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Whole Person Health: Embracing a More Holistic Approach

Updated on February 9, 2019
Kaysha Reid profile image

Kaysha is a holistic wellness enthusiast with a meditation teacher certification and an appreciation for DIY projects.

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Healthy eating and exercise are certainly necessary habits to adopt. However, according to the American Holistic Health Association (AHHA), when we take a whole person approach (otherwise referred to as a holistic approach), health is more than just our bodies and it is also "more than just not being sick."

The Medical Dictionary by Farlex defines holistic health as "a relative state in which one is able to function well physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually in order to express the full range of one's unique potentialities within the environment in which one is living."

Understanding Holistic Health

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The word holistic was first coined in 1926 by Gen. J.C. Smuts, and derived from the Greek root holos, which also means ‘whole’.

Yet a ‘whole person’ approach to wellness or ‘holistic health’ dates as far back as 4th century BC. It was around this time, ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, spoke out against treating only one part of the body for illness. Much of Socrates’ philosophies have been revealed through Plato’s writings (Magee, 1998) (p. 24). Plato, a documented student of Socrates, continued Socrates’ work after his death. He has even been credited for the statement: “for the part can never be well unless the whole is well.”

So in essence, to reiterate, physical health is not the only factor for being “well”.

In fact, Charles B. Corbin of Arizona State University describes wellness as a “multidimensional state of being.’

Similarly, The Mosby’s Medical Dictionary defines it as, “a dynamic state of health in which an individual progresses toward a higher level of functioning, achieving an optimum balance between internal and external environments.”

We see basically that this “optimum balance” is a mind-body-spirit experience; but, nevertheless, stress has a reputation for affecting this mode of being.

How Does Stress Affects Us?

Stress is characterized as a “bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium.”

When stress occurs, it essentially overwhelms the nervous system. The body then becomes overloaded with chemicals that take it into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Still, the stress response can be beneficial for learning, creativity and in dangerous situations; but a constant and long-term exposure to stress can have negative impact on one or more aspects of our life and being, which as a result, affects us as a whole.

It is important to note, however, that while imbalance is an outcome of stress, a fundamental result of balance is stillness.

Where Balance and Stillness Meet

By and large, stillness sets a solid foundation for stress management as well as overall health and well-being. It is defined as “a state of freedom from storm or disturbance,” and described as “the near or complete absence of sound.” Hence, stillness can be both an inward and an outward experience.

It is possible, however, to create the outward silence without the inner calm; still this is not enough for us to reap the full rewards of stillness. In fact, it is through our inner life that we surrender, let go, as well as trust. Besides that, this is where we tend to be most aware of both stress and well-being.

So finally, when we take a holistic approach, the goal is to live by embracing our inner stillness. Yet we all grow to learn this by actively seeking the balance of peace and joy within.

This hereby begins our journey to whole person health.

Book Reference:

Magee, Bryan (1998). The Story of Philosophy. New York: DK Publishing Ltd.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Kaysha Reid

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