There’s no denying it: more and more Americans are becoming interested in augmenting their healthcare with traditional medicine. While ignoring what a doctor says in favor of these alternative health options may be risky, traditional practices can often work in synergy with Western medicine to cause better outcomes. Let’s examine how integrative health approaches can support mental health wellness.
What is Integrative Health?
First, what exactly do we mean when discussing “integrative health?” That’s a pretty big question, and we will have to explain two other concepts first: complementary and alternative health approaches. Both of these approaches involve some non-mainstream healthcare techniques. However, the way they include these techniques is different.
- Alternative Health: using non-mainstream healthcare techniques instead of standardized Western medicine practices.
- Complementary Health: using non-mainstream healthcare techniques in addition to standardized Western medicine practices.
Complementary healthcare is more common than alternative healthcare is. Complementary healthcare is similar to integrative health, but they’re different. We’ll explain integrative health next.
Simply put, integrative health involves using standardized medical practices and complementary health in concert. Integrative health focuses on healing your entire body, not just a single system or organ.
That might sound a little weird when you look at it abstractly. But it’s a lot easier to understand once we use an example.
Say someone is experiencing high stress or anxiety related to a new job; they talk to their doctor, who prescribes medication to relieve it. However, while their medication helps, it’s not perfect. They’re still feeling anxious, and it affects their performance at work. So, they decided to start a contemplative practice that included meditation and yoga.
After a week or two, they start feeling their anxiety subsiding. Their holistic health focus gave them better results than if they tried medication alone. Since this person uses mainstream medicine and complementary health, they took an integrative approach to their mental wellness. Sidenote: when you find that something is working in conjunction to medication, the next step to holistic health may be to taper off the medication. This MUST be discussed with your medical provider.
Why Use Integrative Health to Support Your Mental Wellness
Integrative health has experienced a surge in popularity among the medical community in several situations. For example, doctors treating military veterans or cancer survivors may recommend integrative health approaches.
I’m not here to tell you that Western medicine has no merits. It clearly does – just look around at some people who have survived against incredible odds thanks to modern medical techniques.
However, one of the core strengths of Western medicine can also be a weakness. Conventional medical approaches focus on one highly specific body part (like a single organ or system).
Sometimes, it spends so much time examining this aspect of a person’s health that it doesn’t consider other interconnected parts of the body. However, your body is one big interconnected system; something affecting it may come from a different part than the one exhibiting symptoms.
That’s where integrative health comes in. By looking at the whole system, this approach can enlist the body’s systems to help work on what’s going wrong. This may even involve looking at the influence of friends and family members to discern whether they’re playing a part in triggering symptoms.
How Can I Use Integrative Health for My Mental Wellness?
It’s easy to begin using integrative health to improve your mental wellness. Here are a few ways you can get started:
- Meditation: I’ve used meditation to help improve my overall mental wellness, and I encourage others to do it, too! According to the experts at the Mayo Clinic, meditation can help ease feelings of stress and anxiety while promoting sensations of calm, serenity, and inner peace. Here’s the best part: you can easily introduce meditation into your downtime, like a train or bus ride, or even in between Zoom meetings.
- Yoga: Yoga can have a beneficial impact on mental health, too. According to a study published in the American psychiatry publication Focus, yoga may be able to help reduce symptoms of PTSD, insomnia, stress, and anxiety when compared to a control group. Yoga requires a little more structure than meditation does, but its effects are profound. If you’re nervous about taking a yoga class, consider meeting with a teacher one-on-one.
- Tantra: combining breath, sound, movement, touch, and energy allows me to live from an embodied place of love. Love might not be all you need, but it can be a crazy cocktail of internal chemicals bathing you in health. I’d love to tell you more about my journey, sign up for a free consultation to see if Tantra is something you’d want to consider.
- Mindful Eating: We all know that what we eat affects our bodies (you are what you eat, after all), but did you know your diet can also affect your mental health? Being mindful of when you eat and what you eat can greatly impact your overall mental wellness. Research has shown that eating foods with antioxidants can have a big therapeutic potential.
Find Some Support with Coaching
Are you curious about implementing an integrative health regimen into your wellness plan? Getting started is often the hardest part – we don’t know where, how, or even when to begin.
Fortunately, you don’t have to take this journey alone. Instead, enlist the help of a coach to help you. Whether you’re new to integrative health or you need to elevate your current practice, a coach may be able to help.
As a trained somatic release practitioner, I have the background and skillset to do that! I’ve studied holistic wellness for years and am always excited to share what I’ve learned with my clients.
What are you waiting for? Take the next step in your mental and physical wellness when you book a free consultation.