What is Holism?

Holism is a new concept for some people.

Holism contributes to holistic health, which is also known as alternative medicine, eastern medicine, integrative medicine, collaborative medicine, etc. Holism is the inclusion of the body, mind, spirit, and community to contribute to individual wellness. It is thought that if one part is dysfunctional or isn’t working properly, that it will affect the whole.

This doesn’t make much sense to many people who are used to conventional or “western” medicine, which focuses on the body as the sum of its parts. If a person has cancer, conventional medicine recommends chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. If a person is depressed, conventional medicine recommends antidepressants, counseling, and maybe an increase in physical activity.

Most people have heard of and even tried yoga, acupuncture, herbal tea, chiropractic care, and massage. All of these are rooted in holism. Most people in western societies only go to see a massage therapist if they have a problem muscle or to relax or they see a chiropractor when they’re having back pain. In reality, these methodologies work best when utilized continuously in order to prevent problems.

The truth is that holistic health is centuries old. Although the term “holism” was not coined until 1926, ancient healing traditions were used as far back as 5,000 years ago in India and China. Read this article by Suzane Walter M.B.A. for more detailed information on the history of holistic health.

Holistic health tends to have a bad reputation because the public isn’t  knowledgeable on the subject. Our medical systems tend to base treatment on empirically based research and unfortunately there isn’t much good research on holistic health methods. This isn’t because holistic health practices aren’t helpful, it’s because a lot of research in holistic methodologies are based on subject interviews and much of the success of holistic methods are attributed to the placebo effect. To top all that off, research conducted in some methodologies (such as research in vitamin supplements) are performed incorrectly and often give the public false ideas about the effectiveness of these practices.

So, what does holistic health have to do with this blog? My focus is not solely on health, though I do think that good health promotes happiness. I think that many people have false assumptions on what happiness is and how to achieve peace of mind. People tend to think in terms of greener grass growing in someone elses’ yard and we fail to look at our own yards.


3 thoughts on “What is Holism?

  1. Interesting info. This is just an unscientific impression, but it seems as though the more we learn in science and medicine, the more we realize that things are interconnected and prevention is much better than reaction. If we could just marry the various philosophies and have them work together,instead of taking paths that seem to be both parallel and conflicting at the same time, we could obtain the most optimal outcome. Sorry for the random thought; but I have always thought that if I were one of the patients that felt better because of the ‘placebo effect’, I wouldn’t really care..precisely because I would be feeling better.

    • Katie, I completely agree and, though I should have put this in my post, I’ll address it now. Holistic health works best when integrated with conventional medicine (which is why it’s sometimes called integrative or collaborative medicine). I do not think that vitamin therapy, yoga, herbal therapy, acupuncture, or any other holistic health modality should completely replace modern, conventional medicine. However, if these “alternative” therapies make a patient feel better while they’re going through conventional therapies, then by all means why not use them? Thank you for your insight!

  2. Pingback: Why Wholly Happy? | WhollyHappy

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