The word health comes from an Old English word for “whole.” Heal also has similar origins.
This makes sense. After all, healing or restoring ourselves to health is, in a way, all about making ourselves whole again.
This is why holistic health is so important—the idea that, to be truly healed, we must look at the whole of a person’s being. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a complete state of well-being, encompassing the mental, physical, and social aspects of our existence.
It is that third aspect—social—that is perhaps worth emphasizing. We’ve all heard about how feeding the body can heal the soul, and vice versa, but we often overlook or are completely unaware of that third dimension of health—one that is outside the person but definitely still part of it.
In mentioning social well-being, the WHO perhaps was referring to our souls and our interpersonal connections with others or with a community. But it can also mean our connection to another important being: our environment, or Mother Nature if you will.
When it comes to holistic healing, we shouldn’t just look at how it affects our minds and bodies. We should also look at how it can affect the planet that we live in.
Medicine for the Environment
I know what you’re thinking. Medicine is for healing you, not our land, so why is there talk of the environment when it comes to medicines?
About ten percent of U.S. carbon emissions come from the healthcare system. While we’re busy healing ourselves with pills, have we ever stopped and thought about the environmental cost and impact of producing these drugs?
While there’s little we consumers can do about the actual manufacturing and distribution of these medicines, we can take better steps by purchasing only what we need (no hoarding, please!) and knowing how to dispose of them properly. This should be good for our wallets, too, given the cost of medication.
We should remember that our personal healing shouldn’t make the planet more ill.
When we say consumption, we don’t mean the old term for tuberculosis. We’re referring to your behavior as a consumer—the choices you make and the products you purchase.
The importance of mindful consumption doesn’t just apply to how we shop for clothes. It also applies to our purchase of health and wellness products. Just as we discussed earlier with medicines, we should only purchase products that we actually need. While it might be tempting to sample an entire range of healthy fruit juices or all the scents of a healing balm line, we shouldn’t go beyond what our minds and bodies actually need.
Saving ourselves shouldn’t mean creating more waste.
It isn’t just about how much product we consume but which products we choose. This is where labels actually matter. What are the ingredients or materials in them? How were they made? Where do they come from?
Even our seemingly mundane activities create an impact outside ourselves. That’s why it’s important to be mindful, to be conscious of all these little choices we make.
The next time you do a restorative yoga session, maybe you can use a cork mat.
The next time you clean your mane, grow healthy hair with a moringa shampoo bar.
The next time you brew yourself a cup, think about where your tea was sourced and how it was processed.
In going about our healing activities, we must make choices that are not just good for the health of our minds and bodies but also of our planet.
Healing That Lasts
The important thing about your path to healing is that it must be sustainable. Your commitment to health is precisely that—a continuous, long-term decision that you will have to make every day. Your health isn’t something you achieve overnight. It’s the result of you waking up every morning and deciding that you’re going to make good choices for wellness.
As we’ve discussed, sustainable practices also mean that they protect not just your own health but also that of our world. We need to stop thinking about health as a personal matter and see it for what it is: a social issue.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our health depends so much on the overall wellness of our communities. Our well-being is so closely linked to and affected by others.
So the next time you think about health, remember that it comes in threes: your mind, your body, and your world.