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Holistic Wellness: What Is It and Why Is It Important?
holistic wellness
Mental Health

Holistic Wellness: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

To live a good life means to take care of the whole.

Holistic wellness, as a lifestyle concept and an approach to overall health, has become increasingly popular. The phrase can be used in a range of contexts and encompasses numerous alternative health practices, so it can mean a variety of things. 

For the most part, it is understood that wellness—or being well—is something most people generally aspire to. But what exactly is holistic wellness? 


Considering the whole person

Essentially, holistic wellness is an approach to physical, mental, and spiritual health that considers the whole person in the pursuit of health, happiness, and spiritual wellness. 

It is often used to describe the overarching approach of many alternative or complementary medicine disciplines as well as a general approach to living a healthy, full life. 

Instead of simply looking at specific issues, whether they are health complaints like a chronic or acute illness, lifestyle issues such as diet, exercise, or weight gain, a holistic approach to wellness takes every aspect of a person’s life into account in order to find a place of healing, balance, and positive energy.

In this guide to holistic wellness, we will explore what a holistic approach to wellness truly is, why it’s important, and how you can work towards achieving it.

Holistic wellness

Holistic wellness strives to bring a person’s mind, body, environment, and spirit into balance. 

The two most common ways to think of holistic wellness are as a medical approach to wellness (also called holistic medicine) that promotes overall health, and more generally, as an integrative lifestyle practice that strives toward overall wellness.

Integrative health approach and lifestyle concept in one

As an integrative health approach, holistic wellness solutions center on treating the whole person in order to prevent and treat health issues while also promoting general wellness. As a lifestyle concept, holistic wellness is all about achieving optimal health in mind, spirit and physical wellness through a variety of methods that revitalize the whole person while also addressing specific issues or problems. 

Optimal health and holistic wellness solutions

Holistic wellness has become increasingly popular as more and more people strive toward balanced wellness, self care, intentionality, and living a better life. 

Generally, as the name implies, holistic wellness is about striving for being well in a way that utilizes every part of a person’s life, including the body and mind, emotional wellness and mental health, spiritual and social wellness, and overall wellness. 

Holistic means knowing and valuing the interconnectedness of all the parts of something. So, rather than just focusing on symptoms or specific issues, the concept involves how every aspect of a person intersects to influence their overall wellness, including even their personal relationships. 

Holistic care looks at many factors in order to design a whole person approach that can improve a person’s whole life, in an expansive sense as well as down to the tiny details. If you were to go to a holistic wellness center, they would focus on a number of key factors, that would take into account a person’s:

Fitness

Diet

Intentionality

Spiritual healing

Mental health

Social health

Nutrition

holistic wellness definition
(Westend61 / Getty)

Physical activity

Openness

Mental state

Physical fitness

Financial health

Environmental factors

Emotional health

Origins of holistic wellness

The concept of holistic wellness, self-healing, and the importance of treating the entire person rather than just a specific illness or condition goes back millenia and has roots in many ancient cultures. Eastern medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine are all based on this holistic, interconnected approach. 

The term holistic comes from the Greek holos, meaning whole. Combined with wellness, you get the whole person approach to health, healing, and happiness. Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, who is considered the father of medicine, was also a proponent of this approach to health care.

Ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (also called Laozi, which translates to Old Master) is also considered a pioneer of this way of thinking. He promoted the idea that mental, physical, and spiritual health intertwine. 

Lao Tzu, who was the founder of philosophical Taoism, advocated for a slow, mindful approach to wellbeing, which is encapsulated in this saying that’s attributed to him: “The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.”

Why is holistic wellness important

The Interconnected perspective promoted by holistic wellness allows for a deeper understanding of the root causes and underlying issues that may be contributing to physical and mental health conditions or general malaise. 

Additionally, this holistic care philosophy hinges on the idea that untangling the issues that are preventing someone from living their best life is the key to achieving balance and optimal health in all areas.

So, for example, if you have a nagging discomfort, such as back pain or headaches, or you feel stressed or depressed, a holistic approach to treating those issues would not be limited to those specific ailments. Yes, those problems would be addressed in a relatively normal way. Say, for example, your back pain required chiropractic care  - you would check they accept insurance, and could have it paid for by your work’s health plan. 

what is holistic wellness
(AJ_Watt / Getty)

However, an holistic approach would also consider all the non-physical ways that your discomfort was manifesting itself. Every other aspect of your life that might be contributing to those conditions would also be considered and treated as well.

A variety of options

Holistic wellness centers offer a variety of treatment options that can facilitate this holistic approach to medicine and optimal living. Some of these options include homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine, traditional chinese medicine, breathwork, and other complementary and alternative medical practices. 

Ultimately, holistic medicine strives to treat the whole person to uncover the underlying issues that may be contributing to such ailments as depression, grief, pain, anxiety, skin conditions, stress, trauma, and marital problems.

A productive way to understand the concept and benefits of a holistic health and wellness approach is to think about how issues like excess stress, poor sleep, inadequate nutrition, financial insecurity, and the legacy of racial and social injustice can exacerbate or cause a variety of other mental and physical health conditions. So, if you only treat the symptoms, such as the stomach aches or headaches often caused by stress, insomnia, or poor sleep, you will miss the root causes and the problems will persist.

How to achieve holistic wellness

Holistic wellness can be achieved through a variety of methods. In fact, it is often necessary to approach striving for overall wellness by pursuing many avenues of change in one’s life. Consulting holistic wellness centers and practitioners is a good place to start. You can work with a range of providers to make a plan that will foster spiritual and emotional growth as you finetune your mind and body.

Other ways to promote holistic wellness include self care, optimal nutrition, breathwork, exercise, meditation, yoga, listening to music, mindfulness, optimism, stress management, and counseling.

holistic wellness meaning
(Deepak Sethi / Getty)

Even small changes can result in big steps toward the goal of wellbeing. Additionally, many people find that once they get the ball rolling toward positive lifestyle changes, future changes become easier to start and maintain.

Ultimately, striving for holistic wellness can help you overcome challenges like depression, make progress in therapy, reduce stress and anxiety, achieve optimal physical and emotional health, develop new ways of thinking, and achieve greater life satisfaction.

Key takeaways

Holistic wellness promotes wellness in all areas of life, while honoring the interconnectedness of every aspect of the human experience. This approach to health and living your best life teaches us that you are not truly well unless all areas of your life are balanced and in an optimal state, including mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Pursuing holistic wellness is one way to root out issues that may be undermining your ability to fully realize your potential and enjoyment of life. This lifestyle, mental health, and physical health approach can help you discover your healthiest, most balanced, energized, centered, and dynamic self. Even better, those that embrace holistic wellness often find that they arrive at a state of health and happiness like they never imagined—and end up living a better life.

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