The Importance of Healing the Body As A Whole

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Health means wealth. Many will agree to this saying. However, does this mainly refer to one's physical health? What about our mental or spiritual health? I believe everyone desires to be well. No one likes to be sick. Yet, more often than we should, we focus primarily on our physical health. We have become more aware of our diet and we try to include exercise in our schedule. Yet, less emphasis is placed on our mental and spiritual health. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity".  With this definition, we can safely say that our physical condition is merely one aspect of our overall health. We are more than that. ‎

Studies have shown that our physical health, mental health and spiritual health are strongly connected. As our mental and spiritual health decline, physical health decline. This also works the other way.

In a study conducted in the year 2015, the role of gratitude and spiritual well-being in heart failure patients was examined.  This study has found that an attitude of gratitude is related to better mood and sleep, less fatigue, higher self-efficacy and a lower cellular inflammatory index. The greater the gratitude habit, the researchers observed more positive effects in promoting better sleep and lessened the incidences of depression. These are important observations because a depressed mood and poor sleep are associated with the negative prognosis of heart failure as well as other cardiac problems. 

Various spiritual practices have been known to help reduce symptoms of mental and emotional distress.  The National Cancer Institute reports that spiritual and religious well-being can improve health and the quality of life in the following ways: decreased alcohol and drug abuse; lower anxiety, depression, and anger; decreased blood pressure and risk of heart disease; and an increased ability to enjoy life during illness.  Spiritual health can actually change the way we experience life events and how we perceive situations, thus making episodes of physical stress or depression easier to get through.

In another study, emodiversity (the relative breadth and abundance of different emotions) may influence inflammation.  The findings show that diversity in day-to-day positive emotions is related to reduced levels of systemic inflammation. This therefore reduces the risk of chronic diseases. 

In the past few years, we have begun to understand the effects of chronic inflammation on mental and emotional health.  In some depressed patients, chronic inflammation can be either the cause or a strong contributing factor to depression.  Furthermore, it has been discovered that chronic inflammation is causative or contributory in many cases of anxiety. 

With the above studies and findings, the importance of viewing the body as a whole when it comes to the healing art simply cannot be dismissed. Modern medicine focuses greatly on detecting diseases and treating symptoms. These are no doubt modern medicine's plus points. However, statistics have also shown that the failure to treat the root cause of the disease has resulted in a high rate of dissatisfaction among the patients as the disease tends to recur.

According to a study that was conducted by Peek, Baird and Coleman in year 2009, usual health care and decision-making for common chronic conditions is typically geared to conditions and not persons. Thus, patients with multiple health conditions are facing difficult situations such as multiple GP visits, multiple diagnoses, the use of redundant medications, the carrying out of redundant diagnostic tests, unplanned clinic and ER visits, increased number and length of hospital admissions, poor maintenance of patient and clinician relationships, and a large gap between patient’s and clinician’s view on how severe the symptoms are—or are expected to be.  With this long list, it is no wonder why the patients are not satisfied! 

Patients are often 'dissected' into multiple body parts or organs instead of being viewed as one complete working biological being. The treatment of symptoms is often merely partial healing that can potentially lead to recurrence of the disease or even incorrect treatment.

In Japan, in their effort to renew primary healthcare is to meet the needs of an ageing population, they take a patient-centered approach; attending to the individual as a whole. These physicians are called kakaritsuke physicians. They cover a wide range of age-related health problems from end-of-life care and dementia to polypharmacy, rehabilitation and nutrition. The physicians in Japan realise that patients have a wide range of needs and thus recognise the importance of meeting both the medical needs and social care of patients.  

As our medical industry continue to advance, we are becoming increasingly aware of the connection between our physical, mental and spiritual health. We look forward to the day when we can be viewed by our physicians not just as specific parts of our physical body but as a complete being, understanding that the existence of any imbalance in any part of the body can lead to the decline of other parts of the body too.

Tay Sim Yee (Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Academy student for the Diploma in Aromatherapy course)

Copyright © 2018 Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Resources 
Holistic Living Annex (July 2018)

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8. Yokokura , Yoshitake “Japan renews primary health care to promote healthy ageing” , Bull World Health Organ 2018;96:448–449 | doi:

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