In times of a pandemic when a strong immune system is a must, the first steps towards it can only be taken when people understand holistic health
We are living in times of a pandemic, and now, more than ever, the importance of a healthy immune system is being felt by many. A healthy immune system can not only help us fight off the effects of the Coronavirus but can also help in our recovery.
However, understand that a healthy immune system cannot be achieved by keeping a tab on just one aspect of life but is all about a holistic approach to health. To better understand what entails a holistic health approach, Dr Chandrakant S. Pandav, former Professor and Head of the Department of Centre for Community Medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, shares his valuable insights.
“Holistic health is an approach to life, rather than focusing on a specific pandemic, illness or specific parts of the body. This ancient Indian approach to health considers the whole person and how he/she interacts with his/her environment. The goal of holistic health is to achieve maximum health and well being, where everything is functioning at the highest level possible. “
Dr Pandav further goes on to share the eight dimensions which when brought together become the roadmap to holistic health.
Talking about the physical dimension, Dr Pandav says that it is the first and foremost dimension. The physical dimension, he explains, focuses on recognising the need for physical activity, diet, sleep and nutrition.
The second dimension he says is the emotional dimension, which is all about coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships.
The intellectual dimensions, then, is all about recognising creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and other important skills.
The fourth dimension, the social dimension, is all about social well-being, developing a sense of connection, belonging and developing a rounded support system.
The spiritual dimension focuses on expanding our sense of purpose and meaning in life.
The sixth dimension, Dr Pandav explains, is all about personal satisfaction and enrichment we derive from work.
Similar to the occupational dimension, the financial dimension is about satisfaction derived from a sound financial standing.
Finally, the environmental dimension, which helps in the maintenance of health by occupying a pleasant and stimulating environment.
Only when the different dimensions of health are understood, can people work on the maintenance of holistic health. Dr Pandav says, “Creating a personal well-being plan, starting by categorising the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual spurts and choosing one activity that will serve you in that area in the most enjoyable and meaningful way is one of the best approaches to holistic health”. He gives examples to better explain the different activities that people can choose from:
Physical: A daily outdoor 30-minute walk.
Mental: Meditating every morning, or talking to plants.
Emotional: Making time to catch up with old friends.
Spiritual: Starting the day with prayers.
However, in a country like India, the problems towards a holistic approach to health are many, and it cannot be practised unless people are made aware of the challenges and solutions. Talking about this very problem, Dr Pandav says that lack of awareness, the burden of communicable diseases and non-communicable diseases, resistance to change in lifestyle and a lack of basic facilities are some of the key challenges to holistic health. To address these challenges, spreading awareness, and modifications in dietary and lifestyle behaviour are important, he adds.
Some of the areas that can be worked upon, he says are the integration of allopathic, ayurvedic, homoeopathic, dental and naturopathy to create integrated wellness clinics. He says, “The basic medical degree will need to combine all aspects of medical health, encouraging social, spiritual, mental and medical components of the healthcare system (integration at health ministry and university levels).”
He adds, “Such physicians would be closer to communities, holistic in nature and will focus on preventive and promotive aspects of health by delivering integrated solutions that combine modern medicine, alternative medicine, diet behaviours and yoga.”
Till the time holistic health approach is adopted at the ministry and university levels, the best we can do is to ensure that more and more adopt a more holistic approach to health. With time, perseverance and effort it is possible to lead a balanced life which ensures that health is seen as not just the absence of disease but the approach that ensures that all aspects of a holistic health approach are taken care of.
Dr Reshma is an advocate of wellness, prevention and holistic health. Instagram handle: dr.reshmakhattarbhagat