What Does Holistic Mean?
The word “holistic” is derived from the Greek holos, meaning “whole.” The philosophic sense of the word is: “characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.” And in medicine it means: “characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease.”
If you were studying the ecology of an area in the holistic sense, you’d have to examine all factors within that ecology, as well as any exterior forces that could affect it now and in the future.
If you were to take a holistic view of education, you’d look at each student and their rate of study and comprehension, what curriculum could be developed that would be modifiable to suit each student, and any real-world or hands-on components that would augment study. You would also ensure that the program relates to the students’ lives post-graduation, that it contained practical knowledge they could use to succeed, and that it connected with their own personal aspirations – all while taking into account the resources available. Instead of teaching students what to think, you’d teach them how to think and how to do. That would be a more holistic approach to education than what is generally done.
Body, Mind, Spirit
When looking at anything, from drug addiction to education, from the neighborhood to the planet, it is imperative to look at the whole picture so you can be effective in the long run. When it comes to an individual, what would be meant by holistic? The answer to that could be debated endlessly, but a good place to start is summed up in three words: body, mind, spirit. Some people believe there is only the body and its brain, but let us suppose that something spiritual exists.
Holistic is also described as a proactive approach to the personal, physical, mental, familial, social, societal, environmental, and spiritual purposes and influences relevant to the individual. That may sound like a brain overload, but I think I can lay it out rather simply in terms of what a holistic lifestyle would be and its benefits:
Life can be very difficult when you have your attention fixated on problems with your body. While I certainly don’t have all the answers (that would be something if I did), I can list out a few basics with regards to the body.
Avoid Mind-Altering Drugs
Some drugs, such as those for heart conditions, blood pressure, etc. are necessary for survival. Ideally one would be able to effectively address underlying causes and thus enable cessation of any drugs. Painkillers and anesthetics for injury, surgery, etc. are necessary, but one should cease their use as soon as possible.
The psychoactive or mind-altering drugs on the other hand should be avoided. Psychotropic drugs prescribed for mental disorders have proven repeatedly that their severe and deadly side effects far outweigh any perceived advantages. I am certain that enough pressure and backlash will cause the psychotropic pharmaceutical machine to self-destruct. Meth, cocaine, and heroin were once fully legal and were produced by some of the same companies still making drugs today.
The artificial high of drugs wears off, resulting in degenerating and depressive states of mind. Physical and psychological addiction makes a person a slave to a chemical. A holistic approach would require that one’s head stay clear in order to think and act freely.
Nutrition is a science, but it’s also an art in the hands of a trained chef or just a really good cook. You can eat healthy and it can taste great too. People get accustomed to food laced with MSG and other chemicals and think it tastes good. After eating natural, organic, and unprocessed foods for a while you won’t want to go back to the fake stuff. I like me a good cheeseburger, fries and a Coke, but only once in a while.
Some “scientific studies” have sought to discredit vitamins and minerals as necessities for one’s health, which is comparable to “discrediting” food as necessary for survival. Eating whole and natural foods improves your overall life outlook and physical well-being.
For many, exercise simply feels good. It is necessary for the body, and its neglect results in quite a few health problems. If you simply loathe exercise, try doing a light version – just do it every day. Our bodies weren’t meant to stay seated all the time. The idea of sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours a day is a relatively new idea. When people had to hunt, gather or farm for survival, they got plenty of exercise. Nowadays, millions of office workers worldwide must compensate for this through daily exercise.
Running, working out, sports, etc. would most certainly be part of your holistic lifestyle.
The body needs sleep. Some people need 8 hours per night. Some need less and some need more. Pulling an all-nighter is a noble effort, but is not always worth the havoc on your system. As a rule, you should get sufficient rest. Sleeping pills are notoriously addictive with all kinds of side effects. Failure to sleep can result in a body that is basically unusable and a dull or even frantic state of mind. There are quite a few natural remedies for insomnia and sleep disorders which I have detailed in several posts.
Some “mainstream” medical journals have slammed holistic or “alternative” medicine for being unscientific or unempirical in its findings. Doctors are very important people. When you have a broken bone, etc. a doctor can fix you up. But the “pill for every ill” has not worked. Only looking at the symptoms and not the causes has not worked. I recommend seeing a practitioner who is an MD as well as a naturopathic physician. That way you get both angles. I’ve also found chiropractic to be very helpful, especially when my back or neck was out. There are other ancient approaches to medicine such as acupuncture. I can’t vouch for all of these systems – you’d have to determine what works for YOU. A holistic view means looking and deciding for yourself.
What is a mind? Close your eyes. Get a picture of a cat. That’s a mind. That’s a picture in a mind. Is a brain a mind? We’ll leave that debate for another day. You have a mind. A family has a mind. A business has a mind. The MIND as relates to a holistic lifestyle:
Uncluttered Space = Uncluttered Mind
Want to clear your mind? Clear out your room. Start going through all the miscellaneous piles of papers. Make a filing system. Take care of each piece of paper, throw out what is no longer needed, and file away what you are done with but should hold onto. Do the same with your email. Remove the junk you don’t need in your room and your house. Clean up the place. Decide where things go and put things back when you are done using them. Establish a stable base of operation.
Some people are notoriously messy, yet are geniuses – the absent-minded professors. You can take or leave my advice. I have found that when my house and place of business are in order, my mind or brain or whatever you want to call it functions better.
Stay True to Your Vision
The recent Steve Jobs biopic was fascinating. He was a flawed individual with a singular vision. He stayed true to what he wanted to create. When he was kicked out of his own company, it was because he was too dedicated to his vision. He was perceived as a liability to the company’s bottom line. Yet, it was Jobs who was called back to resurrect Apple and bring it back to its original vision and subsequent massive success. Ever visit the “Glass Cube” Apple store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan? It’s a tourist attraction. It’s open 24/7, 365 days a year, and it’s always busy. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen an Apple store that wasn’t full. I guess Jobs was onto something.
My point: Stay true to your aims, your vision, and your ideals. They are yours.
To get a balance in your life, it is necessary to prioritize and maintain a high level of productivity. Keep track of your levels of production, and take action to streamline what you are doing for maximum effect. This requires teamwork and excellent two-way communication. How does this relate to a holistic approach? It puts you in better harmony with yourself, your fellows, and the world around you.
Remember the picture of the cat I mentioned? When you close your eyes and look at, who’s looking at it? That’s a spirit. That’s you.
We’d all like a clean conscience. In rehab, a recovering addict or alcoholic must confront their misdeeds and get straight with friends and loved ones. Anyone can benefit from such a process. People don’t like someone moralistically telling them what is right and wrong. When people are honest with themselves and others, it is on a personal level – they can look themselves in the mirror. It’s a good feeling – like a view from the mountaintop.
Spirituality or Science?
Some people believe that spirituality and science are mutually exclusive. Some say there is no spirit, that there is nothing but what we can see and hear and touch. All I can say is that there are an infinite number of things which cannot be seen or heard or touched – but they can certainly be felt and they are most certainly real. It is up to you to decide whether or not to pursue anything spiritual. I find both spirituality and science endlessly fascinating and applicable – they don’t cancel each other out in the slightest. Faith, religion, the spiritual quest – these are part of the greater whole we call life.
Family & Friends
No one makes it alone. We need family and we need friends. Many consider their close friends as part of their extended family. Include your friends and family in your holistic equation. Help them to live with all the qualities I’ve gone over.
You can look upon all of mankind as your extended family. See what good you can do in your own neighborhood, for those less fortunate than yourself, and for the environment. Achieving your own sense of personal equilibrium may indeed involve helping others. Whether on a small or large scale, what you do does matter.
Solace & Creativity
Lastly, you can probably name those things that make you happy in life. For some it is the great outdoors. For others it is creativity and the arts. Or it could be providing for your family’s future and the sense of accomplishment that brings. The “holistic lifestyle” is something you hammer and mold into existence the way you see fit. I hope I have provided a useful guide.