What does it mean to practice holistic healthy living?

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Answered by: Nathan, An Expert in the Healthy Living 101 Category
In many ways, our bodies are treated as machines. We ingest and process food that directly fuels both our everyday physical activities as well as the more subtle bodily workings of which we may not be acutely aware. When our bodies malfunction, we may take ourselves to a body-mechanic, or doctor, to be fixed. These body-mechanics will often perform the necessary repairs, be they extensive, simple, or somewhere in between.

Ideally, trips to the body-mechanic are few and far between, and damage to our bodies minimal. Generally, we are often led to believe, if the body-machine remains functional and well-tuned, one is considered to be "healthy." Indeed, our health and well-being are often calculated through various forms of numerical assessment (Body Mass Index, blood pressure, cholesterol level and such).

There isn't anything wrong or particularly incorrect about thinking of the body in these terms. We would, however, do well to avoid thinking of ourselves as "merely" bodies, as "just" machines. Of course, very few people consciously think of themselves as "only" machines. Mere machines do not think, and merely chug along at whatever task they were built to perform, unaware of themselves and their surroundings. When a mere machine breaks down, it patiently waits to be fixed, after which it continues on with its assigned task.

We may, then, be surprised at how often we actually treat ourselves as machines, despite the fact that we ordinarily do not think of ourselves as machines. We do just this, treat ourselves as machines, when we define our well-being using the language of mathematics and physical science. As individuals, as human beings, we are much, much more than a series of numbers describing the physical mechanisms of our bodies. Such descriptions are undoubtedly useful in some contexts, but also represent only a select number of pieces to a very large and very complex puzzle.

Unfortunately, we are often encouraged to think of ourselves as machines. We are bombarded with messages to visit our body-mechanic doctors when something appears to be malfunctioning. Such visits are certainly necessary and recommended in many circumstances, but the attitude under which such visits take place speaks volumes about how we see ourselves. If we visit a physician with the expectation that he or she is obligated and expected to "make us healthy," we not only place unfair expectations upon the physician, but treat ourselves as passive, one-dimensional machines.

While we may actively go visit the physician, we are also passively expecting the physician to ensure our well-being. This attitude does not promote healthy living. In fact, it serves to negatively impact our overall well-being in that it places responsibility solely in the hands of someone else. Promoting healthy living involves what might be called a holistic approach toward living.

Holistic healthy living involves much more than assessing our physical well-being. The careers we may choose, the social and physical environment in which we place ourselves, the foods we eat, all these affect our overall health and well-being. If we treat ourselves as passive machines, we voluntarily give up control over several of these factors. In short, we give up control over our own well-being, and in doing so, do ourselves a tremendous disservice.

We are much more than one-dimensional beings, and holistic healthy living involves treating ourselves as multi-dimensional, complex beings that are affected by many factors not addressed by a mere physical, mathematical description. Holistic healthy living involves actively taking control over those aspects of our lives that, quite frankly, are under our control, to the extent that we are able to flourish as individuals, rather than languish as machines. We have a huge degree of control over the people with whom we associate, over the food we eat, over how we arrange our living environment, and over how we treat other people.

The process of practicing holistic healthy living consists of crafting and constructing one’s environment, much in the way a sculptor shapes a lump of unformed clay. We may not have much control over the chemical composition of the clay, but we certainly have a say in what shape it may take.

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