What is the Definition of Holistic Health?

While researching the definition of holistic health I discovered something interesting. There are a variety of explanations answering the what is holistic health question. These definitions fall into two distinct categories.

The first category, and by far the most popular, describes holistic health as an approach to healing and alternative medicine. 

This definition is often used interchangeably with the definition of holistic medicine, which are basically all healing modalities except conventional modern medicine.

Those explanations describes the hows of health and healing, but fail to tell you about the health of body and mind which is what the definition of holistic health is based on.

The second category refers to whole self health. That is the explanation we will explore here.


Definition of Holistic Health

A complete definition of holistic health explores answers to the following questions:

What is holistic health, and how do you achieve and maintain improved levels of whole self health?

Borrowing from a variety of definitions, I created the following simple yet inclusive definition of holistic health. It considers body mind health and the health of every area of your life.

Holistic health is your overall state of wellness on all levels of your being: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It encompasses the health of your entire being and extends to everyone and everything that affects you in any way. That includes your resources, your environment and your relationships.

The World Health Organization says it this way.

holistic health definition

Although  accustomed us to examining and treating each of these areas separately, holistic health or wellness implies the health of the whole. In reality, your body, mind and spirit are completely intertwined and cannot be separated. They are aspects of the whole, not separate entities. You simply cannot affect one level, either positively or negatively, without influencing your entire being to some extent.

Once you truly grasp the importance of the mind-body-spirit-relationship, and address well-being on all levels, the more likely you are to see remarkable healing occur.


definition of holistic

Biopsychosocial Model of Holistic Health

For a deeper understanding of the definition of holistic health, it is helpful to look at the work of American psychiatrist, Dr. George Engel. Dr. Engel designed a philosophy and comprehensive approach of holistic wellness that applies to all areas of life. This includes your body mind health and well as your interactions with your environment and others. These interactions are important measures of health and well-being on all levels.

George Engel named his work the biopsychosocial model for determining someone's current state of health. It is very useful for helping you assess your level of holistic wellness now and in the future as you make changes.

Dr. Engel considered wellness to be based on many factors interacting together to create a whole picture of health. These factors included biological, environmental, psychological and aspects of life.

A few measures of wellness include:

  • How many hours do you sleep each night?
  • How well do you get along with others? 
  • Do you have unresolved relationship issues?
  • Are you regularly around toxic chemicals in work or at home?
  • How much fresh food do you eat each day?
  • What is your exercise routine?
  • Are you happy with your job and financial status?
  • Do you have a social support system?

This view is contrary to the model embraced by the modern allopathic medical system that still operates from the viewpoint that we are our genes and our genes determine our future health. It is us and the medical system versus our genes.

Recent research into the field of epigenetics is proving Dr. Engel correct. This is good news because it shows us that we have a great deal more influence over our state of health than we have been led to believe.

What is holistic health and wellness as it relates to you? It is your state of overall health and well-being right now. It is based on the choices and practices you make each and every moment of your life in every area of your life. The choices you make in those moments will be a major influence of the state of your overall health in the future. 

When you are in need of holistic healing, fully understanding the definition of holistic health can help you make wise, comprehensive decisions about what you need to heal and how to best go about making improved well-being a reality in mind, body and spirit.


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Related Pages

Holistic Health and Healing Guide


Holistic Medicine 

Types of Holistic Alternative Medicine

Mind Body Medicine


Nature vs Nurture ~ genes vs environment