Holistic lifestyle for beginners: 10 tips for optimal health and happiness
You know it’s time for a change but are not sure where to start?
Or maybe you’ve tried the mainstream wellness tips such as doing yoga or adding superfoods to your diet and are still not seeing the desired results.
The thing is, you can’t try to improve your life by focusing on separate aspects of it. You must look at the big picture.
That’s where leading a holistic lifestyle comes in!
Rather than journeying down the rabbit hole of wellness, my guide on how to live a holistic lifestyle for optimal health and happiness will provide you with everything you need to get started on your journey.
What is a holistic lifestyle?
First, let’s start by defining what the word ‘HOLISTIC’ means.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary:
Considering a whole thing or being to be more than a collection of parts
E.g. a holistic approach to life
For instance, you can’t lead a healthy lifestyle by only focusing on eating well. That’s only one aspect of health. Sure, it helps. You can eat a superfood-rich diet, but if you have a job that makes you miserable, superfoods won’t be contributing as much to your overall health and happiness.
There are other aspects to life, such as mental, physical, and spiritual health, work, and relationships. They’re all connected.
These key aspects work in harmony to complete you as a whole person.
The keyword is harmony. This harmony is achieved by looking at your life from a holistic point of view – by looking at the bigger picture.
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”Aristotle
So living a holistic lifestyle means approaching life as a whole. It means taking care of your whole being.
5 Dimensions of a Holistic Lifestyle
In practice, you can take a holistic approach to life by addressing all its key aspects, together. These key life aspects are also known as the 5 Dimensions of Holistic Living/Health.
1. Physical health
Physical health is the most commonly referred to health dimension when people think about health. That’s because this dimension seems to be the most tangible one. After all, it’s the physical body that often shows symptoms that something is not right.
Taking care of your body involves things such as exercising, staying hydrated, eating a nutrient-rich diet, and sleeping well.
2. Mental and emotional health
While some might consider these two different dimensions, mental and emotional health are closely intertwined because mental health is actually an expression of emotional health. Our brain reacts to our emotions. Learning how to consciously manage your emotions can greatly reduce your levels of anxiety, depression, or insomnia. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to achieve this.
3. Social health
Humans by nature are a social species. You’ve probably heard this before. This means that having healthy relationships and genuine connections is crucial for our well-being. Social health is so important that according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, forming social connections can help lower anxiety and depression while boosting our immune system.
This doesn’t mean that everyone should be an extrovert. It’s not about the number of connections you build as much as it is about the quality of those connections.
4. Spiritual health
Some people might confuse spirituality with religion or faith. And while there are those who find spirituality in religion, they are two different things. Everyone can be a spiritual person. Being spiritual relates to our sense of purpose in life, our connection to nature, community, and to something bigger than ourselves. A couple easy ways to foster your spiritual well-being are to volunteer in your community and practice gratitude.
5. Occupational health
Work is part of life. And while you don’t necessarily need to love what you do, your job shouldn’t make you feel miserable to the point where you dread waking up in the morning.
That’s why it’s important to do a job that allows you to lead the life you wish while feeling rewarded for your efforts. And if you’re part of a toxic work environment, know that you can and should take steps to change your situation.
If you’d like to dive deeper into the 5 Dimensions of a Holistic Lifestyle, check our guide with practical tips on how to make your health super simple with the 5 Dimensions of Holistic Health.
The importance and benefits of a holistic lifestyle
Did you know that experiencing high levels of work stress can lead to gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, isolation, depression, and even aggression?
If you experience any of the above symptoms and go to a traditional doctor, you’ll probably be sent home with a drug that will help you ease the physical pain. While conventional medicine might provide some temporary relief, the symptoms will continue to manifest, be it physically or mentally until you address the root cause of your problem.
And that’s the importance of holistic living – having the awareness to look at your health and wellness from a higher perspective.
When you are aware of all the dimensions that contribute to your general wellbeing and their connectedness, you will be able to live in an optimal state of health and happiness.
It all sounds good in theory, but what practical steps can you take today to start living a holistic lifestyle?
That’s what we’ll explore in the next section!
10 tips to living a holistic lifestyle
These 10 practical tips aim to help you practice holistic living and take control of your own life.
1. Work in a meaningful job that you enjoy
Do you love your job?
You’re not alone.
A global poll of full-time workers found that 85% were dissatisfied with their jobs. That’s a LOT of unhappy workers.
A big part of living a holistic lifestyle is doing work that is meaningful to you. This can be next to impossible if you’re stressed and unhappy at work, which is somewhere you spend a third of your day if you’re a full-time employee.
Let’s be realistic – you don’t have to love every minute of your job.
Work is work, after all. But you should have some love for what you do, whether it be enjoying the process of your day-to-day activities, or the satisfaction you get from the outcome of those activities. While some stress on the job is normal, you shouldn’t feel stressed out all the time – it’s bad for your mental and physical health.
My previous career was not right for me and caused a lot of unnecessary stress.
I worked as a software engineer for a start-up and just hated it. Every morning I’d wake up hoping the day would pass quickly. I constantly worried about my CEO calling me after hours (which he often did, because he had no sense of boundaries) to say mean things.
As a result, I was always anxious and thinking about work, and never felt rested.
Since changing to a more meaningful career (as a holistic health blogger), I’m a lot less stressed. I also get more satisfaction from working hard to achieve my goals and continuing my holistic living.
- If you love the type of work you do, but not who you do it for: look for another job. You might think you can’t find a better place to work, but you might be what’s blocking your mind (this is called neuroplasticity). You deserve to find an employer that treats you well. Consider updating your LinkedIn profile, start networking and ask your friends if they know of any good opportunities!
- If the thought of changing employers doesn’t make you any happier, then maybe you just don’t love what you do for a living. The good news is that it’s never too late to change careers.
- If you are interested in holistic wellness like me, you can check out the health coaching school I’m currently attending. After graduation, you can become a self-employed health coach or work at a local clinic to help patients find the root cause of their health problems.
2. Build a healthy relationship with your finances
Does your heart skip a beat every time you log into your banking app?
Do you count down the minutes until payday?
Are you obsessed with every dollar that you spend, no matter how much money you have in the bank?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, then it’s time for you to start building a better relationship with your finances.
Also known as financial wellness, this is not about having buckets of money to throw around. In fact, you can live a simple life and be happy without increasing your income.
Financial wellness is about being on top of your financial situation, living within your means, and creating financial confidence.
When I started university, I never paid attention to how much I spent and quickly ended up with $10,000 in debt on my credit card. I also used my parents’ credit card on Amazon and I was almost cut off from my family. And then when it came time to buy essentials, I’d be paralyzed in a supermarket aisle, agonizing over whether I should buy a 30-cent vegetable or not.
Money can cause crippling stress, but it doesn’t have to.
Rather than constantly worrying about money, try thinking of managing your finances as self-care. This can completely change your mindset and encourage holistic living.
After realizing my bad relationship with finances was affecting my holistic health, I set out to be responsible with my money and not ignore my responsibilities.
It took time, education, and commitment, but I got there. And so can you!
- If you want to reduce stress around finance, listen to this podcast episode on joy-based spending by Manisha Thakor, Founder and CEO of MoneyZen Wealth Management. Manisha’s approach is to focus on joyful spending – look at your finances and see if your spending is bringing you real joy or not.
- Learn how to budget. Budgeting is a key skill when it comes to building financial health. It will take a lot of stress off your daily relationship with money. Once you’ve worked out a budget, you only need to take a few minutes each day to make sure you’re not overspending.
- If you’re struggling to cope with financial stress, consider turning to financial support networks for additional help.
3. Pay attention to your physical activity
Do you find it hard to squeeze in an hour-long workout each day?
You don’t need a gym membership or an extreme fitness routine to get the benefits of exercise. In fact, according to Harvard Health, you may not need as much exercise as you think.
When it comes to your holistic wellness, it’s better to be active throughout the day, each day, rather than be inactive most days and hit the gym twice a week.
I was a perfectionist, so if I ever missed the gym, I was very hard on myself.
I felt like I ruined my fitness, which affected my mental health, and led to binge eating until I gained 25lbs. Since I recovered from my binge eating disorder, I decided to work out at home. This was a gentler routine for me, as I didn’t have to psyche myself up to visit the gym. At home, I can also focus on exercises that are best for me.
- Commit to an exercise routine that fits with your goals. As stated by Harvard Health, your workouts would and should look different if you were to exercise for health, work, competition, or recreation. If the general health is your goal and you don’t enjoy working out, try walking to the supermarket instead of taking the bus. Or instead of taking an elevator, make walking up the stairs part of your holistic lifestyle.
- If you’re like me and enjoy a bit of a workout but don’t have a lot of time – you might also benefit from exercising at home. I usually do a 10-20 minute Pilates or dumbbell workout, doing a separate exercise for each part of my body (e.g. 20-minutes upper body on Monday, lower body Wednesday, 10 minutes abs Thursday, the upper body again on Saturday). When you do a dumbbell workout, start with lighter weights and pay attention to your form. If you are not confident with your exercise form, you can always work with a personal trainer as a part of your holistic living routine.
- New to Pilates? Try these easy workout videos:
- Home dumbbell workout I recommend:
4. Connect with your environment (home & neighbourhood)
Home is where the heart is!
But is yours cluttered and full of toxic products?
Or do you live in a neighborhood that’s not so friendly?
You don’t have to be a neat freak or live in a trendy, upmarket suburb to be happy at home. But you need to be mindful of your surroundings.
It’s hard to find time to wash up dishes when you’re busy or put laundry away when you’re tired.
These days, we all have a lot of stuff, so the clutter piles up. This is not good for your holistic health, as it can be distracting and cause you anxiety.
What’s more, a lot of stuff we have in our homes is toxic. That is, our homes are filled with products containing chemicals that are harmful to our health. Just think about your air freshener that contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogenic.
Likewise, you will not be at ease if you live in a neighborhood where it’s not safe for you to walk around. This may cause you to spend more time inside than you want, and you might find getting out and about stressful.
- Decluttering your home makes it easier to keep it tidy. You can start with some simple changes like:
- Pick your clothes up off the floor
- Fold and put your outside clothes away as soon as you get undressed
- Wash the dishes or stack the dishwasher daily/after each meal
- Spare 10-20 minutes to clean either before going to bed or as soon as you wake up
- Learn home Fung Shui to create a place that brings you luck and more energy
- Start living a toxin-free life. We’ve made a guide to get you started!
- If you’re not comfortable in your neighborhood, it might be time to move. If you are looking at a new neighborhood to move to, check out the “Walkability” in the neighborhood first, to make sure it’s a good fit for you and your physical health needs.
5. Invest in healthy relationships
Do the important people in your life bring you joy?
Well, they should!
Studies have shown that being in supportive relationships contributes to our health and wellbeing by giving us a sense of belonging, a feeling of self-worth, and a sense of security.
If you’re spending time with people who stress you out or exhaust you, you’re going to end up absorbing their negative emotions.
Building positive relationships with your loved ones can be easier than you think!
- If you have friends or family who get you down, reduce the time you spend with them. Instead, put your energy into those people you have healthy relationships with to promote holistic living.
What about my romantic partner?
It’s hard to get away from negativity when it’s coming from the person you’re in a romantic relationship with.
- If you feel like your partner is not sparing time to listen to you but is rather being occupied with work or social media, you both may benefit from turning off your devices for a while. Instead, spend 10-15 minutes focusing on, and listening to, each other.
- If you feel like your relationship is struggling, try sharing “3 things I appreciate about you” once a day. I started doing this with my boyfriend, and it’s helped us focus on what we love about each other. And remember, if you try everything but you still feel like your relationship isn’t working out, you might benefit from couple’s therapy.
- And if you tried to make it work but you and your partner seem to bring the worst out in each other, it’s important to know when to let go.
6. Get creative
How often do you use your imagination?
While you’re busy working, being healthy, having good relationships, and looking after yourself, it’s easy to forget one pillar of holistic living: creativity.
Why is creativity important?
Without our imaginations, we run on autopilot. This can lead to a serious lack of problem-solving or a reluctance to try new things. We become less resilient if (and when) life changes. Being creative helps reduce stress, boosts your immune system, and combats loneliness.
When you think about creativity, you’re probably wondering if you need to dig deep for some hidden artistic talent inside of you. But guess what?
ANYONE can be creative! It’s easier than you think.
- If you’re stuck on how to get those creative juices flowing, check out my easy-to-follow ideas for creativity. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pick up a paintbrush (unless you want to).
7. Put yourself out there
Does it often feel challenging to put yourself out there in social situations?
Depending on what’s been going on in your life, you might not feel ready to socialize. Even if this is true, you might be surprised by the impact being social could have on you.
One result of the worldwide pandemic was that the rates of loneliness are higher than ever before. People who experience loneliness are more prone to anxiety, depression, and antisocial behavior. In fact, loneliness poses the same risk to your health as heart disease.
On the flip side, studies have found that strong social connections can boost your immune system, help you recover from diseases, and even increase your chance of longevity.
- If you’re lonely, try reaching out to your loved ones or joining a community or social group to make new friends. It’s easier than you think. You’re not just helping yourself, you’re also making connections with other people who might be lonely.
- Invite your friends and cook together! I often invite my friends and cook something delicious. It’s fun and food will bring you and your friends closer. It’s also easier than preparing everything by yourself!
- Join meetup events to connect with people who share your interest. At first, I was skeptical of this idea and super nervous to join, but I ended up making two new friends at the first meeting!
8. Upskill yourself
Do you like to learn new things?
Education doesn’t just benefit your career, it’s an important part of a holistic lifestyle.
Research shows that education polishes our minds, reinforces our thoughts, and strengthens our character and behavior toward others. It doesn’t matter if you’re already finished school or college. You’re never too old to get an education (the oldest university graduate was 95, and lived until she was 105!).
If committing to university seems like a lot of time and money, don’t let that put you off from seeking further education.
I’ve been there.
After I went through a knee injury, I was interested in studying physiotherapy but didn’t think I could afford the tuition fees. I looked into similar study options that were shorter and more affordable and enrolled in holistic health education instead.
- If you want to study but you don’t want to commit to a degree or post-graduate certificate, why don’t you start with something short? You can take introductory courses online on Udemy or enroll in 1-2 classes at a university to see if it’s a good fit.
- If you’re interested in studying holistic health like me, check out one of the sample classes at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition or watch their webinar for an overview.
9. Practice mindfulness
Do you practice mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a meditation guru I admire, describes mindfulness as:
Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally
Awareness is an essential part of living a holistic lifestyle.
We spend a lot of time thinking about the past and the future, and our mind is often somewhere else, without us even being aware of it. I’ve been practicing mindfulness for nearly a year now and I can say this is such a powerful tool, especially when you are facing difficult and stressful situations.
Recently, I encountered many stressful events, and I was always worried about “what if…”, and my mind was so busy! I started focusing on bringing my mind back to the present moment when it happens. You would be surprised how much it helps to simply stop for a moment and take a deep breath.
You may not be able to control everything that happens in your life, but you can change how you cope with it.
You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.
- Make meditation part of your daily life. Not sure where to start? Check out my beginner’s guide to meditation.
- Read this fantastic book written by Jon Kabat Zin
10. Pay attention to what goes in your body
The reason I decided to talk about food last is that eating clean and avoiding harmful ingredients such as the ones found in processed food is important – but it’s only one part of holistic health. Joshua Rosenthal, the founder of my health coaching school says:
“Even if you are eating the most organic food in the world, if the other pieces of your life aren’t in place, you still won’t feel whole.”
This was so eye-opening for me. When I was working as a software engineer, I was super stressed and anxious, but I was eating well and exercising regularly. So, I believed I was the healthiest person in the world!
Does that mean eating healthy isn’t that important?
No. It still is important. My point is that healthy eating is part of a holistic lifestyle, however, people often equate being healthy with eating healthy and tend to ignore the other aspects of life – which are equally important.
Now that we clarified that, want to know how to pay attention to what you put into your body? I have some tips for you!
- When you’re not feeling so well, instead of using conventional medicine such as ibuprofen, how about trying some natural remedies?
- When my throat feels scratchy, I always make this tea recipe with ginger, turmeric & raw honey. Works wonders!
- Have a migraine? Check these natural remedies for migraine.
- Shoulder and neck pain? Give these natural remedies for shoulder and neck pain relief a try.
- Include more whole foods in your diet. Not sure how to reduce processed foods and increase more whole foods in your diet? My step-by-step guide to whole foods will give you plenty of tips!
- Shop organic to avoid harmful pesticide residues. Buying organic doesn’t need to break your bank. And if you’re based in Vancouver, have a look at my guide: How To Shop Organic Food Like A Frugal Health Coach In Vancouver
Final thoughts on living a holistic lifestyle
A holistic lifestyle caters to your mind, body, and soul.
As such, taking a holistic approach to life will allow you to take control of your health and happiness by living in harmony with yourself, the people around you, and the environment.
Humans are creatures of habit. So, initially, it might seem difficult to change and adopt new, healthier habits. And looking at all the above tips might seem overwhelming. Worry not. You don’t need to apply all the tips we mention in this article at once.
Start slow. The most important thing is to start paying attention. Pay attention to your work environment, how the friendships and relationships in your life affect you, how the food you eat makes you feel after, and so on.
The cornerstone of a holistic lifestyle is increased awareness.
This Circle of Life exercise can help you evaluate which area of holistic living you’re doing well and which need improvement. It will only take 30 seconds!
When you start noticing how all the different dimensions of your life are connected to your wellbeing, then you can start making the necessary changes to improve your situation.
What are your thoughts on holistic living? What motivates you to start living a holistic lifestyle? I’m keen to know!