Holistic Approach to Mental Health
What is a Holistic Approach to Mental Health and Why It Matters?
The holistic approach means treating the whole person, taking into account the symptoms of a specific disease but also mental, emotional, and social factors. Holistic therapies are quickly finding their way into mental health care because it is believed that a holistic approach to mental health can significantly benefit people with mental illness.
A relationship between our mind and body is substantial and complex. For example, if you feel low-spirited, many of your thoughts will most likely be sad, negative, spinning around hopelessness and worthlessness. In addition, you may experience a headache, stomachache, fatigue, or low energy.
Once the disheartening thoughts flood your mind, the pessimistic mood gets even worse, and your physical issues intensify. And the other way round, your negative thoughts will most likely fuel your miserable mood or even provoke anxiety and depression.
In short, emotional well-being relies on several connected systems that involve physical health, thoughts, behavior, social factors, spiritual aspect, lifestyle, etc. Any imbalance among these systems can trigger psychological symptoms and mental illness.
How a Holistic Approach Benefits Mental Health?
A holistic approach to mental health considers all aspects of the individual and ensures that mental health support is also provided to the individual’s family and community.
Holistic mental health approaches include lifestyle changes in addition to medication and psychotherapy. Lifestyle changes that promote emotional well-being and mental health involve:
- Physical activity
- Dietary changes
- Healthy sleep habits
- Mindfulness meditation and relaxation
Incorporating holistic modalities into mental health treatment allows for a more comprehensive approach to recovery and healing, increasing the chances for a favorable clinical outcome.
Holistic strategies can help you change your negative thinking patterns by training and rewiring your brain to react differently to triggering situations. Holistic mental health treatments can:
- Alleviate symptoms and reduce anxiety and depression
- Reduce stress
- Improve mood
- Increase relaxation
- Relieve fatigue and mental tiredness
- Improve relationships
- Boost resilience and improve stress-management strategies
- Motivate spiritual growth
- Enhance emotional clarity and sense of calmness
- Improve the quality of life
Lifestyle changes can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and other mental health concerns. A holistic approach is also vital in regulating your stress responses, as stress is one of the main factors that contribute to the onset of mental health disorders.
Here are the fundamentals of living a holistic lifestyle that promote mental health.
Psychotherapy can support you in coping with stress, anxiety, depression, strained relationships, and more. Psychotherapy is a safe environment to work on your negative self-talk and dysfunctional mental patterns that cause significant discomfort and mental illness.
The most efficient psychotherapy approaches for anxiety and depression include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) exposure therapy, and psychodynamic therapy.
CBT is short-term and goal-oriented talking therapy founded on the idea that our thoughts determine our feelings and behavior.
CBT can help you manage your problems by changing your negative thinking patterns and behavior. A cognitive aspect of CBT focuses on thinking patterns that cause psychological distress, while behavioral methods of CBT focus on unproductive behavior.
- Physical Activity
Many studies show that exercise promotes various brain changes, rewiring it, and stimulating the growth of neurons and neural connections that trigger feelings of composure and happiness.
Daily exercise can alleviate stress, ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and strengthen your resilience. Regular physical activity can significantly sharpen your focus, thinking, and memory, lift your mood, boost your self-esteem, and enhance happiness and optimism.
- Healthy Diet
Research shows that eating nutritious foods (foods loaded with powerful antioxidants, proteins, fiber, and vitamins such as nuts, fatty fish, dark chocolate, avocados, coconut oil, etc.) can provide healthy nutrients to the brain, prevent mood swings, anxiety, and depression, and boost energy levels.
- Healthy Sleep Habits
Sleep is a complex process essential for survival. It promotes restoration and mood regulation, strengthens the immune system, and allows the brain to form the neural pathways that let us learn and remember information and create new memories.
Without sleep, our body and brain wouldn’t work correctly. Sleep deprivation can compromise your mood and emotional control, weaken your ability to focus, remember things, make decisions, and solve problems.
- Mindfulness and Relaxation
Mindfulness meditation has proven to reduce the activity of the amygdala in the brain. The amygdala plays a critical role in emotional responses and anxiety reactions. By reducing the activity of the amygdala, mindfulness exercise indirectly but effectively alleviates anxiety and depression symptoms.
Also, regular mindfulness or relaxation practices (such as activated breathing, activated meditation, deep breathing, aromatherapy, Yoga, or guided imagery) can help you stay focused and become aware of self-critical thoughts that trigger emotional distress.
Research shows that mindfulness and relaxation can raise resilience, increase optimism, boost your mood, and improve self-esteem and confidence.
- Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations can help you rise above negative self-thoughts rooted in your subconscious mind that fuel your anxiety. Positive self-statements can provide relief from negative thoughts and help you regain a sense of control over your anxiety and depression.
- Natural Remedies
While common anxiety and depression treatment involve medication and psychotherapy, some people, particularly those with mild to moderate symptoms, choose not to take drugs but try natural remedies and herbs to relieve depression and anxiety.
Many natural antidepressants such as saffron, St. John’s Wort, lavender, Omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc have been used for centuries. For e.g. Pumpkin seeds are full of zinc and magnesium, both are natural antidepressant.
Herbs, oils, and other natural supplements may lift your mood when you experience worry, sadness, or fatigue and improve your mental health.
Spending time in nature can help you quiet down and focus, think positive thoughts, ease stress, and be more productive. A simple practice of sitting on the ground, taking your shoes off, and turning your face to the sun can help you feel connected to nature around you and take a conscious pause from your day-to-day life. Spending time in nature is a great tool to clear your mind and body, relax, and rejuvenate.
- Exposure to light
Exposure to natural light is really good for mental health. As most people work from inside, it’s important to find ways to expose yourself to natural light every day. Even 15 min. of natural light exposure are enough for release of endorphins or happy hormones. Results of several studies suggest that both natural and artificial bright light, particularly in the morning, can improve overall health and help with depression, agitation, sleep, circadian rest-activity, and seasonal affective disorder