Statistics by the CDC show that one in 10 Americans aged 12 and over have a prescription for antidepressant medication.
In 2022, the US experienced a consecutive increase in antidepressant prescriptions for the sixth year in a row as the number went up by 5.1 percent. But despite the fact that more people are taking medication and going to therapy, our mental health seems to be getting worse.
A 2022 Gallup poll shows that only 31 percent of Americans describe their mental health as excellent, and this points to a lack in the current approach to mental health treatment.
It’s why many practitioners are supplementing traditional methods with a holistic approach to address mental health concerns. Considering how numerous facilities have started using this approach, it’s worth taking a look at what holistic treatment is, how it’s backed up by science, and the benefits it offers.
What is Holistic Treatment?
This is a form of healing that looks at the whole person and not just the condition they’re struggling with. By looking at your body, mind, and spirit, this approach aims tries to find the root cause behind your symptoms so you can experience optimal wellness.
The approach looks at different aspects of wellness due to the belief that they affect each other. So, if one aspect isn’t functioning properly, other parts can be affected as well.
And a holistic practitioner doesn’t just apply alternative methods. In fact, they can use different forms of care, such as a combination of medication, alternative approaches like yoga therapy, and evidence-based practices like DBT Therapy by URP.
Evidence for the Efficacy of Holistic Treatment
The science behind holistic treatment is largely based on concepts regarding the mind-body connection. The concept of a mind-body connection explains that how we feel affects our biological functioning. Therefore, your mind can determine your physical health and vice versa.
A recent study published in the Nature Journal tries to explain why feelings of anxiety cause us to become restless or why people who exercise regularly feel more positive about life.
While the idea of calming the body to calm the mind has been very popular, there was little evidence proving the link between them. Now, researchers have verified a connection between the part of the brain that controls movement and networks that control planning, thinking, and involuntary functions like heartbeatt.
The study’s findings also show how thoughts affect motor areas of the brain, which prepare it for different behaviors, and how your behavior links back to your thoughts.
This indicates the interaction between your environment and how you think, feel, and behave.
Such findings show why practitioners should change how they see a mental disorder; it’s not something that’s limited to the mind but rather a condition that affects you as a whole.
Forms of Holistic Therapy
When addressing mental health conditions, practitioners can apply a range of alternative treatments in combination with evidence-based practices. Some of them are as follows:
When combined with traditional treatments, acupuncture is a viable method for managing mental health symptoms and relieving pain. A practitioner inserts tiny needles into the skin at different parts of the body to stimulate specific areas.
Research literature review suggests that acupuncture increases levels of different central nervous system hormones, such as noradrenaline, serotonin, and beta-endorphins.
This, in turn, can have positive effects on levels of anxiety and depression. Not to mention, its pain-relieving effects can help the body relax and lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Mental health practitioners also recommend therapeutic massage, which stimulates natural endorphin production. Higher levels of endorphins like dopamine and serotonin help lower your stress levels while enhancing feelings of relaxation.
Research also shows that it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps reduce levels of salivary and plasma cortisol to lower stress levels. Such effects don’t just suppress the stress response but moderate aspects of immune function by decreasing inflammation.
Yoga therapy is a type of mind-body practice that focuses on all aspects of well-being. It’s based on yoga poses, breathwork, and meditation to manage symptoms and relieve stress.
According to one meta-analysis, yoga therapy offers an effective complementary treatment for different mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
One study lists the main ways that yoga therapy has a beneficial effect on mental health, citing calming effects, increased awareness, and feelings of acceptance.
In biofeedback therapy, you train your brain to identify bodily responses to stress and learn to manage them. It’s based on measuring physiological changes associated with psychological states to monitor functions of affection by psychological reactions.
The aim is to give you insights and awareness regarding physiological changes so you’re better equipped to control them. This allows you to relax your mind and body as soon as you start experiencing physical signs of stress. You do this by making small changes like relaxing a specific muscle group, keeping your heart rate low, and controlling pain perception.
There are many ways that the food you eat impacts your mental health. Serotonin, like dopamine, is a brain chemical that regulates your mood and numerous other functions – and about 95 percent of it is produced through the gastrointestinal tract.
Moreover, studies on participants with depression and anxiety have found links between symptoms and deficiencies in nutrients like B vitamins, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and amino acids.
This highlights the importance of balanced nutrition for better mental health. And it’s why holistic programs emphasize nutritional counseling and balanced meals over the course of treatment.
How You Benefit from a Holistic Approach to Mental Health
When seeking mental health treatment, you benefit from a holistic approach in many ways.
For instance, if you’re struggling with a specific disorder like major depression, it’s likely that you also experience other health concerns like poor sleep quality and fatigue. These can make you less receptive to treatment and make the process much more complicated.
Addressing such concerns with complementary, holistic therapies can improve mental health outcomes and speed up recovery.