Saturday, October 22, 2011

Holistic Health: The Body-Mind-Spirit Connection

While modern medicine continues to make great strides with scientific and technological breakthroughs, many of us are left wondering how a holistic perspective is still not used in a typical health evaluation. Despite the amazing scientific advancements in Western medicine there appears to be an overall disconnect concerning the multifaceted parts of the whole; neglecting to consider the mental, emotional and spiritual components that contribute to vitality and health in balance.

Conversely, Eastern beliefs and philosophies are hinged on the importance of the whole person, as well as their connection to the universe. The ancient wisdom of India and China reflect the importance of achieving harmony with nature through the philosophies and practices of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Both Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine have emerged from books of ancient wisdom that date back at least five thousand years and both belief systems have similarities in the shared view of the holistic nature of good health, well being and longevity.

Many people have found themselves dealing with chronic illness and struggling with subtle imbalances in their health that affect their overall quality of life. More and more health conscious individuals have turned to alternative healing modalities as a vehicle for self-healing while striving to find vitality and wellness. Innovate approaches to health and healing and the blending of alternative therapies combined with conventional Western medicine is an emerging trend known as Integrative Medicine. Integrative Medicine enlists the use of alternative or complementary approaches to healthcare under the supervision of a physician and is considered to be a partnership in healing between the patient and the physician. Integrative medicine supports the holistic health paradigm, recognizing the interactive influence of the body-mind and spirit connection, making relevant assessments and mapping out a plan to help achieve optimal health.

A holistic view of health and healing can be traced back through the ages. Hippocrates, a Greek physician that was born in 460BC, was known as the father of modern medicine and was regarded as the greatest physician of his time. Hippocrates, an herbalist, held the belief that the body must be treated as a whole. He is credited with having written” Let foods be your medicines, and your medicines your food.” Herbalism and medicine were essentially the same practice. The ancient Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Babylonians and Native Americans were all herbalists. The use of herbs is still a dominant part of the healing strategy used in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine today. All over the world, as far back as the history of mankind, plants have been a primary source for healing and nourishment. Herbal remedies can play an important part in supporting good health. Herbal remedies have been used throughout time and is slowly but surely gaining credibility for their curative properties. Herbal constituents are used as a base for many pharmaceutical drugs and scientific evidence has increased to back the validity of the use of herbs in healing. The use of herbs in cooking, beauty care and healthcare can be an asset to a holistic health regimen. The use of herbs can be dangerous if not used appropriately and should be taken under expert supervision.

Abundant research supports the view that the human body works as an integrated system rather than individual systems. Therefore, it makes good sense to view our health from a holistic perspective and take into consideration how our lifestyle choices can influence our overall state of health.

Holistic Health Links

American Holistic Health Assoication

Natural Center for Complimentary & Alternative Medicine

American Association of Integrative Medicine

Office of Dietary Supplements-National Institutes of Health

Ayurvedic Medical Association

American Herbalists Guild

Alternative Medicine Foundation

Monday, October 10, 2011

Transitioning into the Fall Season

The autumn equinox marks the transition into the fall season. An equinox occurs twice a year, the vernal equinox in spring, and the autumnal equinox in fall. The characteristics of an equinox include equal periods of light and dark at all latitudes with 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. This is an optimal time for reflection and creating balance in our lives.

Fall is a time of year that is undoubtedly about change. As the days grow shorter, the nights grow longer, and the winds blow colder, our perspective seems to change as well.  Fall is a good time to re-assess our situation, let go of what no longer works in our lives and move past limitations toward year-end success. Going with the flow and deviating from an original plan shouldn’t be interpreted as failure. It’s more about coming to terms with the reality of a situation an intuitively getting back on the right track. The outcome of assessment may mean reaffirming your commitments or changing gears and direction. In the midst of change we’re able to fine-tune our lifestyle and make necessary adjustments on the path to being the best we  can be on our quest for self-fulfillment and contentment.

When transitioning into the fall season with a holistic point of view, it’s important to take into consideration our emotional, mental, spiritual and physical well-being. Clarifying our emotions and letting go of fear and anger will help to create balance and replenish physical and creative energy. Identify the personal lifestyle habits that may undermine your health. Replace bad habits with healthy alternatives and be conscious of portion control and modifying consumption of unhealthy foods such as processed foods, chemical additives, stimulants and sugar. As the season transitions it’s a good time to establish a new cooking routine based on the available seasonal produce.

Spending time in nature enhances our connection not only to the rhythms and cycles of nature but also to our spirit or intuitive self. Walking or taking time for self-reflection can be conducive to letting go of everyday stress and moving forward with clarity. Along with a healthy, nutritious diet, stretching, deep breathing and exercise will help detoxify the body, clear the mind, improve circulation, metabolism and immune function.

As the cooling weather starts to settle in, we need to shift to foods that create warmth and and establish a warming physical environment to counteract the effects of the elements as the cold, dry, windy fall season begins to take hold. Living in harmony with the season will help maintain a strong and balanced state of health. It’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of everyday life and forget to take time for reflection. Connect with your inner wisdom and move toward positive change. Take the time to fill your home with the aroma of the comfort foods of the season, as it’s sure to inspire and warm the heart of all those that enter.