Holistic vs. Wholistic: What’s The Diff?

Holistic vs. Wholistic: What’s The Diff?
February 19, 2020 welleum


What’s The Difference?

Chinese Herbs

Holistic…or is it wholistic? You might have heard this term used at your yoga studio, at your chiropractor’s office, or maybe from that cheesemonger at the farmers market. But what does it actually mean and why should you care? And do you spell it with a ‘w’ or not? 

What Does Holistic Mean? 

Let’s start with the basics. In the Miriam Webster dictionary, the definition of holistic is, “Relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts.” Essentially, what that means is that a holistic practice takes into consideration how an entire system (read: your body) functions rather than just looking at a specific part of the body that needs attention. 

Wholistic vs Holistic Though ancient practices following holistic methods have been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, they weren’t described as holistic until fairly recently. The term holistic comes from a theory called holism which was first introduced in 1926 by Jan Smuts. His version of holism was based around the idea that nature had a ‘tendency to create wholes that are greater than the sum of its parts’. His idea was then modified, expounded upon, and connected with the ancient practices to become the idea of holism that we know today. 

What Does Holistic Care Look Like? 

Medical practitioners who work from a holistic perspective are typically all under the “non-traditional” healthcare umbrella. Common holistic medicine practices that fall into this category can include:

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
  • Chiropractics 
  • Homeopathy
  • Naturopathy
  • Ayurveda
  • Electromagnetic therapy
  • Reiki
  • Qigong

Each of these come with their own specific focuses, styles, and foundational teachings. However, they all are united by the understanding that imbalances in one part of the body affect others. So when it comes to creating a plan of care, choices are made based on how all the puzzle pieces fit together, rather than hyperfocusing on fixing that one troublesome piece.

Treatment and care under a holistic practice such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) often involves several elements. The idea of holism will be present from the beginning, with an examination process that involves looking at your tongue, how you walk and talk, your daily habits and nutrition, and other condition-related questions. The practitioner will work with you to make sure your concerns are addressed and then design a plan best suited to your specific needs. Plans including acupuncture or acupressure massage, prescriptions of herbal mixes, and diet and lifestyle changes are created to either maintain good health, or treat a specific concern.

So is Wholistic Different Than Holistic, or What? 

Wholistic vs Holistic We get it, you’re probably thinking “Wholistic is just a different spelling of holistic, right?” Wrong. While wholistic practices encompass the holistic ones, it doesn’t always work the other way around. 

The idea of wholism is rooted in the same idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This approach, however, takes it one step further and gives greater weight to the mental and emotional health of a person as well. Every aspect of our lives can influence our health and wellbeing, from the physical exercise we do (or don’t do), the quality of the personal relationships we have, to the way we manage stress and pressure. Wholistic practices takes into consideration the whole self; the mind, physical body, and spirit.

Science actually proves this to be true! It’s been shown that an inability to manage intense emotions like stress, anxiety, and depression can cause serious health problems like hormonal imbalances, weakened immune systems, and lower levels of those key brain chemicals that regulate happiness. On the flip side, a lifestyle designed around caring for your mental and emotional health has been shown to actually improve your overall health by:

  • Extending your lifespan (Yes, really!)
  • Decreasing rates of depression or emotional distress
  • Boosting the immune system (Fewer illnesses? Sign us up!) 
  • Improved overall cardiovascular health 
  • Greater emotional resiliency

How To Live Wholistically and Holistically

Meditation in Eastern MedicineEmbracing the ideas of wholism (and holism) are actually quite easy to introduce into your daily life. If you’re brand new to these concepts but want to give a wholistic lifestyle a try, start by adding one element at a time and create a plan that truly meets your needs. Here are five ways you can get started. 

Infuse Mindfulness Into Your Day 

If your days look like running from meeting to meeting with coffees and endless to-do lists in hand, chances are it’s hard to find a sense of peace and calm throughout the chaos. Practicing mindfulness can help you lower stress levels, keep a level head, and boost happiness, even on those tough days. Mindfulness is simply the practice of maintaining awareness in the present moment.

You can practice this in several ways. Take a few minutes in between meetings, at lunch, or on a coffee break to purely focus on your breathing (and maybe remind yourself to breathe!). Truly savor the taste of food, or beautiful flowers on your desk. Minimizing multi-tasking, meditating, and changing up your schedule are all easy ways to infuse mindfulness into your day.

Take a Class on Holistic Care

When first jumping into the world of holistic living, all the new terminology and concepts can seem overwhelming. The best way to beat the overwhelm, and learn the best tips and tricks, is from the experts. Search for a workshop that covers a subject you’re interested in. There are so many options to choose from depending on your interests like herbology 101, holistic nutrition, yoga, tai chi, at-home acupressure massage, or meditation. If going back to school isn’t in the cards for you, look for one-day workshops, online classes, podcasts, or other kinds of bite-sized learning opportunities.

Keep Your Body Moving

We all know that regular physical exercise is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, but the wholistic impacts of exercise go much farther than staying in shape. Exercise releases positive chemicals in the brain like dopamine that can actually help you feel happier throughout the day. Additionally, running around the block and lifting those weights can work as a positive way to lift the stress off your back, too. Try to mix things up between weight training, yoga, and high-intensity cardio and get your body moving between three to five times per week for the most wholistic benefits. 

Take A Closer Look At What You Eat 

Have you taken time to think about the impact your food has on your body? Food acts as fuel for our bodies, and we all need different types and amounts of it to get through our day in a healthy way. What we eat can also play a part in our mood. Certain foods and drinks can increase feelings of anxiety, depression, and lower our energy. It’s important to develop your intuition around which foods make you feel positive or negative so you can refine your diet. If you need help creating a plan for yourself, consider visiting a TCM practitioner or nutritionist. 

Honor Your Emotions

Wholistic living concerns the body, mind, and spirit. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, many of us have been trained to shove our emotions to the side to make it through the day. When we don’t take time to understand and process our emotions, they can create blocks in our energy, minds, and bodies that can have some pretty bad repercussions. 

Unresolved feelings can actually work their way into our bodies and create aches and pains, or other health issues. While your massage therapist can totally go to town on those knots in your back, you have the power to prevent those stress knots from forming in the first place. Acknowledge your emotions, whether they be good or bad and create a plan to manage them in a healthy way. This could include meditation, journaling, speaking with a therapist or life coach, breathing exercises, and other forms of self-care. 

Are you committed to living life wholistically? What’s your favorite way to live a wholistic lifestyle? Share with us in the comments below!

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