Holistic Self-Care is something we can each take personal responsibility for ourselves to place us on a path toward optimum health. The principles of holistic self-care fall into three primary categories as depicted above: physical health, emotional health, and spiritual health.
As Albert Schweitzer, philosopher and physician (1876 – 1965) wisely stated “It’s suppose to be a professional secret, but I’ll tell you anyway. We Doctors do nothing. We only help and encourage the Doctor within.”
Or, Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine (460 BC – 377 BC) “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
These were wise men, and perhaps a bit before their time. What they understood is that we each have the power within us to heal ourselves. It is our actions, and choices in lifestyle that will enable us to lead a healthy life. Practitioners of alternative medicine approach healing from a holistic perspective and see their primary goal as aiding one to create and maintain optimum health for body, mind, and spirit. All three aspects are intricately meshed and if one category is lacking it will hinder your ability to be truly healthy.
Physical health is not only the healthy body, but also looking at your environment, and whether you live in a toxic society, or one free from toxins. Today it is nearly impossible to free yourself from all toxins. We are bombarded daily with chemicals in our food, the chemicals in body products, the polluted air we breath, and the chemicals and pollutants in our water. It is a wonder we are as healthy as we are. But don’t despair! There are many things we can do, things that we can control, that will help us minimize the impact of those toxins, and again lead us down a path toward optimum health.
Proper diet is the cornerstone of optimum physical health. It can influence our moods and our mental function. Unfortunately the American diet has become increasingly devoid of essential nutrients due to minerally deficient soil and over reliance on pesticides used to grow crops. Add to that the hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs in raising livestock, and GMOs, and it is no surprise that we struggle to gain the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals from our foods. The rise in popularity of processed junk food increases the amount of chemical additives, trans fats, and saturated fats in our diet, along with all the white flour and refined starches. To top it off, FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has lined their pockets with funds from big corporations and they no longer look out for the common man. They do little to regulate the questionable chemicals, industrial pollutants, dyes, stabilizers, and preservatives in our foods.
The first rule of diet is to minimize or eliminate your intake of processed commercially grown foods. Place your emphasis on eating whole foods, and whenever possible make those organic. Shop on the outside perimeter of your grocery store, choosing fresh fruits and vegetables, and eat those foods closest to their raw state. In other words, no packaged foods. Reach for complex carbohydrates, nuts, seeds, fiber, pure water, and if eating meats, choose the organic products.
Probiotics should be a part of your daily regimen. I don’t typically recommend supplements unless they are natural. Why bombard yourself with synthetically derived chemical supplements? It makes no sense to me. If you are eating right you should not need all those supplements. However, once again probiotics are something we should add to our lives. The health benefits of probiotics include:
- probiotics manufacture certain B vitamins during the digestive cycle
- they enhance your immune system activity
- they manufacture lactase which is needed to digest dairy products
- they produce antibacterial substances that kill or deactivate hostile disease-causing bacteria
- probiotics improve the efficiency of our digestive tract
- they can reduce high cholesterol levels
- they protect against radiation damage and deactivate many toxic pollutants in the body
- they recycle Estrogen which reduces the likelihood of menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis
The challenge with probiotics is getting them into the intestines in an active form. We must get them past the stomach acids for them to be effective. There are three basic categories of probiotics we should be ingesting:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus – predominant friendly bacteria found in the upper intestinal tract
- Bifidobacterium Bifidum and B longum – primarily friendly bacteria found in the large intestine
- Streptococcus thermophilus and L. Bulgaricus – exist only transiently in the digestive tract
The preferable application of probiotics is to take it in powder form consisting of all three categories mentioned above. The recommended dosage is between 1 billion and 10 billion units per day. Yes, this sounds like a lot, but remember we are talking itty, bitty, bacteria. Make sure you check labels to insure all three types of probiotics are in your formula.
Exercise is next to diet in terms of one of the most important factors for achieving optimal health. Frequency and duration are more important than intensity. You should engage your large muscles 30 – 60 minutes 3 or more times per week. You need not do this all in one shot. You can do your exercise in 5 or 10 minute segments if that works better within your schedule. Whatever type of exercise you do, ideally it should provide 4 goals: aerobic capacity; strength; flexibility; and weight control.
Sleep is also crucial to maintaining an optimum level of health. Our bodies regenerate themselves when we sleep. A lack of sleep can impair our immunity, and make us more susceptible to disease, impaired mental function, increased accident risk, increased stress, anxiety and depression.
The second category for holistic self-care is our mental health. This means our peace of mind, our contentment, our positive beliefs and attitudes. There are a variety of ways we can increase our mental health.
- Affirmations can provide a positive mental attitude.
- Breathwork, or pranayam not only re-oxygenates our body at the cellular level, but has power to alter our consciousness and affect our mental and emotional health.
- Journal writing is an excellent way to release frustrations and often times provide valuable insights about our life issues and steps to more effectively resolve them.
- Relaxation exercises such as meditation, biofeedback and creative visualization all aid in achieving a positive state of mental health.
The last category for holistic self-care is our spiritual health. This is our ability to consciously cultivate a connection with Spirit in whatever form you practice. This is a state of being healthy socially in terms of your relationship with family, friends, and community. It is a key to achieving lasting peace of mind. This is easily accomplished through prayer, meditation, practicing spiritual traditions, and practicing gratitude. Research shows that spending time in volunteerism will also increase the positive emotions and significantly increases longevity.
So now you know the principle categories for holistically taking care of yourself. As you see much of this is easily controlled by you. Take responsibility, and incorporate these actions into your daily life, and you will be rewarded by being on a path of optimum health.