As self-care vibes are flooding our modern day, wellness-focused society, holistic health is on the rise. Emma Taylor spoke to the experts to find out how we can embrace this approach to wellness for a healthier body and mind.
Over the past few years, we have seen an emergence of routines that focus on the mind-body connection and how wellbeing of one relates to the other. In 2018, this is only going to increase. The increase in holistic health is seemingly concurrent, as people forget their misapprehension about these practices and realise it is simply a form of healing that considers the whole person – body, mind, spirit and emotions – not what has been thought of by some as ‘witch doctoring’.
Tonic Room’s owner Heidi Billington, and naturopath, medical herbalist and massage therapist Sarinah Hurford, emphasise the benefits of holistic health when it comes to reaching optimal wellbeing: “holistic means ‘whole’, so it’s a way of treating the body as a whole person – body, mind, spirit and emotions – as important in the quest for optimal health and wellness.” They also highlight the importance of understanding holistic health as ‘complementary to allopathic ‘(doctors), rather than as ‘alternative’ medicine. “Both streams of medicine have an important place in the health of an individual,” they say.
Clinical psychologist and mindfulness trainer for Renew Your Mind and Tonic Room, Lize Ligthelm agrees, and places emphasis on the long-term benefits: “It provides an integrated approach and opportunity for the person to make larger changes in terms of their overall wellbeing as they are often addressing the root of the problem rather than just the symptoms.”
The holistic approach to health dates back to 1790, and over the next 10 years up to 1800, homeopathy, osteopathy, naturopathy and chiropractic entered the scene. But they were met with great opposition from mainstream health systems that considered holistic health as ‘wacky’. Come the 21st century – a time the Global Wellness Institute told Collective Hub was ‘the tipping-point for wellness’ – and holistic health is increasingly being embraced by both individuals and health professionals determined to live healthier lives. According to a 2017 IBIS World Report on Alternative Healthcare, public awareness and adoption of alternative care saw the industry achieve an annual growth of 4 percent from 2012 to 2017. This enthusiasm for living a more well-rounded lifestyle and focusing on our wellbeing, paired with influencers on social media embracing health that embodies the body and mind, has reformed the way holistic health is seen.
The practitioners we spoke to all noticed an increased interest and awareness in holistic health, and Ligthelm puts this down to societal and economic stressors and the increased health-related difficulties people are experiencing. “[This] has certainly called for a change in the way we approach health and wellbeing,” she says. “I would say it is becoming increasingly common for people to want to make lifestyle changes that target more than one area of their health. They have probably started to see the benefits of approaching health in this way with there being longer-term changes and positive shifts in people’s overall sense of wellbeing.”
Tea-Tally good for you
A cuppa has never been so beneficial for mind and body.
Nettle tea: rich in iron, vitamin C and many other nutrients to promote vitality and provide a nourishing aid during convalescence.
Mint tea: can reduce congestion, pain and bloating from gas and cramping. It can also relieve nausea.
Rosehip tea: can be rich in vitamin C and other minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium. It can increase energy, improve adrenal function and boost the immune system.
Often thought of as a luxury treat, massage is a holistic treatment that Hurford says is highly beneficial for relaxing the nervous and musculoskeletal system. She has noticed a rise in demand for massage over the past few years, with an increased awareness of self-care as part of people’s stress management approach. She stresses how important massage therapy is for both the mind and body and reminds individuals that it can help alleviate anxiety, headaches, sports injuries, muscle aches, strains and tension.
Do it at home: Foam rollers and trigger point balls are excellent for self-massage, as they can help release connective tissue and muscular tension.
With more and more diet fads circulating, holistic nutrition is becoming increasingly important. The most important message Hurford and Billington try to get across about this practice is that no diet fits all; being vegan or Paleo may work for one person, however, for you, it might not. A person is what they eat, digest and assimilate and therefore everyone is different, they say. Essentially, a holistic approach to proper nutrition means discovering the pitfalls in the individual’s diet and developing a holistic diet that incorporates natural and organic foods, natural holistic supplements and customised nutrition plans for different health conditions. They reiterate this does not mean eating a strict diet or following a food trend. Instead, say you should eat from all of the food groups and take into consideration sensitivities, allergies and digestive issues. They also say it means being more conscious of reading food labels for synthetic additives (e.g. some gluten-free bread can contain a lot of additives).
Do it at home: Often when we are tired or bloated, it can be due to something we are eating. Start with a food diary for five days, marking how you feel after eating to help pinpoint food sensitivities. If you suspect intolerance’s (such as gluten or dairy) try eliminating the food group for a minimum of four weeks, observing any changes to energy, digestion, mood, skin and sleeping patterns.
As the forerunner of modern medicine, naturopathy is becoming increasingly popular as people take a preventative approach to their health. Hurford and Billington say they have noticed more and more people doing so, especially if they have a known illness in their family history. They attribute this to the increased awareness from the internet and social media about healthy eating and the interest in how health can prevent disease. They describe naturopathy as the use of various holistic modalities to help prevent disease and support the body. And say it focuses on investigating a person’s overall ‘health picture’ to discover the root of illness or imbalance and then provide the most appropriate, personalised treatment approach. Unsurprisingly, they often hear the assumption that naturopathy is not researched-based. However, they point out that more traditionally used herbs are being challenged and validated through scientific research, as more funding is slowly being given to this research with positive end results.
Do it at home: Dandelion leaf is high in potassium, which helps alleviate fluid retention, and dandelion root is excellent for liver health and can ease constipation.
Lemon juice, freshly grated ginger and turmeric root with dash of black pepper and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper is an amazing anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting shot.
Often thought of as a more intense form of treatment for those struggling with their mental health, Ligthelm explains that psychotherapy is becoming increasingly popular in today’s fast-paced society. Ligthelm has noticed more stress-related disorders and depression, including anxiety, burnout and, at a physiological level, one could identify autoimmune diseases, hormonal imbalances, gastrointestinal issues (i.e. irritable bowel syndrome). She says rather than being a treatment for people who are ‘weak’ and cannot deal with their problems effectively, it takes a lot of strength to actively explore one’s emotions, which can often be painful, but when worked through, equally rewarding and freeing. The process of psychotherapy helps clients make changes in their behaviour and thought patterns to develop healthier ways of relating and being. It provides a safe space where clients can reflect on emotional experiences and come to understand these better in relation to their background and experiences throughout life. With therapy, one can gain an increased ability to recognise unhelpful thought patterns and behaviours that stand in the way of well-being and optimal functioning, including noticing how they manifest in our bodies. Another way people can learn to pay more attention to their emotions and unhelpful thought patterns regularly is through mindfulness.
Simply put, mindfulness is about being present – and for that to happen it requires two things, paying attention to the moment (the here-and-now) and doing so with compassion. In other words, not critiquing the thoughts or feelings that you may become aware of as you are paying attention.
Do it at home: Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and at any given moment: driving to work and noticing the sounds around you; brushing your teeth and paying attention to every small move. Using the senses and breath are two of Ligthelm’s favourite ways to incorporate mindfulness into your day. Mindful eating is one example of using the senses and is a great opportunity to practice mindfulness. It can be helpful to become aware, noticing internal cues (such as hunger and satiety) and bodily needs. Ligthelm suggests that if you notice yourself feeling rushed and struggling to focus, bring yourself back to the moment by focusing on your breathing, simply take five minutes and just focus on inhales and exhales.
For more information visit renew your mind.
Two minute consultation
The ladies at Tonic Room share advice for common health concerns. Bear in mind that holistic health is individual so it’s important to find what works for you.
Check iron levels, B12 and whether you are digesting well. If tiredness is linked with bloating and poor bowel movements, you may not be assimilating nutrients well, so look at supporting the adrenal glands, check thyroid function and boost up with vitamins B and C, CoQ10, herbs such as rhodiola, Siberian ginseng and Ashwagandha.
Balance, restore and protect the body through mind and body therapies including massage, mindfulness, meditation, yoga and various forms of exercise. Consider magnesium, B vitamins and calming herbs for anxiety, low mood, sleep and adrenal support.
Try digestive teas, slippery elm powder, probiotics, nourishing gut formulas, digestive enzymes (bitters) and detoxification programmes. For more chronic conditions, see testing options.
Yoga is only growing in popularity as mind and bodycare combines, and owner of the Golden Yogi studio, Erin O’Hara, highlights a yoga practise called Kundalini, which is a powerful way to quickly transform energy and promote positive change within your life. It has been practiced by the Upanishads in India since 500 BC and is one of the oldest forms of yoga. It is known as one of the more spiritual forms of yoga and is often referred to as ‘the yoga of awareness’. It involves breath with movement and some chanting and it emphasises the connection to the mind, and brings into awareness the flow of energy within and around the body through meditation. O’Hara says it offers a way of balancing a busy life and was designed for the ‘householder’, enabling a way of connection to your true self. Kundalini yoga leaves you feeling uplifted and energised by bringing clarity to the mind, as well as physically balancing the body and appeals to people wanting to delve into a very meditative practice in order to raise consciousness. In Kundalini yoga, you won’t flow through sun salutations. Instead, it combines dynamic postures with breath, breathing exercises, chanting (mentally or aloud) and meditation.
Do it at home: Start by sitting cross-legged with a straight spine.
Energising breath (increasing solar energy): If you’re feeling tired, then using the thumb of the left hand and, keeping the other fingers straight, block off the left nostril. Through the right nostril, take 26 rounds of long, deep breaths.
Soothing breath (increasing lunar energy): If you’re feeling anxious or nervous, then using the thumb of the right hand and, keeping the other fingers straight, block off the right nostril. Through the left nostril, take 26 rounds of long, deep breaths.
Having been around for decades and adopted by various cultures, aromatherapy is a therapy that uses plant materials and oils to improve psychological and physical wellbeing. Most people use oil diffusers, which reduce toxins and rid the air of negative ions. Others use essential oils externally on the skin. It is believed that when you breathe in the essential oil molecules, they stimulate the amygdala and hippocampus parts of your brain and, in turn, influence your health. Benefits include reduced anxiety, relaxation, help sleeping, reduction of pain, improved digestion and increased circulation. Like other practices that were once thought of as ‘witch doctor’ cures, aromatherapy is increasingly being adopted into society, with individuals using it to complement other wellness practices.
Do it at home: Eucalyptus oil: In diffusers, it is beneficial for congestion. When placed near sinuses or on the chest, this oil helps with congestion and sore muscles.
Lavender oil: This is common for diffusers as it is believed to create a soothing, relaxing environment. Some studies believe it can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Topically applied, it is used for bruises, cuts and skin irritation.