What Is Holistic Health?

Health is made up of several components. However, if we are going to speak of health that starts within, I am of the opinion that health is made up of five ingredients: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health. Tending to these five essential elements can be summed up as holistic health. Let us take a closer look.

Physical Health

One of the first signs that our well-being might not be on the level it should is when our physical health is not doing too well. Physical health comes in all shapes and sizes, but can be broken down into a few elements. Physical activity is arguably the most important, given the rapid decline of our population’s health has been due to physical inactivity and as a result the increased rates of obesity. Physical activity includes a balance of strength, cardiovascular, and flexibility exercise.

Nutrition goes hand-and-hand with physical activity, as these two components are not only very important, but are together the leading causes of the decline in physical health. Is your nutrition on track? In other words, are you getting enough protein, fat, carbohydrates, fluids, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants in your daily diet?

Other items that can jeopardize our physical health include overuse and abuse of drugs and alcohol, not getting proper rest and recovery, and not taking care of and/or preventing personal ailments (e.g., injuries, sickness, STDs, etc.).

Mental & Emotional Health

Mental and emotional health are not the same thing but are interrelated. WebMD offers a simple, yet distinction between these two components of health. For instance, mental health has more to do with how you process information, whereas emotional health is more behavioral and is measured by your ability to express feelings based on the processing of that information. Simply put, it is thinking (mental) versus expressing (emotional).

How we think, feel, and act could be rooted in biology (e.g., brain chemistry), family history (e.g., mental health) and/or personal experiences (e.g., abuse or trauma). At the most basic level, having the ability to balance particular areas in life could help manage or prevent mental and emotional health concerns. This may include seeking a purpose in life, having fun and laughing regularly, balancing work and leisure, building fulfilling relationships, learning new things, and working on self-confidence and self-esteem.

Social Health

From the outside looking in, social health seems pretty self-explanatory. But to understand your true social health status, it is important to know the various pieces that make up this component of health. While there are many scales that experts use to measure, the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List is a good scale since it has been evaluated and used in many studies to evaluate social health. In essence, the strength of your social health is connected to the strength of your social relationships – the perceived availability of potential social resources. This includes tangible support (i.e., financial resources, material goods, service), belonging support (i.e., companionship), self-esteem support (i.e., how we value and perceive ourselves), and appraisal support (i.e., feedback from others for self-evaluation). Having a balance of these ingredients (or not) will give you a good indication as to where you stand on the strength of your social health.

Spiritual Health

Similar to social health, spiritual health is defined in various ways by different people. The way I view spiritual health is in such a way that balances the spirituality within and beyond oneself. As such, my definition is adopted from the Spiritual Well-Being Scale, because of its emphasis on four separate components that encompass spiritual health. There is a personal component, which considers self-awareness as providing the motivating force in relating with self in search for meaning, purpose and values in life. There is also a focus on communal, which considers in-depth inter-personal relationships with reference to morality, culture and religion. A third element focuses on the connection to the environment beyond care, nurture and stewardship. Lastly, transcendental well-being determines your relationship with something or someone beyond the human and natural worlds.  Having spiritual health does not necessarily mean that you have to have all or a balance of these elements. But rather is there something spiritual that assists in guiding you through life and the decisions you make.

The above are the various aspects of health that make up holistic health. After reading this post, could you say that your health is holistic? If so, good for you. If not, it is never too late to work on yourself. Life is a learning and growing process. This process should be continuous. We will never have perfect health. But if we continue to work on ourselves, our health will always be moving in a positive direction.

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