Shannon navigates the staircase on The Three Capes Trail, TAS
Holistic Health is an increasingly used term that describes a lifestyle approach. Whilst many think it’s a modern methodology, it’s in fact centuries if not thousands of years old with roots in ancient medicines and practices to balance body, mind, and spirit.
A holistic approach considers all aspects of health: physical, social, emotional, mental, and spiritual. In order to live our healthiest, happiest each day we need to consider tipping into each of these aspects. If one area is compromised, it is likely the others fall out of balance too.
Our holistic health is an interplay of all the ways in which we live our lives. How we think, move, connect, eat, sleep, relax and feel are constantly moving with one another. Each has an effect on the other, so it’s important to consider this when we want to promote positive changes in our lives.
When we consider our health, physical health is often what we think of. It has a visual aspect to it as we can see the signs of optimal or sub-optimal health in physical form. We can easily measure and track our physical goals such as weight loss or muscle mass. It also is one of the best ways in promoting a significant positive shift in our overall well-being.
MOVE. Humans are designed for daily movement. Aim for at least 30mins a day and 10mins of increased heart rate. Strength and resistance training should be in everyone’s practice to maintain muscle mass and support strong bones. Keeping your body moving each day will help improve your mood. Take a walk outside each day and connect with the natural environment.
EAT. What we eat has a significant effect on our moods, energy, and well-being. Aim to eat food as close to its natural state as possible. A great concept is to eat the rainbow each day; aim for as many colours of vegetables and fruits as possible to optimize nutrient intake. Avoid sugary, highly processed foods and excessive alcohol consumption.
SLEEP. Aim for 8 hours each night as this time will allow your body to truly rest and repair from the day and any physical activity. A good practice is to avoid screens the 2 hours prior to sleep, in addition, avoid alcohol or caffeine as this will greatly affect the quality of your sleep.
A group of women enjoying social hiking at Wilson's Prom
Research states that those living in the blue zones are some of the happiest and longest-living people on earth. One key element to their happiness and well-being is the deep connection they share with family, friends, and their community. By being part of something, people feel more connected and energetically we feed off one another – so be mindful that the people you surround yourself with are contributing to you positively.
GROUP ACTIVITY. Sharing an activity you enjoy with a group of like-minded people makes us feel connected and supports our wellbeing. Humans are pack animals and feel good when they are around others that share the same values. Hiking is a great way to connect with people, outdoors and feeds into many of the holistic health elements that support our wellbeing.
VOLUNTEER. The altruistic in society are among the happiest as they act in order to help and assist others. In doing so, inadvertently feel better knowing that they have supported another human being. What skills do you have that can help others in your local community?
SAY NO. This may seem counter-intuitive however our ability to set healthy boundaries, say no and avoid toxic situations and people is as important as being social. Being aware of how certain people, places or events make you feel more stressed, can help to identify where you need to refrain from your energy in those partially social circumstances.
A restful stop and time to soak in nature and coastal views of the most southern section of the Prom.
Our emotional health, like all holistic health aspects, is equally important. Our ability to emotionally regulate ourselves in times of discomfort or challenges can be an important part of our overall health protocol. Our emotional health is mostly attributed to our moods and emotions.
TALK. Sometimes we need to learn to open up, be vulnerable and have conversations about the way we are feeling. If this can’t be a trusted friend, partner or family then speak to a professional. Seeking professional therapy can teach us essential skills and tools for regulating our emotional health.
MINDFULNESS. Practicing mindfulness can help to manage and reduce daily stressors and reactivity. By becoming more aware of how our bodies and minds react to certain triggers we have the increased ability to change the way in which we react to these. Resulting in a more relaxed, settled approach to life. Try mindfulness meditations or keep a gratitude journal to bring about more positive feelings and increased well-being.
Pack hikers face mental obstables along the Alpine track
According to the World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
It’s indicative of our cognitive abilities and how our brain functions to process experiences, and events and how we overcome challenges. Read more about how hiking can create 'antifragility' on the BLOG.
CHALLENGE. Find ways that take you out of your comfort zone, that challenge you in different ways to grow, develop and overcome. Our brains, like our muscles, need to be trained with resistance. Taking a hike is a great way to develop our mental health. In order to overcome the challenges on the train, be it a climbing ascent, river crossing or pack hike, pushing ourselves through the experience will strengthen mental resilience.
NUTRITION. Like many of the key elements discussed here, nutrient-dense foods support our physical and mental health. Foods high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation in our bodies and support healthy cognitive function. Our brain function is directly related to our gut health so it is imperative to eat a balanced diet to maintain a balanced mental disposition. Support gut health with prebiotic and probiotic foods like fermented foods such as kraut, Kimchi, kefir, or miso. Adding foods such as bone broths or collagen help to repair and heal from the inside out.
Meditation at sunset on the Women's Hike Retreat, Wilsons Prom
Spirituality is how we connect with our spirit, our soul, or our inner psyche- however, you like to think of it. The principles and practices that we can undertake in order to connect with ourselves also highlight the connections we hold with nature and the world around us. In maintaining our spiritual health, we can gain a better understanding of our inner workings and bring meaning and joy to our lives.
NATURE. When we are in nature, we are witnesses to the miracles of life. We grasp to understand the complexity of it all however if you can let that fall aside and focus on the connections and interplay that the plants, animals, seasons, and our place among it all, it provides the most profound beauty. Gratitude for this beauty and appreciation for the miraculous promote the most philosophical effect to our well-being.
MEDITATE. Research has found that meditating for 13 mins a day has a significant effect on our ability to focus. By giving ourselves time and space to find stillness, we have the ability to silence or at least quieten the ongoing noise of our thoughts.
Modern lifestyles are mostly planning the future or consideration of the past. In these terms, we neglect to connect live through the now, the present time experiences. By practicing mindfulness through gratitude, nature walks or meditation we can connect within to experience the most of our lives, creating a more positive outlook, improved wellbeing, and a sense of who we are.
Holistic Health is more than what we put in our mouths, and how we move or think. It is a multifaceted approach to living and ultimately our wellbeing. When we invest in each of these aspects with a considered approach, we have the ability to control the way in which we live our lives.
Hiking has been the most influential practice that I have taken up in order to balance all aspects of myself.
It tips into physical health with functional movement to optimize my body performance.
It provides a social platform to share my passion and love of hiking with like-minded people whilst being able to provide a space for others to socialize in a healthy setting.
Hiking is a great way to engage in conversations with others that support our emotional health.
The challenges presented on a hike feed into our mental health and help to support growth in resilience and mindset whilst building confidence and self-efficacy.
Spending time in nature anchors us into the present moment and opens up a spiritual doorway, inviting us to explore our ‘self’ and our interconnection with nature. When we do so, a profound effect of calm despite chaos can be experienced.
Isn’t it time you took a hike?