Where Physical and Mental Health Meet: Achieving the Eight Pillars of Holistic Wellness
By Jamisen Cook
The beautiful truth of life that stands, through the unforgivable messes and the unforgettable moments, is that both physical and mental health must be made, unequivocally, our top priorities. The two go hand in hand when it comes to overall well-being. The gut brain axis is just one of the body’s mechanisms where physical health and mental health meet.
Experts recognize eight pillars of holistic wellness: physical, nutritional, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, financial, and environmental. So, let’s take time to explore each pillar and how you can incorporate them into your life…
When we think of health, our physical body is often what comes to mind. Sleeping well, getting enough exercise, and taking care of our hygiene, to name a few. These things might already be on your radar as you work towards your best self, but for many, taking care of the external body is new, and sometimes even terrifying. Know that it is ok to start simple.
Sleep. Your body’s means of repairing, handling both internal and external stresses. Better quality sleep can have cascading benefits, reaching into many aspects of your life you might not have anticipated. Exercise. More than just a requirement for physical health, the boost of endorphins helps us stay positive, energized, and better equipped to take on the other pressing matters in our lives. Hygiene. Looking your best can help you feel your best. When you take care of yourself, you are not only protecting your physical body but your mental health too.
We know that what we eat changes how we feel, both in the body and the mind. Enriching our lives with food that makes us feel good to our core is a basic, yet crucial goal of human life. In our current world, this process can become complicated. Conflicting advice turns something that should be simple, into a chaotic confusion. Enhancing variety in your meals can be a fulfilling first step.
A flourishing gut microbiome depends on the diversity of our diets. Consider integrating new, whole foods into your favorite meals. Work them in, limiting the portion sizes of processed ingredients over time, allowing the good stuff to permeate the flavor until you can’t imagine your new favorite dish the old way.
For some, emotions are an afterthought, something we learn to swallow or cope with. For others, feelings are something we bathe in, basking in the good and reveling in the bad. But it is vital to understand how deeply rooted our emotions are with all aspects of wellness. Each day, it serves us to work towards a healthy balance. Do your best to seek out a support system, whether that be family, friends, or a professional, whenever you need it.
Keep in mind that we simply cannot approach improving holistic health without a solid foundation of emotional health. The gut brain axis is our mechanism for understanding this deep connection between our diet and its effect on our emotions. A healthy meal can set us in the right direction towards achieving emotional wellness.
It is widely known that humans require connection and community to survive. This is a quintessential aspect of our existence, yet sometimes we let it fall to the wayside, other priorities overtaking our basic needs. If you find yourself lacking for a social sphere, take the leap to get involved in something that makes you feel whole.
Seek out like-minded people, or an activity to share with others who appreciate it as much as you do. Consider your social rituals as a means to meet your other holistic wellness needs. Find a recreational sports team to blend in your exercise or join a book club to access your intellectual side. Not a public person? Absorb every second you can get with your family. Try to turn an ordinary day into a memory and hold a conversation that you can remember for a lifetime.
Sitting down to a meal with family or friends each day, a practice commonly associated with the Mediterranean diet, can have a powerful impact on social and nutritional well-being. The way you eat when gathering amongst your loved ones or treasured friends can change not only how you eat but, through the gut brain axis, the way your body processes it. Whenever possible, make mealtime a social affair. Integrating eating with laughter and community can make all the difference.
Spirituality means different things to different people. Whether or not religion is a part of your belief system, spirituality is nonetheless an important part of life. Although you certainly can, you do not have to go to a church or temple to engage with this aspect of your existence.
Spirituality can be as simple, or as deep, as deriving your purpose. Consider acquiring additional meaning in your life through daily practices of self-reflection, mindfulness, meditation, study, or prayer. Connect with your personal values and use your sense of purpose and belonging as a drive to achieve your holistic wellness goals.
When it seems that something is missing, but you can’t quite put your finger on it, you might need to refresh your existing intellectual stimulus. The mind needs to work on something fulfilling, separate from work, to help you interact with the desire to understand the world around you. Take time to indulge your innate sense of wonder.
Press play on a documentary with a subject you hold a deep curiosity for. Exercise the pages of the book you have stored away, awaiting a free day. Hold a conversation with an admired friend or colleague, taking the time to listen and learn from their unique experiences. Immerse yourself in the transformative power of learning a new language.
Intellectual engagement is an all too important aspect of mental health that can unwittingly get left behind. Consider making a conscious effort to reinvigorate your scholarly instincts.
Proactive financial decisions have the power to ease burgeoning worries about the past, present, and future. Your financial stability and even your mindset about money is deeply intertwined with your mental, and overall, well-being.
Learning about finances now could prove instrumental in making future decisions regarding career paths, recurring purchases, accumulating savings, and even your approach to holistic wellness. So, finally click the search button on a financial question you put off researching.
Whether you are working on landing an interview or planning for retirement, it is never too early or too late to get organized. If possible, meet with an advisor. Choose a trusted friend, responsible relative, or a trained professional with whom you can address your finances freely. Even the process of approaching a healthy mindset about money can lead to a previously untapped serenity.
We all too often forget to connect with our imminent surroundings. The walls we frequently sit within are just as important and vital to our wellness as the stunning nature beyond them. Hold both in high esteem. Prioritize a safe, organized space within the home and a fervent exploration of the natural world beyond it. Both are your oasis.
Something as simple as tidying your most frequently occupied room can make a major impact. Clear away your designated ‘too clean to wash, too dirty to wear’ laundry chair. Allow making your bed to become a treasured morning ritual. Declutter your desk and be amazed at sudden bursts of productivity. Not only will you feel accomplished checking something off that mile-long to-do list, but it can also bring you a genuine feeling of peace, knowing that you have achieved a sense of order and cleanliness.
Immersion in nature has the miraculous power to connect us back to the roots of our humanity. It can be as easy as a walk around the neighborhood, taking in the rustling of leaves, the scent of freshly cut grass, or the sheer greenness of it all. In your efforts to maximize your holistic wellness, remind yourself of the disarming power that nature holds. She leaves us in awe, as we take in the view, forgetting our problems that now seem as small as that bird way off in the distance.
The eight pillars of holistic wellness are simply a roadmap, outlining stops along the way, checkpoints to becoming our best, healthiest selves. As you embrace the journey, continue to check in, relishing in the beauty of how far you have come.
Jamisen Cook is a writer with a specific interest in health. She holds a degree in Communications and a minor in English from the University of California Los Angeles and is in the process of completing her master’s of Science Writing at Johns Hopkins University.