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Health and Healing – What to choose?

Posted on: 02 Sep

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Increasing numbers of people are turning to natural or ‘alternative’ methods to improve their health, alongside or in place of conventional medicine. Conflicting information about the optimal diet, exercise regime, amount of sleep, treatment, etc, can lead to confusion as to what is the ‘best’ method and what to choose.  

UNIVERSAL WISDOM:

Most systems agree that the following elements are essential for health:

A healthy, balanced diet, including plenty of fresh vegetables, whole grains, pure water and fresh air; limiting refined sugar, refined grains, packaged foods and trans-fats.

Regular, moderate exercise to help tonify the muscles and organs, stimulate circulation of blood and lymph, increase oxygen levels and boost energy levels – all of which are essential for health.

Plenty of good quality sleep – to heal and restore the body and mind.

Regular periods of relaxation to counteract the pressures of daily life. Activities could include yoga, meditation, listening to music, pursuing a hobby, or spending time with loved ones or a pet.

A sense of meaning, purpose and connection to the wider world: for example, through contributing to your family or community, choosing work that feels meaningful, and clarifying your values and what is truly important to you in life.

In addition, love, touch, nurturing relationships, laughter, maintaining a generally positive outlook on life and living an authentic, purposeful life are also important for our health and wellbeing. Our body and mind are inextricably linked. Long-term stress has now been medically proven to cause symptoms such as fatigue, muscular tension, heart disease, auto-immune disorders, anxiety and depression. Conversely, rest and relaxation allow the body to function optimally and to continuously rebalance itself, as it is naturally designed to do.

A PERSONALISED APPROACH:

Whilst the above list applies to all of us, since each of us is totally unique in terms of our body type, constitution and lifestyle, our exact needs (eg the type/amount of food we eat and how much sleep we need) will naturally vary. Self awareness, understanding your own unique constitution and responding to your body’s signals about what it needs, are the keys to making the right health and lifestyle choices for you. The body is our most accurate guide when it comes to understanding our state of health and what we need.

WHOLE PERSON’ HEALING:

Whilst conventional medicine often considers symptoms as random events over which we have no control, and treats the body and mind separately, holistic, ‘whole person’ healthcare believes that the body, mind and spiritual aspects of a person are inter-related and strongly influence one another. “Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only, but the mind and spirit as well…and not today’s pain or pleasure alone, but the whole being and outlook of a man.” –  James H West.

A physical symptom indicates an imbalance on some level of our being – physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. For full healing to take place, we need to understand and address the root cause of a symptom. For example, a client’s neck pain could be caused by poor posture/sitting for long hours at a desk, from an unresolved whiplash injury or from emotional tension due to being bullied and feeling unable to speak up about it. If the cause is the latter, then having physiotherapy and taking more breaks from her desk at work may help with the symptoms but are unlikely to resolve them. For full resolution, the client would need to address the bullying issue and/or her feelings around it. However, if the cause is the second – whiplash – which the body has not managed to resolve on its own, then a course of cranio-sacral therapy or osteopathy treatments may be useful to help the body release and let go of any old holding patterns related to the accident.

If our symptoms are mainly due to imbalances on a physical level, these may need to be addressed through diet, exercise or lifestyle changes. We may also utilise physical therapies such as yoga, pilates or tai chi, or manual therapies such as shiatsu, cranio-sacral therapy or massage to help rebalance and recondition our bodies. This will also have a positive impact on our mental/emotional health: these cannot really be separated out.

Unresolved mental/emotional issues from the past and present stressful situations can also lead to symptoms such as muscular tension, digestive problems, asthma, high blood pressure or panic attacks, and may need to be healed and resolved through our conscious efforts. “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”  Carl Jung. There are a myriad of approaches we can take to heal our mental/emotional issues. Approaches could include mind/talking based therapies, such as counselling, psychotherapy or hypnotherapy, as well as body/energy therapies, including cranio-sacral therapy, shiatsu, homeopathy, Emotional Freedom Technique, reiki and shamanic healing. Mindfulness meditation is also an excellent tool which, when used regularly, helps to promote inner calm, balance, self knowledge, understanding, wisdom and health on all levels of our being. Other healing activities could include spending time in nature, with the people or a pet that we love, and taking time to pursue activities and hobbies that are meaningful to us.

WHAT HEALING METHODS TO CHOOSE?

To start with, I’d recommend you read about a few different approaches and see which you feel most drawn to. Often it may be necessary to try out more than one therapy/therapist to find out which is most suited to your needs. If you’re working with a therapist, for the deepest healing to take place, it’s essential to have a good rapport with your therapist and to feel understood, supported and relaxed in their presence. Our bodies have a remarkable ability to heal and rebalance themselves when provided with a healthy, nurturing and positive environment, and the right care and support – from ourselves and others. Love, trust, an openness and willingness to heal are all important components for true holistic healing to take place.

Essential to understand is that it is fundamentally we who heal ourselves. The changes happen from within. Some of this is unconscious (the body is in a continuous state of homeostasis and repair) and some conscious – for example choosing to change our thought patterns from negative to positive, or to acknowledge and release an old hurt which is affecting our health in the present. The true healer is not the therapist but the client. Therapies/ treatments are simply tools to help us with our own self-healing. No treatment or therapist can truly help a person if, deep down, on some level they do not want to get well. This may sound strange but it is possible for someone to go for treatments yet be subconsciously blocking their healing process, for example through an attachment to their identity as an sick person or perhaps fixed beliefs that they will always have a particular kind of disease (perhaps because their doctor has told them this). Therefore a real desire to heal, a belief in the possibility that full healing or at least improvement is possible and a willingness to take responsibility for our lives and health is also an important part of the healing process. If you have doubts or fears which you feel may be blocking your healing process, then consider working with a therapist to help you understand and move through these.

Most importantly, no matter what your personal healing journey is, or how fast, windy or even stony the path, don’t forget to add HEAPS of love, patience, kindness and faith to your prescription. Love is an essential part of ‘whole person’ healing and is ultimately the most powerful medicine of all!

 

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