What is your ideal picture of health? If you were to draw a picture of your ideal health state, what would it look like? Most of us imagine “ideal” health to be a state of wholeness and balance, not fragmentation and separation. Humans tend to know instinctively that our health is more than just a physical body reacting to the environment around us. We are made up of our physical structure, our thoughts, our emotions, the energy coursing through our bodies and all around us, the nutrients we put into our bodies, and our relationships with others. These are just a few of the fluctuating and interconnected aspects of our health.
We know that a change in our physiological status affects our emotional and spiritual wellness, just as a change in our emotional or spiritual state can affect our physical functioning.
Yet often times when we encounter illness in one area of health, we experience the fragmentation of our whole person health. If you have a problem with your stomach, you may end up seeing the gastroenterologist. We seek care from a psychiatrist for mental health problems. When the immune system malfunctions we find an immunologist or rheumatologist. There certainly is benefit to being cared for by someone who is a specialist in what you need to treat your illness. We know that when one part of our body is ill, we feel out of balance and seek care to restore balance so that our bodies can once again feel whole, and specialists help us accomplish this.
But we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are complex, multidimensional beings. Our state of health is best served when we draw together these seemingly fragmented parts and instead approach our beings from a holistic, integrated manner that incorporates all of the aspects of our health. Why? Because this honors our instinctive drive to be whole, to be unfragmented. Taken literally, being whole means to be in an “unbroken or undamaged state, to be in one piece.” Expanding that just a bit into health and wellness, being whole incorporates the awareness of the many aspects of health and the choice to engage these aspects in ways that allow for messages of wholeness and health to be communicated thoughout the body.
What are the multiple aspects of health? Dr. Georgianna Donadio of the National Institute of Whole Health, a national thought leader in the field of whole person health, identifies Five Aspects of Health™*. These aspects include the Physical, Emotional, Nutritional, Environmental, and Spiritual aspects of health. Finding ways to become aware of all the aspects of our health and allowing these aspects to “talk” to each other in a healthy way provides us multiple opportunities to create balance and wellness. Let’s look a little deeper:
The Physical Aspect of Health involves the structural body and the multiple influences upon it. For instance, the role of genetics, disease, congenital problems, trauma, surgeries, over and under-exertion, sleep disturbance, etc. Our body’s responses to chronic stress are part of the physical aspect as well.
The Emotional Aspect of Health encompasses our feelings, thoughts, ideas about ourselves and others, how we come to understand our place in the world around us, as well as how we react emotionally to triggers in terms of behaviors which do or do not sustain health. This emotional aspect is affected by how we respond emotionally and cognitively to chronic stress also.
The Nutritional Aspect of Health includes the food and nutrients we ingest, as well as non-nutritive intake such as chemical additives and toxins. Examining the nutritional aspect allows us to become aware of the energetic potential of food and how it nourishes our body and facilitates wellness. It also brings to light what we consume that can be detrimental to our health. Our nutrition has the ability to calm the body and promote optimal health, or to create additional stress and interfere with healthy functioning.
The Environmental Aspect of Health comprises the environments in which we exist and the ways in which environmental stimuli affect our health. For example, air pollution, bright lights, loud noises, and the inclement weather all have the potential to affect our health and stress levels, just as does a calm breeze, soft lighting, a view of nature, and time spent out-of-doors. Our environment also includes the stressors and/or messages we get from the physical spaces we occupy (work, home environments) as well as those who are in that space.
The Spiritual Aspect of Health takes into account how we view ourselves in the larger world, whether we feel connected to a greater understanding of life, to each other, and to the natural world. This aspect may also include religious or self-awareness practice which help one identify with meaning and purpose, with a connection to creation, and spiritual practices which may influence physical and emotional health.
It doesn’t take long to see that these aspects of health are interconnected and together make up a multidimensional whole. Most frequently they cross-over and affect each other. Dysfunction in one aspect can create dysfunction in another because these aspects are part of a whole, they are not fragmented and separated from each other. Likewise, healthy engagement in one aspect lends itself toward balance and health in the other aspects. Take nutrition for example. We know that what we consume affects our physical and emotional health.
So how do we engage in whole person health? The answer is different for everyone. But let’s start with awareness of the resources in Northern Michigan which support whole person health and allow us to engage in a lifestyle which fosters good health across the above five aspects. All thoughout the month of October I will be posting to Facebook local Northern Michigan resources that support integrated whole health. So stay tuned! Let this information simmer within and allow your own awareness of your integrated nature to set you on the path to whole person health.
*The Five Aspects of Health is a trademark of the National Institute of Whole Health. Used with permission, all rights reserved.