Definition of Holistic Health

While researching the definition of holistic health I discovered that there a variety of explanations. Many sources confused it with the definitions of holistic healing and complementary alternative medicine. CAM includes all healing modalities except conventional modern medicine.

Those explanations describe the hows of health and healing, but fail to include the overall condition of body and mind. The well-being of the whole self is what the definition of holistic health is based on.  

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

What is holistic health? How do you achieve and maintain improved levels of whole self wellness?

Borrowing from a variety of definitions, including the biopsychosocial model, I created the following inclusive definition of holistic health. It takes into account  all areas of your life, including body mind health.

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 we are accustomed to dealing with each of these areas separately, the word holistic implies the condition of the whole. In reality, body, mind and spirit are completely intertwined aspects of the whole. They are not separate entities and cannot be separated. When you affect one level, either positively or negatively, to some extent you affect the whole person.

Once you truly grasp the importance of the mind-body-spirit-relationship, and address personal welfare 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. His approach applies to all areas of life, including  body mind health, interactions with your environment and others. These interactions are important measures of well-being on all levels.

George Engel named his method of determining an individual's current state of health the biopsychosocial model. It helps 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 include 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 system still operates from the viewpoint that we are our genes. It is our genes that primarily determine how long we live, our mental outlook, and whether or not we eventually succumb to heart disease, Alzheimer's, cancer and other conditions. It is us and the medical establishment versus our genes, although current studies are forcing a shift in this philosophy.

Recent research into the field of epigenetics is proving Dr. Engel correct. This is good news. It proves that we have a great deal more influence over our health and well-being than we were 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 your physical and mental welfare in the future. 

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


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