The holistic approach to healthcare is based upon the belief that there is interconnectedness that exists between the different aspects of our being. The relationship between the mind, body, soul, and spirit is so intertwined that it is like a car that sputters when just one spark plug goes bad. When there is illness or disruption in any of these parts of our beings, the others will be adversely affected as well. So, let’s focus on our holistic mental wellness and how it is impacted, either negatively or positively, by the other elements of self.
6 Things that Are Not Good for Our Mental Health
When we consider our mood state or state of mental health, we usually assume the things that may negatively influence it are the usual culprits—external stressors or negative life events. These are indeed factors that commonly affect our mental health, but from a holistic viewpoint they are hardly the only ones. In fact, there are a myriad of attitudes,
social factors, and lifestyle choices that can also have a profoundly disruptive impact on our mental wellness, including:
- You could have everything going for you…a great job, a wonderful family life, and meaningful relationships…but still suffer from depression or
some other mental health disorder. Why is that? Those who cling to a negative outlook on life, even those who have seem to have it all, will basically poison their overall wellbeing with this negativity. A negative attitude pervades every part of your personality, the way you interact with people, and the way you move through life. Negative emotions have a significant effect on stress levels, hormone balance, immune health, and general health status.
- Lack of social connection. Yes, people really do need people. Loneliness is the emotional result of not having one’s social needs met. Humans are social animals and thrive on interacting with others. While we all experience loneliness from time to time, such as when we make a life change like moving to a new town or
changing jobs, chronic loneliness involves prolonged periods of isolation or lack of social connection. Studies have shown that chronic loneliness is a predictor of poor mental health and reduced lifespan.
- Holding grudges. While it may feel good to marinate in feelings of resentment or anger towards someone who has wronged you, this is not at all good for your mental health. When we cling to victimhood and perceived slights we stir up the
stress hormones, including cortisol, which can negatively impact our immune system, disrupt sleep quality, and harm relationships.
- Health conditions. Some health conditions can result in a secondary mental health issue. Mood disorders, like anxiety or depression, have been linked to a long list of health conditions, further proof of the strong connection between the mind and the body. These medical conditions include diabetes, cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, chronic pain, and heart disease.
- Poor diet. When we are tempted to fill up on comfort foods and sugary treats we are actually doing a disservice to both our physical wellbeing and our mental health. A recent meta-study added more evidence that this is so by reporting the role of diet in depressive disorder. It concluded that consuming an excess of red and/or processed meat, sweets, high-fat dairy, refined grains, and minimal fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression.
- Lack of sunshine. Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that stems from lack of daylight hours during the winter months. Evidence has emerged that a significant causal factor is the lack of sun exposure and vitamin D deficiency that culminates in symptoms of depression. Couple that with gloomy, inclement weather and shorter days that result in lowered rates of exercise, it is easy to understand how lack of sun exposure can lead to depression.
Holistic Mental Health Treatment
Western medicine is designed to treat the symptoms of a certain condition. You
experience a health issue or a mental health issue and you see a doctor. The doctor will
evaluate the symptoms, consult their diagnostic manuals and arrive at a diagnosis, after which treatment will be prescribed.
Holistic or integrative medicine considers the person’s bodily systems in total, as well as questioning them about their emotional state and social factors that might factor into the presenting problem. Holistic interventions, in essence, treat the whole person. It is based on the belief that all systems are interconnected and influence each other.
When it comes to holistic mental health treatment, the same concept applies. When
someone approaches a mental health practitioner with concerns about their emotional health, the holistic mental health approach will consider all aspects of the person’s
wellbeing to identify the cause of the disturbance.
A holistic mental health retreat or residential program utilizes the following interventions:
- Evidence-based psychotherapies. While there are many clinically effective therapies to choose from, the most popular psychotherapies are cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, and interpersonal therapy.
- Experiential activities. Holistic treatment often involves activities that enhance the therapeutic experience by involving you in activities that may help you gain new insights. These might include art or music therapy, equine therapy, journaling, and process groups.
- Holistic therapies. Complementary holistic therapies focus on helping you achieve a relaxed and calm state of mind. These may include mindfulness, massage, guided meditation, aromatherapy, or hypnotherapy.
- Lifestyle changes. A holistic mental health program will address the connection to the body and acquiring healthful living habits. This might involve nutritional counseling, cooking classes, organic diets, and integrating regular exercise into the routine.
Applying an holistic mental health approach to healing emotional pain or mental distress means that all aspects of our being are addressed in the treatment plan—the mind, body, soul, and spirit. For a well-rounded holistic style of treatment, consider visiting a holistic mental health retreat.