2023, New Year, Holistic Health, Mental Health, Physical Health
Posted 3rd January 2023
External and environmental factors, such as the chemicals people are subjected to through water, air, personal care, and cleaning products, as well as the consumption of processed foods, doesn’t do their health any good. In fact, research by the BMJ reveals that there are positive associations between the risk of cardiovascular disease and death when highly processed food is consumed. This, combined with other concerns such as the cost-of-living crisis, can cause people’s bodies a lot of stress and fatigue. With this in mind, now more than ever, focusing on holistic health should be a priority for all of us, and even more so for older people and those living with a chronic condition.
What is holistic health?
Holistic health looks at the entire body system and how the mind, body and spirit are all connected, with the aim to achieve maximum wellbeing. A holistic approach allows the individual to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, enabling them to incorporate healthy practices into their daily life.
With less focus on symptoms and illness, it favours looking at maintaining independence, longevity, and overall wellness as we age. Furthermore, it considers the environmental and external factors we are faced with every day and how they might take a toll on physical and mental wellness.
There are five core elements to holistic health which are outlined below: physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual. The elements are interconnected and address all aspects of what makes us feel good. Usually if one element is compromised, it is more than likely that other areas will be as well.
When people think of health, most people tend to think of physical health. This is because physical symptoms will appear, making it easier to see if someone is in good health just by looking at their body. There are many ways to support your physical health, such as, moving your body for 30 minutes a day, getting eight hours of sleep per night, eating nutritious food, limiting processed foods, not smoking and reducing alcohol consumption.
For many older people, physical exercise can be testing, but getting the body moving every day is extremely beneficial. Simple activities could be stretching, walking, or yoga. Exercise keeps older people energised, flexible, strong, and positive, and can reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
Your mental health can have a huge impact on how we act and behave. The holistic approach to mental health is all about training the mind to consistently practise positive thinking. Research reveals that there is power in positive thinking, as positive emotions are linked with improved wellbeing, better overall health, and a longer life.
For older people, there are many ways they can support their mental health. For example, they could participate in a hobby or activity that grounds them. Activities like this that encourage mindfulness could be meditation, gardening, or walking in nature. It is important for older people to keep their minds active too - perhaps by doing a crossword every day, or something that challenges their brain.
There is plenty of research to prove that those people who have meaningful social interactions and deep connections with their family, friends and community, are the happiest people on the planet. For older people, it is essential to stay connected and studies have shown that health conditions such as strokes and dementia can be linked to social isolation and loneliness. Interacting with others not only increases people’s happiness, but also improves their brain health.
There are numerous ways that an older person can support their social health. They could get involved with their local community, focus more on uplifting relationships, and make conscious time to connect with others in-person. Even though technology has enabled us to keep in touch with others, which throughout the Covid-19 lockdowns was invaluable, getting together in-person provides an increased level of happiness.
Emotional health should not be overlooked as it can easily have a negative impact on physical health and wellbeing. As we get older, it can be easy to lose a sense of purpose, negatively affecting mood, and sometimes even leading to anxiety and depression.
Finding ways to support emotional health is important. For example, practices such as mindfulness or journaling might help, as well as spending time with family, listening to music, getting a pet, and seeking out therapy when required.
Many challenges we face in life can be overcome with a personal belief system. Spiritual health is all about how people connect with their soul, and the world around them. Whether it is through religion or mindfulness, carrying out spiritual practices daily can help people to understand their sense of self and purpose, improve their strength, and restore hope. For older people, this is particularly beneficial.
An older person’s spiritual health can be supported by spending time in nature, practicing their faith (if they are religious), meditating, and connecting with art and music.
By incorporating these five elements of holistic health into daily life, older people will not only feel more connected to themselves, but to their communities as well. Furthermore, their overall health and wellness will begin to significantly improve. With research reporting the risks of depression and disease are reduced when we are mentally stimulated, remain physically active and connect with others, adopting a holistic lifestyle should be a focus for older people in 2023.