WHAT DOES "HOLISTIC" ACTUALLY MEAN?

I think it's time I address the elephant in the room . . .


What exactly does "holistic" mean, and why did I name my website Holistic Lifestyle Refresh?


The answer is quite simple. Then again, if it were that simple I wouldn't be writing this post . . .



The term holistic has been used increasingly in recent years, and in many cases it has been taken out of context, misconstrued or pigeonholed.


Holistic is not a new term. In fact, it has been used in occupational therapy for decades, and occupational therapists are generally not prescribing essential oils, crystals, CBD oil or celery juice. Contrary to what many believe, "holistic" is not exclusive to hippies, crunchies, anti-vaxxers, herbalists, or those who choose to live an all natural, toxic-free lifestyle.



According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Holistic is defined as follows:


"Relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts."


Synonyms of holistic include integrated, comprehensive, all-encompassing, and complete.


By definition, holistic is not exclusive to health, despite health being one of the primarily areas it is used in. "Holistic" simply implies that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Thus, making a change to any one small part impacts the whole.


In context:

I am trained as an occupational therapist, where a "holistic approach" is a defining characteristic of what we do. Occupational therapy is rooted in the fact that no one person is the same, and no one treatment should be either, regardless of the diagnosis. Each person has their own unique characteristics, abilities, challenges, strengths, motivators, beliefs, goals, values, resources and support systems, occupies themselves in different ways, and operates in different environments. The treatment for two people with the exact same diagnosis is therefore often very different. Occupational therapists focus on each person as a whole, and the occupational performance issues preventing them from completing the activities of daily living they find meaningful. Occupational therapy is the very definition of holistic! Learn more about Occupational Therapy here.



Unfortunately, the medical system (in North America at least) is designed in a way that, for the most part, is not very holistic. For a number of reasons, medical doctors rarely look at the bigger picture with respect to treating the cause, instead resorting to what they know best, treating the symptoms. In most cases this is medication, which does in theory help, however does not usually solve the underlying issue and can create a long list of new issues. This is why alternative medicine (Naturopathy and Chiropractic Medicine to name a couple) has been growing in popularity, and is increasingly being referred to as "holistic health."


Don't get me wrong, modern medication is essential in many cases, and disregarding science or not following doctors orders can have significant consequences. However, often times the same issues could be reversed through lifestyle changes and more holistic alternatives, either alone or in conjunction with conventional medicine. A few examples of this include blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal injuries, mild depression and anxiety and chronic pain. Conventional medication is often not the healthiest or most effective option, but it is the easy option for doctors and patients alike.



Soooo . . . back to the original question. Why did I name my website Holistic Lifestyle Refresh?


"Lifestyle Refresh" was a name that resonated with me for a long time. It perfectly captured what my website and future health coaching business was about (learn more here), but it needed a good adjective! I wanted something that implied that "lifestyle refresh" was not exclusive to diet or exercise, but health as a whole, including equally important areas of mental health and wellbeing, sleep, stress, mood, and less-toxic living, with an emphasis on each person's unique goals. As an occupational therapist, I knew holistic was a great fit and perfectly captured my vision. All of these pillars of health are intertwined, and you simply can not be successful in improving one's health addressing them in isolation, or with a one size fits all approach.


Since "Holistic Lifestyle Refresh" does not specifically mention health, I decided to lump in my passion for sustainable, eco-friendly living. However, health and sustainability are more linked than one might think! The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists even has a statement on climate change, and believes that it is of significant concern with respect to its direct and indirect risk to both our physical and mental health. Regardless, it is an important global issue (we all share this planet!), and I believe is imperative that we all start doing our part to live more sustainably.


So when you read "Holistic Lifestyle Refresh," think not Holistic Lifestyle with a refresh at the end, but rather Lifestyle Refresh from a holistic perspective.


Glad we cleared that up!



I am curious to know what your interpretation of the word holistic is? It this on par with what you thought or throwing you for a loop?! Let me know!



What Does "Holistic" Mean?

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