How to have a holistic approach to health
As we get closer to the summer season, people are looking to embrace a more natural lifestyle and are interested in improving their health in different ways and for a variety of reasons. However, in the run-up to summer, people are keen to maximise their improvement but with minimum effort and this often means taking a holistic approach to health.
A holistic approach means looking at the body and lifestyle as a whole, not just singling out one area, such as reducing weight or improving cardio. Once you start to approach wellbeing in a holistic manner, you realise that it is not just exercise and nutrition that effects your body, but also environment, stress levels, sleep pattern and mental health are all factors.
The other positives of approaching your body goals in a holistic manner is that it looks at root problems instead of symptoms, this means that though it may feel like a drastic lifestyle overhaul, you are more likely to maintain it and feel happier for it.
Be firm about your goals
Understanding what you want to achieve is the first step to constructing attainable goals which will inform your nutrition and exercise plans. It also helps to have smaller steps that break down the overwhelming task of ‘being healthier’. Some goals may feel a little fuzzy and though ‘being happier’ may not have a metric beside it (like being stronger may involve lifting a certain weight), you can still achieve this with smaller daily steps, such as building in meditation or opting for an outdoor exercise to boost your vitamin D.
Approaching your diet
Understanding what you wish to achieve is key when it comes to constructing your diet. For those looking to build muscle a protein-rich diet is a must, while in an effort to stay lean, leafy vegetables and whole grains are suggested.
However, diet is about more than just what you look like. For people with green principles, sourcing food from local suppliers will help you stay true to your ethos as well as connect you with your environment by eating seasonally.
People may choose to cut things from their diet to fit with their goals and sense of wellbeing, if you are concerned sugar is impacting on your mental health, cutting it out of your diet will also aid your other goals. If you wish to go for a natural approach, you may not only find that removing processed foods has other benefits, but you also find real joy in cooking.
The biggest hurdle is when you are eating out, trying to socialise and fit in and not be preachy about your food choices but also facing the risk of being quickly lead astray or eating a dish or food that is way off base and feeling guilty about it. Josie Bouchier is a holistic health coach and has tips for maintaining your food goals:
“Make a mental note of special events and plan around them. For example, if you have a friend’s birthday celebration, a wedding or shower on your calendar, plan to eat well the week leading up to the special event, thus giving yourself some wiggle room to splurge a little at the event.”
“So many of us have a deep-seated fear that changing ourselves will mean losing those who are near and dear to us. Several years ago, I tried an extremely restrictive diet (I eat a much healthier and more varied diet now), and what struck me the most was the reactions I received from my close friends and family.”
Tailoring your work out
Exercise is important to reach your body goals, but committing a couple of hours every week to be fitter, stronger or thinner will not necessarily make you happier. Optimising your fitness to enhance your lifestyle may be tricky to get right but it will seriously improve your experience.
Often people feel like with the packed working weeks they miss out on social interaction and this is exacerbated if they have to commit more time to workouts, however by combining the two, perhaps playing a sport with a local team or gathering a few friends for a casual game of badminton they are able to have an experience that meets their needs on multiple levels.
Many people feel like they are not a good fit for a gym environment as they feel hemmed in and restricted. For those who work in an office, moving from one indoor environment to another may leave them yearning for the great outdoors. Spending times researching local cycle and jogging routes or even locating the nearest riding school may be a better way of getting a fix and catching up on their vitamin D.
Lots of people are looking for a lifestyle with lower stress and this is naturally achieved through exercise that not only helps the body manage cortisol (the hormone that causes fight or flight reactions) but also releases endorphins. Some exercise may be better at managing stress than others, so if you incorporate something slower and more relaxed, such as a yoga session into your week, you can make positive progress to a stress-free life.
Listening to your body
Following guidelines and recommended daily amounts is great as a general rule, but often your body will let you know what it needs and it is up to you to tailor your lifestyle as an individual. If you are entering a high-intensity fitness lifestyle to pursue a specific goal, be aware of your body’s need for rest and the stress signal it could send out.
Lizzie Benton behind the fitness and lifestyle blog Lizaboo talks about the way she adapts her fitness routine:
“However, since running really isn’t that good for you, my body is now starting to gain a few injuries, I hate to say that it’s probably a combination of age and overuse but running is known to be dreadful for joints. With many parts of my body being much stiffer and far more creaky than they should be for someone of my age, I’ve been taking regular beatings with a sports massage and also increased the amount of yoga I was doing to try and pull those aching muscles apart a little more.”
“I think we sometimes forget how much we put our bodies through, and always use the excuse of time to not stop and give our bodies time to heal. Rest days are just as important as the days we workout, and that’s certainly becoming true now that I’m being a fitness freak once again.”
If you are picking up little injuries or find yourself more susceptible to coughs and colds it might be time for R&R. Listen to your body and treat yourself to spa break in Yorkshire to not only give your muscles the time to relax with the aid of specialised treatments, but also to reward all of your hard work so far.
If you find yourself too tired or rushing to keep up with your week, maybe scale down some of the cardio to yoga, or even swap out the yoga for a meditation session. This will help your state of wellbeing which will allow you to be more productive in other aspects of your life.
Another key area to incorporate into your holistic approach to health is your mental state. While sometimes feeling a little low may be countered by an outdoor workout if you notice an ongoing slump in your mood that meditation won’t touch, seeking professional advice early on is a great way to ensure a positive way to move forwards.
SEE ALSO: The health benefits of using a sauna