathy in the sense that it targets not only the person’s physical, but also his mental and spiritual needs as well.


What Is Holistic Health?

Also known as holistic healing, it is all about caring for the individual as a whole. It provides for their social, spiritual, mental and physical needs. It is based on the belief that these factors play an important role in the overall well-being of a person. Maintaining a proper balance between these factors can lead to optimum health in a person. Practises used in holistic health are different from the ones conventionally used in allopathy or modern medicine. Its main objective is well and prevention of any diseases rather than just curing it. Holistic health can also be defined as a lifestyle which one can adopt in order to live their life to the fullest. A 1982 study 1 defines holistic health as an “attitudinal approach to health care rather than a particular set of techniques. It addresses the psychological, familial, societal, ethical and spiritual as well as biological dimensions of health and illness .” Thus, holistic healing is not bound to any single aspect of life. It believes that individuals are made up of parts. If one part does not work properly, the other parts get affected too. It aims to treat the causes of diseases and illnesses, rather than just treating it.

A good example of holistic health would be stress. If you have stress, you can have physical symptoms like headaches, weight gain/loss, muscle soreness and even insomnia. This works the opposite way also and you can experience the same symptoms in case of a physical illness. However, improving your mental health and spirituality can affect the way your body reacts to illness, resulting in reduced blood pressure, stress levels, etc. Thus, doctors who specialize in holistic health do not simply ask about the illness or the symptoms. They try to know about the overall life and health of a person.

Holistic Health At A Glance

  1. Holistic health is a type of healing which encompasses our mind, body and soul as one in order to treat and cure diseases.
  2. It aims to treat the causes of diseases and illnesses, rather than just treating it.
  3. Holistic healing looks beyond the physical body and encompasses all other aspects related to a person’s well-being.
  4. Holistic health combines all aspects of an individual’s life and uses it to treat causes of the illness.
  5. Holistic health, healing, care and treatment focuses on the theory that an individual cannot exist in parts.

Aspects Of Holistic Health

Aspects Of Holistic Health

Holistic healing looks beyond the physical body and encompasses all other aspects related to a person’s well-being. This gives rise to 5 main aspects of holistic healing which enable an individual to live life in a healthy, happy and wholesome manner. A 2017 study 2 states that holistic care addresses patient’s “physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs, restores their balances and enables them to deal with their illnesses.” Thus, these aspects form the basis of holistic health. However, if a single aspect gets compromised, the whole system might break down. Here are the primary aspects –

1. Physical

The first thing which comes to our mind when we think of physical health is our body. This is because whenever we suffer from any disease or illness, the very first symptoms start appearing on our body itself. Thus, these symptoms and signs can be easy to track and can measure the degree of illness in a person.

2. Emotional

A 1998 study 3 found that “emotional distress creates susceptibility to physical illness.” Our emotional health is an important indicator of the way our mind is working and how our body is adjusting to its surroundings. Emotional health can be a key indicator that something is wrong with us. When overlooked, it can be a reason for many ailments. Thus an important aspect of holistic health is emotional health.

3. Mental

People tend to confuse emotional and mental health. While emotional health is characterized by our daily emotions and moods, mental health refers to our brain and its cognitive function. The boundaries of mental, physical and emotional health may overlap with one another. A 2017 study 4 stated that “there is a strong link between mental health and physical health” and there needs to be an optimum balance between the two.

4. Spiritual

The term spiritual here does not denote religion. It means the ability to connect with your inner self. Spirituality has a lot to do with our overall health and is also an interconnected part of them. A 1999 study 5 stated that “Spiritual care is inseparable from physical, social and psychological care because together they form the whole.” It is an integral part of our healing process as stated by another 2001 study 6 where “Spiritual or compassionate care involves serving the whole person—the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual.”

5. Social

Happy people have deep connections with their family, friends and even their social community. Spirituality here comes into play, as people are happier when they can relate to their inner self, thus, being spiritual in nature. Holistic healing tends to encompass happiness as an important aspect of maintaining good health. A 2020 study 7 found out that happy individuals were less likely to develop diseases and ailments. Thus, happiness can be a vital factor in maintaining ideal health.

Principles Of Holistic Health

Principles Of Holistic Health

Holistic health combines all aspects of an individual’s life and uses it to treat causes of the illness. A 1982 study states that “it is an altitudinal approach to healthcare rather than a particular set of techniques.” It looks at all factors of an individual’s life and tries to maintain a balance between them. The principles of holistic healing are mentioned below:

1. Optimal health in an individual

The main goal of holistic healing is to ensure that an individual has the perfect balance between his mind, body and soul. This creates a state where an individual is truly healthy and the absence or presence of diseases does not matter.

2. Love heals everything

Holistic health practitioners believe in the innate power of love and how it can heal an individual. A 2012 study 8 has indeed proved this where the biochemical of love, oxytocin has been found to be beneficial for healing a variety of ailments. Holistic practitioners tend to treat patients with kindness, grace, acceptance and unconditional love.

Read More About Love Here

3. Patient practitioner relationship

An ideal mechanism of an optimal holistic healing would be a strong bonding between the patient and the holistic health practitioner. The relationship values the needs of both parties and tries to address the uniqueness of the patient.

4. Whole person

Holistic practitioners view an individual as a whole, made up by the mind, body and the spirit. They take an approach to healing which encompasses these three aspects. A 1999 study 9 on these three aspects proved that paying attention to them can indeed heal a person as a whole.

5. Every individual is unique

Holistic health visualizes each and every individual as a unique entity, having unique needs and nature. It focuses on the individual needs of every person rather than following a prescribed set of protocols, as is common with allopathy.

6. Teaching patients

Practitioners try to ensure each patient gets an idea of the concept of holistic health and what necessary changes they have to make in their life in order to fully benefit the healing process. Practitioners ensure patients incorporate those methods in their personal lives which can help to speed up the healing process.

7. Prevention and treatments

Holistic health focuses primarily on leading a healthy life, managing symptoms of illness and help raise awareness about diseases and how leading an optimal healthy life is enough to prevent any future ailments. It does not solely intend to cure the disease at hand. A 1979 study 10 on holistic methods of healing states that the approach tends to modify surrounding factors related to the patient, enhances the overall life quality of the patient and also relieves symptoms.

8. Individual healing power

A 2001 study 11 found out that we humans have an innate power of healing inside our bodies. This is in relation to our mind, body and soul, which works in sync to repel any diseases or pathogens which might enter our body. Holistic healing helps patients understand and evoke their inner healing abilities in order to achieve optimal health.

9. Integration of different healing systems

Holistic healing does not have any specific protocol or procedure to approach illnesses. It encompasses a whole broad range of treatment options. These treatments can vary from person to person. The practitioner selects the best available option as deemed by him.

10. Derive learning from life processes

Holistic health states that all processes of life including birth, dying, suffering, joy are all opportunities for learning. This is applicable for both patients and practitioners alike.

Types Of Holistic Health

Types Of Holistic Health

Holistic healing covers a wide range of traditional, complementary 12 and alternative medicine. Some of the types also overlap one another in terms of treatment and lifestyle changes. Some types, like acupuncture, have also found recognition in conventional medicine. The types of holistic healing that exists are:

1. Traditional alternative forms of medicine

  • Acupuncture
  • Homeopathy
  • Ayurveda
  • Naturopathy
  • Oriental or Chinese medicine

2. Medicine and practices which cover our physical body

  • Massage
  • Chiropractic
  • Body movement therapies
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi

3. Herbal and dietary medicine

  • Herbs
  • Dietary supplements
  • Changes in diet and nutrition

4. Use of external energy sources

  • Reiki
  • Qigong
  • Electromagnetic Therapy

5. Practices which aim to heal the mind

  • Hypnosis
  • Biofeedback
  • Meditation

6. Practices which target the mind

  • Visualization
  • Art
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Guided imagery

How Is Holistic Health Different From Allopathy

A 2008 study 13 states that holistic healing and its practices are a “group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine.” These types of medicines and practices are tradition based and seldom do they find recognition in Western countries. Holistic health differs from allopathic treatments in the sense that allopathy is more conventional, evidence based and mainstream. The main difference between the two is that allopathy is “disease centric” while holistic health is concerned with healing the whole body. Holistic treatment practices aim to heal the individual through energy alignments, herbal and dietary supplementation and other techniques which aim to balance our mind, body and soul.

On the other hand, allopathy aims to focus on the symptoms of the individual and uses invasive or pharmacological methods to remove foreign disease-causing bodies. Ancient texts support the use of alternative medicine while rigorous and modern clinical trials back the benefits of modern medicine. While there is a lot of controversy between the two as deemed by a 2000 study 14 , physicians today are starting to embrace both types of treatments. More research and trials are needed in order to fully understand the role and benefits of holistic healing.

How Holistic Healing Can Help Fight Diseases

Holistic health and healing can provide essential and vital information about patients and their overall health. It provides physicians with an in-depth understanding of a patient’s life and their individual needs and requirements. A 2017 study found out that holistic care has “important consequences in health-care systems and has been referred to as the heart of the science of nursing.” It can help patients get satisfied with their current healthcare and can get them to assume self-responsibility and self-care. It can also help doctors get a better idea of the patient’s ailments and their individual bodily reactions to it.

According to another 2017 study, when people get ill, “complex psychological, social and cultural needs disturb a patient’s balance,and adversely affect his/her ability to carry out everyday activities.” Holistic care here can help by addressing a patient’s emotional, spiritual, physical and social needs. It can help restore balance between these factors and can enable them to cope up with their illness, while also considerably improving their quality of life. Holistic health is characterised by a philosophy which is based on the unity of all the factors of an individual’s life and also having a humanistic view of each patient. The study states that a “holistic paradigm has been present in the healthcare systems of many cultures” and continues to affirm that it can be used in a variety of modern medical applications like nursing, surgery, mental health, pediatric and even public health. Using conventional medical approaches can be insufficient in some situations to restore full health in individuals and can also expose patients to serious threats, prolonged hospitalization and increased medical costs.

Read More About Types Of Holistic Health Treatments Here

Holistic Health – A summary

Holistic health, healing, care and treatment focuses on the theory that an individual cannot exist in parts. In order to achieve optimum health and lead a disease-free life, all aspects of an individual’s life have to be considered. The different aspects are interconnected with one another and a balance is maintained between them. Whenever any of these aspects like social, emotional, spiritual, mental and physical are compromised, the other aspects get affected too. Thus, to lead life to the fullest, one must ensure a perfect balance or equilibrium is maintained at all times. Trials and applications of holistic medicine in modern medicine have recently started, and it is a matter of time before we get to see new breakthroughs in modern medicine and treatments, related to a holistic concept.

👇 References:
  1. Gordon J. S. (1982). Holistic medicine: advances and shortcomings. The Western journal of medicine136(6), 546–551. []
  2. Jasemi, M., Valizadeh, L., Zamanzadeh, V., & Keogh, B. (2017). A Concept Analysis of Holistic Care by Hybrid Model. Indian journal of palliative care23(1), 71–80. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-1075.197960 []
  3. Stewart-Brown S. (1998). Emotional wellbeing and its relation to health. Physical disease may well result from emotional distress. BMJ (Clinical research ed.)317(7173), 1608–1609. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7173.1608 []
  4. Ohrnberger, J., Fichera, E., & Sutton, M. (2017, December). The relationship between physical and mental health: A mediation analysis. ScienceDirect.com | Science, health and medical journals, full text articles and books. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953617306639 []
  5. Lo, R., & Brown, R. (1999). Holistic care and spirituality: potential for increasing spiritual dimensions of nursing. The Australian journal of holistic nursing6(2), 4–9. []
  6. Puchalski C. M. (2001). The role of spirituality in health care. Proceedings (Baylor University. Medical Center)14(4), 352–357. https://doi.org/10.1080/08998280.2001.11927788 []
  7. Kushlev, K., Heintzelman, S. J., Lutes, L. D., Wirtz, D., Kanippayoor, J. M., Leitner, D., & Diener, E. (2020). Does Happiness Improve Health? Evidence From a Randomized Controlled Trial. Psychological science31(7), 807–821. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797620919673 []
  8. Carter, C. S., & Porges, S. W. (2013). The biochemistry of love: an oxytocin hypothesis. EMBO reports14(1), 12–16. https://doi.org/10.1038/embor.2012.191 []
  9. Edmands, M. S., Hoff, L. A., Kaylor, L., Mower, L., & Sorrell, S. (1999). Bridging gaps between mind, body, & spirit. Healing the whole person. Journal of psychosocial nursing and mental health services37(10), 35–42. []
  10. Lappé M. (1979). Holistic health: a valuable approach to medical care. The Western journal of medicine131(6), 475–478. []
  11. Reilly D. (2001). Enhancing human healing. BMJ (Clinical research ed.)322(7279), 120–121. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7279.120 []
  12. Kisling LA, Stiegmann RA. Alternative Medicine. [Updated 2020 Jul 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538520/ []
  13. Tabish S. A. (2008). Complementary and Alternative Healthcare: Is it Evidence-based?. International journal of health sciences2(1), V–IX. []
  14. Klotz L. H. (2000). Allopathic versus ‘holistic’ medicine. The Canadian journal of urology7(4), 1057. []
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