A definition of holism might be helpful when you are pondering whether or not to make a change in your lifestyle or your relationship.
There are a number of definitions and variations of holism out there.
Some refer to it as “a philosophy which maintains that there are no conflicting or contradictory values,” while others describe it as “the belief that there are no essential conflicts within a system of thought that is universally accepted as accurate.”
In essence, holism refers to the view that different systems should be seen as wholes, rather than as a collection of separate parts.
The word “holism” has been coined by Jan Smuts, in his 1926 bestseller, Holism and Transcendental Philosophy.
The holism definition holds that there are several important characteristics of this concept that help it’s advocates and readers understand its scope and relevance to nursing practices.
For example, Smuts notes that holism “emphasizes the centrality of the health care setting.” According to Smuts, this concept “seeks to emphasize that the nurse’s central activity is to ensure the personal and individual wellbeing of the patient.”
The concept of holism also emphasizes the need for nurses to have a broad range of perspectives, in order to provide comprehensive healthcare.
As such, Smuts notes that this concept “defines health care from the perspective of the whole person-both body and mind.”
This perspective provides nurses with the ability to address both “the practical problems and emotional issues that surround health.”
Another way to understand holism is through a concept analysis. Concept analysis draws on the work of philosophers, psychologists and other social scientists to explain how concepts related to holism can be used to support a particular view.
In essence, holism is viewed through the lenses of natural science, especial psychology, biology, sociology, ethics and other disciplines.
This helps highlight the interrelationships among different psychological theories and illustrates how they fit together in order to support one overarching concept.
In a concept analysis, several different perspectives are considered. The first step involves surveying previous attempts to define holism.
After this, the relationship between each theoretical approach and holism is examined.
In addition, the antecedents of each approach are scrutinized to determine whether there are any important flaws or limitations.
The final step of this process examines the role of prior approaches to holism.
Holistic definitions typically vary among individuals, but some common associations include the following: a belief in the importance of mind over body; the belief that holistic care requires an individual’s total emotional and physical wellness; and that health care is more than just eliminating pain.
By closely examining each of these associations, it becomes clear that while some of them may overlap, others do not.
For example, it is relatively obvious that a concern for the whole person refers to an interest in improving physical well-being.
However, few would argue that improving health means treating the body at its most basic level, including eliminating pain.
With this in mind, it becomes clear that the definition should include four elements in order to be meaningful.
- (a) the desire to find explanations for the physical world,
- (b) an interest in promoting the well-being of all people,
- (c) the ability to view holistic processes as practices that are capable of producing real, positive change,
- (d) the ability to promote the use of natural processes without limiting personal freedom.
Achieving all of these four goals represents an achievement in holism.
This definition has been used in numerous studies, including one chapter in a medical book edited by Gary Null, which pointed out that health care practitioners’ ideas about holism were conflicting.
The difficulty for those attempting to derive a definition from these principles is that there are a number of definitions of holism.
Some refer to a belief that there is just one part of the person, the brain, while others believe that there are two parts to the person a body and a mind.
Still others maintain that there are just one aspects of the person, and these are the body and soul.
Still others maintain that there are two aspects, but these are only one part of the person, and one that can be reached through the processes of mind and spirit.
Thus, it is difficult to draw any kind of distinction between holism and the various different definitions, much less establish how these can be combined into a meaningful definition.
In the simplest terms, then, holism is a form of mind and spirit approach to health and wellness.
Zen Buddhist monks have long practiced holism, and in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, holism refers to a devotion to the true Buddha.
Holistic health care practitioners use some of the same techniques and methods that meditation practitioners use.
When it comes to healing, however, the techniques used by Zen Buddhists and Eastern medicine practitioners alike are very different.
Holistic health care practitioners stress the importance of cleansing and detoxification, but they also emphasize the use of meditation and breathing exercises, the guidance of a spiritual leader, and an understanding of the body’s response to the environment.