There are a lot of buzz words these days. “Whole-person care” is one of them. But, what does that mean?
In the Western world, we tend to “live in our heads,” giving much credence to our thought life and intellect. Although many wonderful innovations have come about due to the use of our mental faculties, there has been a cost. Recall, if you will, the last time you stood in a grocery store line or sat in a doctor’s office for more than just a few minutes. Did you struggle with the quiet? How long did it take for you to reach for your phone?
What about your body? How aware are you of the state of your body? Has anybody ever told you that your ears are really not supposed to be attached to your shoulders? Do you have stomach aches or headaches? Any idea why?
Then, what about you? I mean, you as a whole? How often do you try to compare yourself to others or forget to think (or purposely avoid thinking) about what you need?
The truth is…wait for it – you know what I’m going to say by now, I bet…you are not your brain. You are not your body. You are so much more! Whole-person care takes all of this into consideration. There are many ways to conceptualize this, but a common way is to think of yourself in terms of body, mind, and spirit.
It may seem a bit silly to try to define the body. You know it is your brain, organs, skin – the vessel in which you are housed. It is the physical part of you. The part you can touch and quantify. The body houses great wisdom and information and is far, far more intricate and precisely wired than we generally give it credit for being (see Wonderfully Wired). Your body can speak to you and you will benefit if you listen. However, it is not always wise to let brain and body rule.
What is the mind? Ever thought about it? Dr. Dan Siegel, a forerunner in neuro-psychological research, author of Mindsight, and father of Interpersonal Neurobiology, a relatively new field in psychology, defines the mind as, “The embodied and relational, non-physical entity that regulates the flow of information and energy”. This is the part of you that takes in the signals of the body and brain along with information in the environment (including from others) and uses it to make decisions – when it is called upon to do so. When we put our lives on autopilot and are driven by the body and brain, we may find ourselves in places we do not expect. Ever said, “Why did I do that?” This is an example of when “algorithms and rules” (which is what the brain uses for decision-making) do not work and you need to use your wise mind.
Ah…this one can be touchy. There are many definitions of spirit. For this discussion, let us just say that this is the, again, non-physical part of you that makes you unique. Think about it. In all of human history, among the seven billion currently on the planet along with all the other billions who have or ever will live, there is one you. One. Ever. What is it that makes you, you? Is it purely DNA? We know that is not the case. Spirit is also the part of you that reaches beyond you to connect to others in a way particular to you. The drive to belong and to contribute are aspects of the spiritual. It is a great dialectic – as you are enough and capable just as you are and you need others. For health to occur, you need to be treated in concert with your social world, as well.
Bet you thought I was done. Nope! You are not an isolated creature. No matter how independent we think we are, the truest happiness in life comes from a healthy interdependence. This means knowing and keeping your responsibilities while reaching out and connecting to others, as well. You will find that caring for yourself but not your relationships, or vice versa, will not lead you anywhere. If your social world is not supportive and healthy, it will be difficult to feel whole. Is there anything about your social life that needs to change? What’s working well? Do you need some new friends? It can be difficult to socialize during a pandemic, but it is definitely possible!
If you face struggles in any or all of these areas of life, it is important to treat the whole of you. Attending to these parts of yourself with “formulas” or “diagnoses” is not enough when you consider the uniqueness of you. It is not sufficient to feed your brain healthy thoughts if you won’t allow your mind to steer you in healthy directions. Neither does it really do you any good to get yourself fit if you do not have healthy connections.
Consider the road you are on in life and the multi-dimensional nature of yourself. Spend time attending to body, mind, spirit, and your social connections. Try giving each of these parts of yourself a rating on one-five scale. One is: Doing terrible, danger Will Robinson! Five is: I got this! Then, choose one to focus on as you work to bring your whole self to a place of health and rest!
Written by book author, blogger, & educational/motivational speaker, Hannah Smith, MA LMHC CGP. Founder of Potential Finders Network, Hannah provides motivational speaking, training, and personal development services. Hannah’s passion is to help others learn about and challenge themselves to reach their greatest potentials. She is a neuroscience nerd who makes complicated material accessible by breaking it down into steps and tips, using analogies, and telling stories. If you have topics you want to suggest, please don’t hesitate to contact her at Hannah@PotentialFinders.com and check out www.PotentialFinders.com or Facebook to learn more.