“healthy” options, quick fixes and “other” remedies to choose from. I use the quotes because a lot of the time it is without the full awareness around what these options mean. The news and media are all talking about it or the book/magazine article that was just written says it’s good for you, therefore it must be true. While that truth may not always be accurate or necessarily the best solution, now more than ever people are looking for better ways to support their health and wellness through better lifestyle choices.
According to the American Public Health Association, “The trend of Americans making healthier lifestyle changes, such as eating better and exercising more, shows that the U.S. population is taking the necessary steps to becoming a healthier nation.” Additionally, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), “Many Americans, nearly 40 percent, use health care approaches developed outside of mainstream Western, or conventional, medicine for specific conditions or overall well-being. Most people use non-mainstream approaches along with conventional treatments.” So, where’s the problem?
Words like natural and organic are used to describe a lot of the foods that we eat. Then we come to find out, many are not. Holistic is a term that seems to be attached to anything that is non-traditional medicine. It actually has its own definition. Homeopathic remedy means that “voodoo” or “woo woo” that you do so well. Before pharmaceutical companies, doctors made house calls and only had natural remedies to work with. Many of which, are the foundation of western medicine. Naturopath means you didn’t want to make the effort to become a full doctor. Completely untrue and some of them are among the best physicians. Lastly, the biggest problem I often hear in all of this is the overuse of the word “alternative” in regards to these solutions, implying that one way of healing is better than another. There is never just one way.
Alternative in this sense creates an “us versus them” mentality. This has sparked some very passionate debates within the worlds of traditional and non-traditional medicine. On one side, there are many who believe that traditional medicine has become a cash cow; charging for unnecessary services and treating symptoms by overmedicating patients. On the other side, there are many who believe that without the proper degree or license that these non-traditional “alternatives” or natural remedies could be harmful and pose a threat to the physical and mental medical communities. Do I believe there needs to be some formal training in all things? Absolutely. The reality is that, if both worlds are truly functioning the way they were intended, then we’d come to find out that there is no threat. The truth is there is a need for BOTH and instead of the word alternative, let’s try INTEGRATIVE or COMPLEMENTARY. Everything that exists within both realms works together and supports the Mind/Body wellness connection. So then, what is mind/body wellness?
The best response I received was from a friend and mentor, Jesse Brisendine of Santa Barbara, California. Jesse, is an internationally recognized life coach, personal trainer, speaker, and author who motivates, educates and inspires people to achieve their full potential in life. He said, “mind/body wellness is a place where you are strong not just physically, but mentally as well. It does no good if you can bench press 300 pounds, but spend all day thinking negative thoughts about yourself. When you are strong in the mind your thoughts propel you forward to action instead of holding you back. You achieve balance.”
Simply put, what we think is how we feel. How we feel effects how our body reacts. There are a multitude of outside influences that play their part from our habits, surrounding environment, diet, exercise, friends, family, etc. but everything is connected within YOU. The easiest example to prove my point is to notice what happens to us physically and mentally when we are stressed or when something makes us happy. Body posture changes, blood pressure elevates or drops, the endorphins are pumping and moods change almost instantly. You can actually SEE and FEEL the reaction. Stress can create dis-comfort or dis-ease which can lead to illness. Happiness can create a pleasant surge of energy or emotions which cause a natural high. We’ve all experienced this.
The issue for many today is the separation that has been created between the mind and body when looking for solutions. If it’s a mental we go to one facility. If it’s physical we go to another. So, where is the balance? What is the answer? This is where the integrative tools and resources provide the biggest benefit to those in need. Total wellness, is about treating the whole person and not just the symptom. Some of the best physicians and practitioners have found the greatest healing comes through combining traditional western medicine with non-traditional methods. The simple fact is that there is very much a need for the traditional medicines that exist to treat individuals who really need them to support their mental and physical well-being. As a support to those treatments, there are also non-traditional methods which are complementary and assist in the overall wellness goals. These may include modalities such as, yoga, bodywork, energy work, herbalism, coaching or guided meditation. As I’ve said, one treatment plan does NOT replace the other. One way of healing is NOT better than another.
Everyone is unique in their own ways. This is something we are taught as children and all the way through adulthood. When it comes to our health, it is no different. The best results come from plans which are tailor made to fit the specific needs of the individual. If done correctly, the worlds of traditional and non-traditional remedies can create and support optimal health and sustainable balance. In my opinion, and simply put, more options are always better than less. The rest is up to you.