Eight essential habits to be holistically healthy
“Holistic”. It’s a buzz word, a fashionable term. But that doesn’t mean it is ephemeral, a here-today-gone-tomorrow fad.
Far from it, in fact. This is a term that represents a concept which more and more people are discovering to be truly helpful, and is destined to reach everyone in the end.
You know what preventive medicine is. It means instead of smoking cigarettes and treating the emphysema and lung cancer that causes, don’t smoke in the first place. We understand that now. But in the 1942 classic movie Brief Encounter (I know, way before my time too, but a classic is a classic) a doctor explains the concept of preventive medicine to the woman he is beginning a brief and unfulfilled affair with. And she pretends to know what it is, but at that time it was at the stage where holistic health is now. People nod sagely and hope to pick up the general idea by listening to what you’re going to say about it.
So, in order to be holistically healthy, first catch your definition. The term holistic is closely related to the word whole, it just sounds odd that they are so similar. It means looking at the whole picture. A while ago we had holistic medicine, which means treating not just the symptoms but the cause, and therefore not just one part of the body but the whole of it, and the mind too.
Homeopathy, whether you believe it works or not, is based on that philosophy, and of course there are conventional doctors who will take the time and trouble to work out what is causing a problem, rather than simply giving you an ointment or some antibiotics just to get you out the door.
My own perspective on this is rather different, because I have experienced what it is to holistically damage myself and then struggle to reverse the process.
I did this through alcohol and drugs, because I was addicted to both (methamphetamine was the drug I ended up on, by the way).
Having started drinking at the age of nine, I was seduced by the drugs’ capacity to make me feel more comfortable, more capable, and of course then you’re on the slippery slope, because after the initial honeymoon period the booze and the drugs become your worst enemy.
I have been clean and sober now for nine years and I can’t tell you how great it is to be a fully functioning human again.
So, through my treatments for alcohol addiction and drug addiction, I have come to understand the holistic idea and that is why I’m passing on my thoughts to you. This site is for thinkers and is full of information that may seem out of your particular sphere, but that’s the point: with holistic health: nothing is out of your sphere.
I’m not going to give you scare stories and a thousand things you shouldn’t do. My eight points are building blocks for a healthy life.
And the first one is:
If you were lost in the desert, the jungle or on some cold, damp European moor, you would soon become thirsty, because water is an essential element of bodily functions. For the body to work properly you must drink plenty of it, but there is no hard and fast rule. Just make sure you start the day with some water (in tea or coffee if you must, but pure water is best). Then keep topping up your tank throughout the day. As a sports coach once told me, “If you wait until you’re thirsty it’s too late”.
- Watch what you eat
You know what’s good and what’s bad for you. The trouble is, often the bad stuff is hidden, particularly in ready-made dishes and restaurants. There will be salt way beyond the amount you would use at home, sugar you can’t taste because it is skilfully blended into the flavors, monosodium glutamate that only amplifies the flavor and a host of chemicals for taste and color which, again, you wouldn’t use if you were making the dish.
So, if you value your health, make your big shopping trip a raid on the fresh ingredients rather than cans of this and bottles of that. Vegetables, fresh meat, fish. Fruit, of course (but watch out for the sugary ones like watermelon and many of the tropical beauties – mangoes etc.)
- Exercise and sleep
I’m putting these together because that’s where they belong. The body needs exercise, and ideally as much as you can cope with. It varies from individual to individual, so make sure you know your limits. But you need to get the heart going, the blood pumping and sweating a little is usually a good sign. Be careful with your joints and don’t strain yourself, but the human body wasn’t designed to sit around all day doing nothing.
Sleep recharges the batteries and there is that symbiotic relationship: a good night’s sleep give you energy for exercise and plenty of exercise helps you to sleep.
The company of other people can have a significant influence on both physical and mental health. For the naturally gregarious this goes without saying, but for those who can naturally spend most of their time alone, it’s something you should consider. Other people have their own thoughts and views, and we all need to be challenged, just to keep us mentally active. New ideas, new viewpoints, new assessments of situations. They say being with children keeps you young. Being with caring people makes you feel loved. Being with intelligent people stimulates the brain.
- Don’t overdo the medicine
The body is capable of looking after itself to a great extent. There are times when we need assistance in the form of medicines, but it is important not to become reliant on chemical intervention if it’s not actually necessary. Which leads naturally to…
As the singer James Taylor once said, “As soon as you start to love it, make that the last time you use it.” And he should know, having been treated for alcohol addiction and drug addiction while somehow sustaining a career.
Addiction comes in many forms, from the senseless, destructive excesses of my youth to the elderly smoker who doesn’t really see it as an addiction. You might be “addicted” to daytime TV to the extent that you and your friends joke about it, and although obviously there are worse things in the world, aren’t there also better ways to use your time?
- Mind your mental health
The number of people suffering from depression, anxiety and so on always seems to be increasing. But perhaps that is because we’re talking about it more nowadays and it doesn’t have quite the same stigma as it used to. Whatever the case may be, we should pay attention to our mental state just like our physical one. There is lots of self-help here: spend time with the right people, get out more, avoid stressful situations. Analyze how you could help yourself and make the effort. Or consult a doctor about it. Just don’t sit there and wallow in it.
We’re all so self-reliant these days that in many people’s eyes it is uncool to believe in God, and if that is your opinion, then you’re entitled to it. But you may believe in some sort of “higher power”, as Alcoholics Anonymous puts it. If you feel the need to lean on someone or something outside your own experience, your own family and social circle, there is no shame in that. Whatever gets you through the night.
It’s your life, so you must take whatever steps you deem necessary to make it a good, happy life.I hope this has given you food for thought, and that the holistic approach will help you in some way. Why not leave a comment to let us know?