While food truly does have the power to change everything, health is so much more than what you eat. All areas of your life impact your health and happiness, from your career, relationships, physical activity, to your spiritual practice. By taking this holistic approach to your health, and nourishing all areas of your life, you have the opportunity to really feel your best. Here is a post on holistic health and how it can help you on your quest for health and happiness.
What is holistic health?
— An approach to life
— Finding the root causes instead of just tending to symptoms
— Primary and secondary food
— The circle of life
How to use a holistic health approach in your life
Are you ready to incorporate holistic health into your life?
A great definition I found online is:
Holistic health is your overall state of wellness on all levels of your being: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It encompasses the health of your entire being and extends to everyone and everything that interacts with you in any way. That includes your resources, your environment, and your relationships. Holistic Mind Body Healing
Holistic Health is an approach that looks at the whole person – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual – instead of just focusing on symptoms of a disease. It’s about finding the root cause of problems and seeking to find balance in the body.
So it’s not just about eating your green vegetables (although that’s a great start! :)). Areas like your career, relationships, physical activity and spirituality all play a role in your health and wellbeing. As they say, you can eat all the broccoli in the world, but if you’re in a toxic relationship or hate your job, you’re never going to feel your best.
All the different areas of our lives influence one another, in positive or negative ways. And when one area is unwell, it affects the other areas and causes an imbalance in our bodies and lives that can influence our behaviours and how we are in the world.
There are many interesting resources online to go and read more about Holistic Health.
However, to keep it simple, I simply see Holistic Health as an approach to life.
When you understand the concept that everything in your life is intimately interconnected, you start to approach health in a different way. Holistic health isn’t about being thin or fit, it’s an all-encompassing feeling of vitality – mind, body and spirit.
And to get yourself on that journey of holistic health, you need to start looking at the different areas of your life and how they are impacting your health and happiness. From there, you can looking at ways you can nourish areas of your life that need attention.
Going a step further, with a holistic health mindset, you can start looking a little deeper for the root causes instead of just the symptoms on the surface.
Example 1: When you start getting a cold – Instead of thinking ‘I have a cold, I must get medicine’ – think about why your body’s immune system is rundown. Ask yourself questions like ‘Am I getting enough sleep and rest time?’ ‘Am I eating enough nutritious food?’ ‘Am I overworking and burnt out?’ From there, start taking steps to really heal yourself from the root. Perhaps you need to adjust your schedule and get an extra hour of much-needed sleep. Or perhaps you could start eating a big nourishing breakfast to give your body more of the nutrients it needs. Perhaps going for a weekly yoga class or a walk in nature could help your body and mind let go of some built-up tension.
Example 2: If you’re struggling with emotional eating and your relationship with food – Start looking at how you feel when you’re eating – Ask yourself ‘What triggers my emotional eating?’ ‘What times of day do I find myself binge eating?’ ‘How do I feel when I’m eating?’ ‘Is there something I’m missing in my life?’ You may find a deeper root cause, like that you’re lonely and eating gives you some comfort in the evenings. From this place of discovery, you can look at ways to heal yourself, like engaging in more social activities that you enjoy (like joining a community meetup) to give you more nourishment in this area of your life.
Whatever symptoms come up in your life, start putting on your detective hat and looking deeper. Start listening to yourself, and you’ll find small lifestyle adjustments can have a big impact on your health and happiness!
While studying at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition, I’ve loved learning about one of their core concepts around Primary and Secondary Food.
While food is important, at IIN it is considered to be Secondary Food. Primary food, instead, is the food off your plate – relationships, career, physical activity and spirituality.
In IIN’s words:
Your primary food – career, relationships, spirituality, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors – plays an equal if not greater role in improving your overall health and wellness than what’s on your plate. We’re not just hungry for and nourished by food; we need love, movement, stability, adventure, a higher purpose, and self-expression in our lives to thrive.
At IIN we have a tool called the Circle of Life which consists of 12 areas of life that affect your health. The four most important areas are relationships, career, spirituality, and physical activity. The others include creativity, finances, education, health, home cooking, home environment, social life, and joy.
When I started studying at IIN, I was healthy, but I was a lot more focused on food and exercise, like most people. But, over time, as I explored the different areas of primary food, I started to feel a wonderful holistic influence in my life.
I realised that, while I was eating well and exercising, there were certainly areas of my life that were lacking. And so, I started looking at the different parts of the circle of life and finding ways to nourish them.
Spending more one-on-one quality time with friends and family, doing more activities that give me joy like spending time outside in nature and doing yoga, reconnecting with myself through meditation, working on my career direction, incorporating LOTS more self-care, taking control of my personal finances, and the list goes on.
All these different activities nourish me in different ways and each impact other areas of my life in very meaningful ways. What’s more, they fuel my health and vitality in a way that inspires me to keep going with the healthy eating and exercising!
Incorporating a holistic health approach to your life may seem overwhelming if you haven’t done it before, but it doesn’t need to be.
There are many different ways to approach holistic health, but here is a simple way to get you started:
Step 1: Do the IIN primary circle exercise
Start off by doing the IIN Circle of Life exercise. This will help you look at your life as a whole.
Click here to do the exercise – follow the instructions and create your very own circle of life.
Step 2: Notice any imbalances in your life
After doing your Circle of Life, notice any imbalances you have in your life. These are the areas that you scored the lowest and the areas that need some TLC.
Step 3: Pick one area and think of ways you can nurture this area
Pick one area to work on – this could be your home environment, your relationships, your health or your creativity. Choose one of the areas you scored the lowest, and brainstorm a few ways that you could nourish this area of your life.
Step 4: Schedule in time every week to work on this area
Schedule in time every week to work on this area.
For example, if you chose home environment, you could schedule in time to clean up your place, declutter, give away old clothes you don’t wear, add flowers to your space, move furniture around, or even start looking for a better neighbourhood or city to live in.
Remember that we are all unique, so interpret the different areas in your own way, and go with your intuition. For example, if your joy area is scored low, think about what brings you joy – it could be spending time with family, spending time in nature or working on a creative project.
There is no right or wrong, and different areas can overlap. Just trust yourself and ask yourself ‘What do I need in this area to feel better?’ ‘What can I do to nourish this area of my life’.
Every week take the time to work on this area, even if it’s just an hour. Over time, you’ll start to find more happiness and balance in this area and it’ll influence other areas of your life in positive ways.
Step 4: Keep repeating nurturing the different areas of your life
Once you’ve spent some time working on one area of your life, redo the Circle of Life Tool and see how you’re feeling now, compared to the first time you did it. Did nurturing this one area of your life impact any other areas?
Now, look at other areas of your life that feel out of balance and need some attention. Perhaps this time it’s home cooking or social life. What are some steps you can take to nourish these areas?
Have fun with this, and feed yourself in all sorts of ways!
I hope that this post has inspired you to look at your health and happiness through a holistic lens. By playing around with the above concept, over time, you’ll find yourself nourishing your life in all sorts of ways. This wonderful holistic approach will make your health journey a lot more interesting and rewarding in so many ways. You’ll notice how they are all interconnected, and how nourishing one area can inspire positive transformation in another.
What area of your life do you feel needs some TLC? What’s one step you can take to nourish this area of your life? Send me an email a message on Instagram, or share in the comments below, I’d love to know!