Healing the whole person

Most of us tend to see ourselves (consciously or unconsciously) as separate parts. There’s our physical body, our mental self, our emotional self, and our spiritual self.

When we are dealing with the broken places in our lives, we tend to focus on the part of ourselves that feels the most broken. Most of the time, that means our emotional selves since that’s where we feel our brokenheartedness.

I’ve written before many times about the connection between our thoughts and our emotions (most recently in Eliminating the second arrows of suffering). In my own life, I tend to focus as much on my thought life (my mind) as my emotional life (or heart) when I’m hurting because I’m very aware of how my thoughts influence my emotions.

To some degree, I also take my spiritual life into account in times like these. Especially when I consider my spiritual life to involve connection not just to the Divine, but also to other relationships in my life, it’s clear that these relationships are important in supporting me in hard times and can have a strong influence in how I heal.

What I tend to pay less attention to, however, is how my physical self affects the rest. I too often tend to treat my body as just a skin suit that carries the “more important” parts of myself around.

I’ve been doing extensive reading the last couple of months about research into what can help improve brain health to avoid (or at least delay) Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

There are strong lines of Alzheimer’s disease in both my maternal and paternal ancestries over the last several generations. As I get older, my worry of winding up similarly afflicted grows stronger and makes me more willing to make big changes to avoid that as long as possible.

As I’ve read, I’ve been struck by how much of the research has indicated physical changes that have the most impact. Things like food choices, eating habits, and physical fitness are huge factors in brain health (in addition to overall health).

Yes, there are other important factors, like keeping the mind active with new learning and social connections, that factor strongly into brain health. However, everything I’m reading indicates that the biochemical changes in the body prompted by our diets and activity levels have a much larger impact that I had ever imagined.

Some of the studies mentioned in these books also indicate that these same diet and activity level issues also profoundly affect our emotional health, with everything from depression to anxiety to ADHD and more showing correlations to what we eat and how active we are.

I’ve been implementing these changes to my own food choices and have been shocked by the results. In addition to physical changes that might be expected (like losing weight), there have also been so many other positive changes. My energy levels have increased. My seasonal allergies are fraction of what they normally are this time of year. Many of my aches and pains have eased.

But these changes also reach far beyond my physical body. My mind fog is decreased. My emotions are more settled. I feel less depressed. I have more emotional energy for relationships. I feel much more enthusiastic and resilient.

In addition, this boost in energy is making it easier for me to be more active, spend more time in nature (which also has positive effects for me), be more social, and spend more time learning new things. All things that further support brain health. It’s been a positive spiral that is continuing to offer gifts of greater health in surprising ways.

Will these changes make any difference in when (or if) I develop Alzheimer’s disease? Who knows?

But what it has shown me is that my disregard for my physical self as if my body is less important than the other parts of me has been a mistake. I’ve been undermining my hard work on healing my mental, emotional, and spiritual selves by treating my physical self as if it didn’t matter.

Health and healing needs to be a function of our whole self because none of these separate “parts” of ourselves function in isolation.

What parts of yourself do you tend to focus on when you are healing from the broken places in your life?

What parts of yourself do you tend to ignore or disregard as important in healing during those times?

How can you better tend to ALL parts of yourself as a whole person to better support your healing?


NOTE: Although my purpose here is not to promote a particular diet or health regimen because each person has unique needs that may differ from my own, I’m sure some of you will have questions about what I’m reading and the changes I’m finding helpful. For those of you who do have a particular interest, the best summations of my reading include Max Lugavere’s Genius Foods and The Genius Life and Marc Milstein’s The Age-Proof Brain. (All links go to the respective Amazon listings, but none of them are affiliate links, nor do I receive income in any way for mentioning them.)

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2 thoughts on “Healing the whole person

    • May 1, 2024 at 8:36 am

      Thank you! I’ve experienced negative spirals all too often, so it’s exciting to have found this positive spiral!

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