HOLISTIC APPROACH TO HEALTH
Dr. Theresa Nicassio, registered psychologist and author of the popular YUM cookbook shares here in a Q&A her advice on a holistic approach to health, mindful eating and exercising.
Q: What is a holistic approach to health?
A: Unlike thinking about health in an assembly-line sort of way, holistic health requires healthcare professionals to see each person as a unique and complex being in their totality, instead of as a sum of their parts.
The genetic complexities of the human organism, combined with the immense diversity of the trillions of various microorganisms that live within each of our bodies, along with countless other environmental, cultural, and relational influences has given rise to the growing appreciation of the importance of “personalized medicine” as the new gold standard of healthcare.
As a psychologist who understands that psychological processes not only impact general well-being, productivity, and relationships, but also many aspects of physical health and wellness, my approach to the assessment and treatment of my clients is profoundly impacted by this holistic and personalized perspective of health. In so doing, lifestyle factors such as sleep, nutrition, exercise, and general health status contribute to the cognitive, emotional, and relational world of my clients. By collaborating with other health professionals, all collectively honouring the wholeness of the individual and targeting the underlying source of health challenges, more accurate and effective treatment strategies are possible.
Q: During the pandemic, what are some ways to approach health, mindful eating, and exercising?
A: The good news and the bad news about the impact of the restrictions of the pandemic is that it has disrupted our habituated ways of living. As a species, we typically don’t like to change our habits, but the directives we all found ourselves abiding by made it virtually impossible not to change.
When presented with such a disruption, the natural initial response for many was to resist, deny, become anxious, or even to escape through the use of addictive substances. The virtually universal hope was that the world would change back “to normal” after a short blip. However, as the trajectory of the disruption continued on, the need for more adaptive strategies has become more clear. This is where the good news really begins because we now find ourselves with an unprecedented landscape of possibilities and motivation for creating new life-giving habits of living.
MINDSET SHIFT FROM VICTIM TO VICTOR
The most important strategy you can employ to support your health and wellness is to shift your perspective from feeling powerless to powerful, from feeling like a victim to a victor. Even though there are many things that are not in your control, focusing on what you DO have control of can be extremely empowering.
PLEASURE, PLAY & AWE
Because in many ways the world has slowed down, with less travel and mindless habits, this quiet time is an incredible opportunity to awaken your senses and invite more childlike wonder around the simple pleasures of life. Breathe in the fresh air, watch a sunset, steep in the sunshine, spend more time playing with a child or a friend’s pet, get to know your neighbour (even if it is through chatting with them across the street), learn a new hobby like gardening or crafting or cooking. Immerse yourself in the magic of experimentation and discovery. Move your body and play without competition or expectation of mastery or outcome. Just play for the sake of having fun and move as a joyous way to reconnect with, celebrate, and love your body.
NURTURE YOURSELF THROUGH MINDFUL EATING
Use this time of the pandemic as an opportunity to learn how to prepare and nourish your body with real whole fresh food that comes from the produce section instead of from a bag or box. Because everyone is spending more time at home, the excuses for not preparing healthier food no longer hold water. Relish in this rare opportunity and allow gratitude for the gifts from the soil to nourish your body in ways you’ve never before known were possible.
Q: How important is it to know about your DNA when it comes to health?
A: This discovery has been an empowering game-changer for me on my own health journey. As more information about how genetic vulnerabilities and the implications of polymorphisms are becoming understood, the tools accessible to us to explore as we work under the care of our healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable about how to apply this information can be incredible. What is most important to understand is that our DNA is not our destiny but can help us make better lifestyle choices that can impact how our specific genes are expressed.
Environmental factors, including exposure to stress, toxins, the foods we eat, and the home and body care products we use can all impact our gene expression. Knowing what our unique body needs are based on our genetic makeup is another aspect of personalized medicine that I think is going to transform in profound ways how we think about psychological and physical wellness in the years to come.
Q: Is there a healthy guide for everyone to follow?
A: I don’t think that there is any one healthy guide that applies to everyone because every one of us is different. That said, you can’t go wrong with filling your life with as much clean air, clean water, organic nourishing water-dense anti-inflammatory foods, gratitude, kindness, wonderment, physical movement, and connection with others and nature as possible. Relishing in the gifts life has to offer from a place of humility, appreciation and awe are some of the most delicious and longevity-promoting habits we can learn and this unique time in our lives may be the best opportunity we’ll ever have to immerse ourselves in this wonderful way of living.