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How to Optimize Health Naturally – Holistic Health

Optimal health is about so much more than what you eat or how much you weigh. We live in a culture obsessed with appearance, but even fit people can be unhealthy. Despite the mixed messages around us, what most truly want is not just to look our best but also to feel our best and be the best version of ourselves.

Holistic health is a term that encompasses all the different aspects of well-being. In contrast with today’s quick-fix wellness culture, holistic health focuses on the whole self. It acknowledges that you are more than your body, the food you eat, or how many workouts you do a week. 

Everyone wants to feel well. It’s easy to get caught up in fancy programs that promise to improve health. Things like lab testing, restrictive diets, and elaborate protocols tout themselves as miracle cures. But in the end, they all fail to deliver the kind of health we need.

The truth is very simple. The foundational lifestyle habits that promote holistic health remain some of the most basic. A quick-fix fad can never replicate a lifelong journey towards optimal health.

So, let’s look at what holistic health means and how you can start your journey today. We’ll delve into:

  • Understanding health as the whole self
  • Principles of holistic diet and exercise
  • Sleep and circadian rhythm
  • Why stress reduction is so important
  • What it means to be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy
  • The role of mindfulness and meditation
  • How trauma comes into play
  • Where the gut microbiome fits in the big picture of holistic health

What Does “Holistic Health” Really Mean?

Your physical body is pretty amazing. But, it isn’t your entire being. Humans are a complex web of physical systems, mental aptitudes, emotional experiences, and spiritual dimensions. 

Each part of what makes you, “you” is involved in what it means to be a healthy person. While people tend to identify most with their physical body, a holistic picture of wellness encompasses so much more. 

Aspects of a Connected, Healthy Lifestyle

Health is not just what you eat, how you exercise, or what supplements you take. It’s what you think, the relationships you have in your life, the quality of connection you experience, your interaction with the natural world, how you breathe, the quality of your sleep, how much rest you get, how much purpose you feel in your life, and the list could go on.  

Some of the essential aspects of a holistically healthy lifestyle include:

  • Nourishing your body
  • Moving and exercising
  • Honoring your circadian rhythm
  • Reducing stress
  • Protecting yourself from environmental toxins
  • Investing in mental, emotional, and spiritual health
  • Being mindful and present
  • Gut health

Don’t let this list discourage you. Perfection is not the goal of any health journey—only progress. No matter your ability, income, time, or experience, there are endless ways to invest in holistic health. 

When first starting out, focus on the areas that feel easiest. Set yourself up for success, and you may find the momentum for a healthy lifestyle building. Each step forward, no matter how big or small, brings improvement.

Let’s look at each of these aspects of health more in-depth.

Healthy Diet and Nutrition

Food is one of life’s pleasures. It is how we fuel, nourish, and care for our bodies and an important way we connect with the people and culture around us. 

In the most fundamental ways, food sustains us. 

Because of its profound impact on our physical health, diet and nutrition play an integral role in a holistic lifestyle. The health of the physical body trickles down to every other aspect of our being. 

The topic of diet and nutrition could cover many volumes of work. But if we were to simplify it to its foundation, a healthy diet might look like this:

  • Focus on real, whole food that is unprocessed and as close to its natural state as possible.
  • Source fresh and local food when possible.
  • Eat with the seasons, choosing a diverse diet of what is growing in your local area at different times of the year.
  • Eat the rainbocal-magnesium-oil-spray/w. Plant foods come in a variety of different colors, each with unique nutritional value. Deanna Minnich, Ph.D., is a leader in this area and a good resource for understanding the role of color in our diet. 
  • Choose healthy fats such as fatty fish, olive and avocado oils, naturally-raised animal foods, ghee, etc.
  • Limit/avoid excess sugar, alcohol, processed foods, highly processed seed oils, and foods that are calorie-dense but nutritionally empty. These foods cause inflammation, a major contributor to chronic disease.
  • Learn from traditional cooking and eating techniques. 

“The foundational lifestyle habits that promote holistic health remain some of the most basic. A quick-fix fad can never replicate a lifelong journey towards optimal health.”

The foods you choose are important, but they are not the only influence on nutritional health. The timing of when you eat, the peacefulness of meal times, how quickly you eat and chew, and even your emotional state impact how your diet contributes to holistic health. 

In addition to food, some supplements support nutritional health. Here are some of our favorites:

Benefits of Exercise

Our modern culture has glorified sedentary lifestyles at the expense of well-being. Today’s people move less than ever before, and the effects are apparent in our rates of chronic disease and obesity. 

The human body is made to move. Movement and exercise improve physical fitness and boosts mental and emotional states. If you’ve ever gone for a jog or a long walk, you’ve likely experienced the mood-lifting effects of moving your body. 

For most people, the key is finding a type of movement that works for them. That is based on your physical condition, movement goals, what you enjoy doing, and what’s sustainable in the long term. 

An active lifestyle doesn’t have to mean hours spent at the gym. Structured exercise programs are a great option for some people. But for others, they hold little appeal. The goal of holistic movement is to integrate physical activity into your everyday life. 

Here’s what that might look like:

  • Get up from your desk more during the day for a water or bathroom break or just to stretch.
  • Invest in a standing and/or floor sitting desk set-up. Both require a wider variety of movement than sitting in a chair.
  • Walk or bike whenever possible and drive less. 
  • Grow a garden and enjoy the fresh bounty and plenty of movement in the sunshine.
  • Find an active hobby.
  • Get family and friends involved in activities that include movement, such as sports, hiking, swimming, yard games, etc.

If you’re new to movement, getting professional guidance in building a foundation of physical fitness is worthwhile. Often people decide to “get in shape” and end up injured or discouraged because they did too much too fast. Start slow, honor your body, and above all, keep moving. 

Importance of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms

Sleep is an often overlooked piece of holistic health. The hours we spend asleep every night do more than just give us energy for the next day. 

Your physical, mental, and emotional state quickly decline without the right quantity and quality of sleep. Beyond being tired and cranky, lack of sleep increases your risk of disease and illness as you miss out on necessary healing and repair.  

Deep sleep, which includes time in REM cycles, repairs the body at the cellular level. Sleep plays a critical role in cellular mitochondria function. Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. They turn the food we consume into usable energy. 

In the absence of good quality (and enough!) sleep, mitochondria function is impaired due to oxidative stress. In individuals who are chronically sleep-deprived, their mitochondria appear as much as 10 years older compared to those who sleep well. A good reminder that holistic health is essential for not only disease prevention but longevity.

Sleep deprivation is endemic in the US. And for many people, it simply comes down to lifestyle choices. Too many of us try to live as though we aren’t tied to the rhythms of the natural world. But, your circadian rhythm is essential to holistic health. 

Circadian Rhythm in Humans

Circadian rhythm is the internal clock that governs all the body functions that occur in a 24-hour period. All life on earth follows a circadian rhythm, and humans are no exception. 

Many factors influence your natural circadian rhythm, disrupting your health and well-being. From inflammation to heart disease, altered circadian rhythm increases the risk of many health problems. 

Your holistic health journey should include establishing a foundation of good sleep habits. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Make time for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. 
  • Maintain a regular wake/sleep schedule that honors your circadian rhythm.
  • Establish a nighttime routine that prepares your body for sleep.
  • Manage psychological stress so it doesn’t interfere with rest.
  • Exercise regularly, preferably earlier in the day, to aid in circadian rhythm regulation and to mitigate the impacts of sleep loss on mitochondria function
  • Try supplements that support circadian rhythm and your sleep cycle.
  • Get exposure to sunlight in the morning and natural light throughout the day.

For a more comprehensive look at sleep and circadian rhythm, click here.

Benefits of Sunlight

It may seem simple, but daily sunlight is integral to the recipe for holistic health. Your body needs exposure to the sun’s rays to produce vitamin D, regulate circadian rhythm, and potentially even reduce the risk of illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and MS

This doesn’t mean you should become an extreme sunbather. Time in the sun needs to be managed to avoid sunburn. However, regular, reasonable skin exposure to sunlight should be considered part of a healthy lifestyle. Be smart about it, but don’t be afraid of the sun.

Psychological Stress and Stress Management

Mental health impacts many other areas of holistic wellness. If you feel stressed and anxious, it’s difficult to prioritize eating well, moving your body, or getting a good night’s sleep. 

Psychological stress takes a toll on physical health. Chronic stress contributes to difficulty sleeping, altered mood, anxiety or depression, fatigue, inflammation, and a host of physical ailments.  

You can do everything else right, but if you are under continual stress, your body will suffer. 

How to Reduce Stress

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, and everyone needs a plan for how to deal with it. To care for mental health, stress management is non-negotiable. 

Healthy strategies to manage stress might look like:

For a comprehensive look at managing stress, click here to read our Stress and Sleep cornerstone article. Our brain and neuro masterclass is another excellent resource for understanding how stress impacts the brain and overall health. 

Exposure to Environmental Toxins

Food isn’t the only thing that enters our bodies. Environmental toxins exist all around us, in our air, food, water, and soil. These often invisible chemicals and substances are anything but benign. 

Everything from our clothing to our cookware is a potential source of environmental toxins. Over time, these substances build up in our bodies and negatively affect health. Conditions such as asthma, cancer, allergies, fertility issues, neurological disease, and metabolic dysfunction may be influenced by toxin exposure

Limiting your exposure to toxins is no easy task. But, there are ways to clean up your personal environment to reduce the toxin load on your body.

  • Avoid non-stick cookware. Instead, choose cast iron, stainless steel, or ceramic coated cast iron for cooking
  • Use a high-quality water filtration system
  • Purchase fresh, whole food, free of excess packaging or preservation
  • Use glass or metal bottles instead of plastic for drinking
  • Get a HEPA filter vacuum
  • Choose all-natural make-up and body care products
  • Use non-toxic, all-natural cleaning and household products

For an in-depth look at environmental toxins, where they hide, and how to avoid them, click here – with more coming soon! Also, check out this podcast episode with Lara Adler, an expert in the field of environmental toxins. 

Mental, Emotional Health, and Spirituality

It’s easy to focus on caring for your physical body. But, the other aspects of your being are equally in need of attention. Nurturing your mental, emotional, and spiritual self takes practice, but you can’t be truly healthy without it. 

The options to support these three areas are truly endless. Here are a few ideas:

Mental Health

Mental health most often refers to stress management and care of mental illness. But your mind has needs beyond reducing stress. The brain thrives on mental stimulation, creativity, inspiration, and new experiences. Holistic mental health incorporates practices that challenge and nurture your mental capacities. 

  • Picking up a new skill or hobby
  • Learning new information and reading to broaden your understanding
  • Doing something creative such as writing, playing an instrument, painting, or crafting.
  • Practicing gratitude and appreciation
  • Enjoying beauty and art 
  • Doing puzzles, crosswords, word games, and brain teasers

Emotional Health

Humans are not only thinkers, but we’re also feelers. The range of human emotions is universal and complex. Learning to accept and work through emotions is the journey of a lifetime.

Emotional health is a product of your upbringing as well as your choices in adulthood. While you can’t control how you were raised, it’s never too late to invest in the necessary skills to manage emotions.

  • Keep a journal
  • Talk to trusted friends about how you are feeling
  • Find a qualified therapist
  • Learn to identify and name your emotions
  • Make time for reflection and contemplation

Spiritual Health

Nurturing spirituality can mean many different things. For some people, organized religion is an essential and deeply meaningful part of their holistic health. Others experience spirituality through connection with the natural world or the love of their families. 

Spirituality helps you find meaning and purpose in life. It also cultivates acceptance and the courage to face the inevitable things in life that are out of our control. Spirituality is essential to being human, yet many people find themselves stuck when it comes to exploring this part of life. Here are some ways to get started.

  • Learn from the wisdom of ancient traditions or religions
  • Engage in structured religious practices if you find it meaningful to do so
  • Read books or listen to webinars/podcasts on ethics, philosophy, and spirituality
  • Practice meditation and mindfulness
  • Find a mentor or spiritual director whose outlook on spirituality resonates with you
  • Spend time in nature

Connect with Nature

Nature has the ability to heal and restore all aspects of our being. Dr. Maya Shetreat is a leading expert on the health benefits of connecting with the natural world, including the practice of “forest bathing.” Check out her book “The Dirt Cure” for a deep dive on this topic. She has also been featured in our masterclasses.

Time outside should be part of your daily life. Even better, disconnect from your phone while in nature and really soak up the sights, smells, and sounds of the natural world.

Healthy Relationships

People were not made to be alone. Humans naturally crave connection with others, and one of the best parts of life is the love and care of our family and friends. Healthy relationships enhance well-being and can even help you live longer

The quality of your social connections matters. Here are some healthy lifestyle habits to nurture this important aspect of health.

  • Establish regular, distraction-free time to focus on family and friends
  • Eat meals with loved ones around a table, phone-free
  • Take walks together in nature
  • Find a qualified therapist for individual or family therapy to address ongoing struggles
  • Write letters to important people in your life telling them how much you love and value them

Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation

There is a reason why mindfulness and meditation practices are so popular. Long-term practitioners experience many benefits and not only to the peacefulness of their minds. 

These ancient mind/body skills also enhance physical health. Research links meditation and mindfulness with better sleep, less anxiety and depression, improved blood pressure, pain control, and help in losing weight. 

Mindfulness refers to the practice of being more present in your daily life without judgment. By cultivating awareness and attention, mindfulness connects you with the present moment and enhances your experience of the here and now. 

Meditation involves specific techniques that hone concentration. The more you practice these concentration techniques, the easier your brain can enter a meditative state where you experience a mind/body connection more fully. The brain waves generated during meditation induce relaxation and reduce stress

These are powerful tools for holistic wellness. If you are new to these practices, we recommend some of these resources:

  • Article on the benefits of meditation
  • Muse – Your brain sensing personal meditation assistant by providing EEG based real-time neurofeedback and allowing you to take the guesswork out of your meditation practice.

Psychological Trauma

Our modern understanding of trauma has opened a new world of healing and possibilities. The brain and body are deeply intertwined, and traumatic experiences impact all aspects of being. 

When someone experiences a traumatic event, their body and brain respond in unique ways beyond conscious control. The long-term effects of those adaptations can have health consequences far into the future.  In addition to the toll trauma takes on mental health, physical health issues such as autoimmune illness, heart disease, stroke, and even cancer are possible outcomes. 

Resolving Trauma

Your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health is a product of your genetics, choices, and life experiences. It may be difficult to move forward on your health journey without resolving trauma from your past. 

Depending on the trauma you’ve experienced, different types of recovery may be appropriate. In general, trauma recovery is best undertaken with a skilled healthcare professional. We recommend looking for someone trained in one of the following:

  • Somatic Experiencing
  • Brainspotting
  • EMDR – (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
  • AARM – Adult Attachment Repair Model
  • NARM – Neuroaffective Relational Model
  • TRE – Trauma Release Exercises 
  • Ketamine or MDMA-Assisted Therapy (Where legal and available)
  • Internal Family Systems 

“Despite the mixed messages around us, what most truly want is not just to look our best but also to feel our best and be the best version of ourselves.”

Importance of Gut Health & Gut Microbiome

Last but not least, holistic health depends on gut health and the balance of your microbiome. As incredible as it may seem, your gut is the foundation of all other aspects of your physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual wellness. 

Your gut is host to a diverse community of microorganisms (the microbiome) that play an integral role in protecting you from infection, reducing inflammation, aiding digestion, and protecting you from disease. Your gut also shares a unique link to your brain, meaning the health of your digestive system and microbiome impact your nervous system, mood, and sense of well-being.

We believe gut health is so pivotal to holistic health we created an entire Masterclass devoted to the microbiome. Check it out here.

Best Foods for Gut Health

A healthy diet is one of the starting points for improving gut health. Your microbiome relies on a balanced diet high in inflammation-fighting foods, fiber, and nutrients. Some of the best foods for gut health include:

  • Foods that contain natural probiotics such as sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh, miso, and kimchi
  • Prebiotic foods such as garlic, chicory root, chickpeas, oats, cabbage, dark leafy greens, and bananas. 
  • Olive, avocado, and coconut oil
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Colorful fruits and vegetables
  • Fatty fish and naturally raised animal products 

Best Probiotic for Gut Health

For many people, a quality probiotic can significantly improve gut health. If you’re someone who has been eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) for decades, you may have a lot of repair work ahead of you. A probiotic can help. 

Made up of live, active cultures of bacteria and yeast, the best probiotic for gut health promotes diversity and the health of good microorganisms. 

Here are a few we love:

Tech & Tools for Health Optimization

PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic frequencies/fields) – great for pain management, inflammation, microcirculation, and other benefits

Red Light Therapy/Near Infrared – tons of research-backed benefits, please include some. favorite products are from Red Therapy Co.

Ozone Therapy – (Webinar HERE and favorite site for home ozone therapy is Simply O3. Widely used health intervention around the world with decades of research behind it. 

Heartmath – Over two decades of research support this life-changing technology focused on cultivating heart-mind coherence and optimal heart rate variability (HRV).  

Infrared Sauna – Sweating is one of the body’s prime means of elimination – and the longevity-related benefits of saunas are well-documented. 

Build a Foundation Of Optimal Health

The idea of holistic health can be daunting. It is not a destination you arrive at all at once. It is a life-long journey that brings joy and purpose to your life. More than anything, holistic health is a foundation from which peace and well-being flow.

Don’t get overwhelmed. Take it step by step and allow your health to grow in every area. And if you’ve been on the holistic health journey for a while, it’s always good to return to the basics. Your foundation sustains you and becomes the source for all your future living. 

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