Holistic health is about the total recognition of our well-being: emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical. This also includes environmental, social, and occupational.
Leonardo da Vinci
“To be alive is to transform”
Over the years I have studied the philosophy of holistic health. This way of understanding appeals to me greatly as it offers up a sense of control, and the opportunity to improve the physical health of my body. I like that I can make conscious choices in how I react, think, and believe, which also influence the decisions I make regarding my home life, relationships, career, and visible surroundings. In no way does this discount the actual care and advice of the medical profession, but it does add a more dynamic, inclusive way of seeing the bigger picture that is the totality of a remarkable, miraculous you.
My focus will be on self-care, here I will share some of the important practices I have incorporated that have helped me to feel better in my body, and self. Some are fluid, and are used as needed, but others have become part of my daily routine, and in many cases a way of life such as: mindfulness, deep calming breaths, walking, resting, and releasing. I will go more in depth as we move further along.
“When you learn to completely inhabit your body in the physical, by listening to, and honoring your inner guidance system, you will naturally be in sync. The other components are just as important, but I have learned this to be the key to wholeness.“
Physical, Emotional, Mental, Spiritual.. ..Physical, Emotional, Mental, Spiritual..
sunflower photo by Amy
Your body has a wisdom all its own. Coordinated by several complex and interconnected vital systems, everything works together down to the tiniest most minuscule details. These systems include: Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Digestive, Skeletal, Muscular, Nervous, Endocrine, Lymphatic, Urinary, Reproductive, and Integumentary.
Your body speaks to you every day, through feelings, thoughts, and symptoms. When we choose to listen to our intuitive guidance system, we can then be proactive towards taking charge of, and bettering our health.
“Breathing in I calm my body, breathing out I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, you know this is a wonderful moment.”
Thich Nhat Hahn
Most people have heard of the concept of taking deep breaths as a way to calm down. I even taught it to the pre-school age children in my program. It wasn’t until I became dedicated to adding it to my anxiety tool box that it actually began to make a huge difference. It takes some time to create a habit, but if you can try to practice this simple technique a few times a day, your body will soon recognize it as a way to bring relief. Personally, I practice it whenever I think of it, on my walks, in the middle of cooking dinner, while I am watching tv. However you can, structure it around a schedule if that helps you to remember. The concept that intrigues me the most is how it quiets down your nervous system, which, if you are an anxious person, is often in the fight or flight response. By taking deep breaths from your abdominal area, and increasing your “out breath” by 2 more seconds longer than your “in breath”, you can reset your body’s sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, which control parts of your brain, digestion, heartbeat and breathing. Deep breathing helps me significantly feel better, and returns my awareness back into my physical self, where I can then reconnect my body AND mind to work together in harmony. Returning to your body first is key, and being able to regain control of your breathing is one of the easiest and most productive tools to get you there. Breathe in 6…..hold for 2…..breathe out 8, after awhile it will be as simple as, well….breathing.
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My Personal Story
I spent several years disregarding the symptoms of discomfort I sometimes felt in my digestive system. I ignored my concerns by excusing it as stress, something I ate, anxiety, or even a passing virus. Because it was so infrequent, I paid little attention to myself. It wasn’t until the beginning of 2020 that it suddenly evolved into a serious steady pain. I began truly listening to my body, and made steadfast changes over the course of the past 11 months. For one, I quit drinking my wine that I loved so much as it increased my discomfort. I was worried, so it was actually easy for me to stop, even though I had been drinking 1-2 glasses a night for years. I began a more structured eating schedule, which meant I did not skip meals anymore. I mindfully chewed my food at length, slowly and thoroughly, at first this was difficult, but now I do it without second thought. I was already gluten and dairy free to reduce inflammation in my body, so this remained the same. I added more fiber, vegetables, less fat, drank more water, and ate smaller portions. I cut sugar out of my diet (for the most part!).
I consulted with a doctor who discussed symptoms of IBS, and treated me for SIBO, which is a bacterial imbalance in the digestive system. She prescribed a very expensive antibiotic designed to treat this specific condition, *thank goodness I had insurance to cover the cost.* I also had a colonoscopy, which I had put off for 7 years because I dreaded the procedure, and the anxiety of the ”possible results.” Thankfully it came up clear.
I began a simple 10 minute a day practice of sun salutations, and as often as I could remember, I would stop and take deep long breaths. Inhale for a count of 8…. hold for 4….exhale for 10. I love going for walks on a regular basis, but I increased my mileage, and actually walked 500 miles over the course of 5 months. *These physical and breathing exercises, greatly contributed to my mental well being.* Finally, but just as importantly, I identified the old ways in which I was dealing with my stress, those that were no longer creating peace, and I replaced them with new and improved ones. I recognized the emotional pain I had been holding on to for a long time, and began releasing my grief over any past and current relationships where I still felt abandoned and hurt. I am of course, a work in progress, but certainly much lighter and calmer in spirit since I first began this journey. Everything I have done has brought my body back into balance. I have very little symptoms, and no more pain. I will continue these new habits and ways of being until my body tells me otherwise. I am incredibly grateful for my inner guidance system. I feel so much better: Physically, Emotionally, Mentally, and Spiritually.
As a side note: I am not perfect. Sometimes I don’t always follow exactly what I know to be best. It can be easy to check out emotionally and discount my feelings. Due to weather, lack of sleep, or little motivation, I may not exercise. Mostly though, I remind myself that it’s an act of self-love to take good care of my entirety, and so I try to do better the next day. Kindness to one’s self is key on your quest for healing.
……To be continued 🙂…….