There are many lifestyle factors that can influence your general health, such as age, diet, exercise, skincare, medication and your environment.
The Western world tends to have a rather narrow definition of health, concerned primarily with the treatment of physical disease. In contrast, holistic health encourages us to think more broadly, taking a leaf out of nature’s book as part of a modern approach. But what exactly does this mean?
Think of health like a rainforest, which depends on the complex interplay between living organisms like ferns, mosses, butterflies and reptiles and their physical environment, including nutrients, climate and soil.
Holistic health considers the whole person and understands that each aspect of our lives is connected, just like an eco-system. Our bodies have their very own ecosystem that sup-ports our health. It’s called the microbiome, the trillions of microbes that live on and in our body, and it’s influenced by factors like exercise, the natural environment, and nutrition. Interestingly, these same principles feature prominently in a holistic lifestyle.
A holistic approach to health encompasses all the factors that influence our physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing.For example, we might be influenced by physical issues related to genetics, fitness, nutrition or other health conditions. Our emotions, in contrast, are often shaped by supportive or damaging relationships; social issues, such as belonging to a wider community or being isolated from one; spiritual issues, like a sense of meaning, purpose and refreshment; and/or environmental issues, such as access to nature.
Let’s consider three of these key lifestyle factors: exercise, the natural environment, and nutrition.
Exercise strengthens and balances our bodies while lifting our mind and mood.
By providing a healthy outlet for stress, it can help manage our emotions by increasing ‘happy hormones’ like serotonin. Physical activity also improves our sleep, allowing our bodies to protect and refresh itself. It can even provide a sense of accomplishment, which can improve our overall mood.
If you’re new to exercise, start slowly with moderate intensity exercise for the most benefit. Yoga, for example, strengthens the body and helps manage stress.
Some of the best mood-boosters walk on four legs. If you own a dog, you’ll find yourself quickly unwinding as you pat it and play together, while its boundless energy will encourage you to walk it, providing the benefits of exercise, fresh air and social connections with others from in and outside your neighbourhood.
Try to exercise outside as often as you can, as nature soothes and revitalises us. Exposure to nature, including urban green spaces, can improve our emotions and strengthen our resilience and coping skills. Nature helps our brains think better and remember more. It relaxes and restores us and can sup-port our immune system health.
Sadly, we can’t all move to a cabin in the forest. But we can try to bring elements of the natural world into our homes and workspaces for improved wellbeing. This restorative greenery can help to create a soothing indoor oasis. Perhaps you can move your desk nearer the window for natural light, create an interior plant wall, or find some sustainable wood-en furniture. Have a look for some biophilic interior design ideas online for inspiration.
Try to eat a holistic diet that incorporates a colourful variety of natural and organic foods like wholegrains, fruit, vegetables and protein, preferably plant-based where possible. These foods provide important nutrients like vitamins, minerals and prebiotic fibres that can nourish our bodies. Oh, and most importantly, they’re delicious!