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Optimal Healing Environments

Each person has inherent healing capacity. Through small changes in your daily life, you can increase your body’s ability to heal. You also may foster that same healing capacity in your own community, school and workplace.

With the changes you make today, you can create an environment in your life, at home, at work and in your community that supports your natural healing potential. In other words, you can create your own Optimal Healing Environment.

What Are Optimal Healing Environments?

Throughout the centuries and across cultures, certain components have influenced healing with individuals and communities. The following components can combine to create an Optimal Healing Environment: healing intention, personal wholeness, healing relationships, healing organizations, healthy lifestyles, integrative health care, healing spaces, and ecological sustainability.

The Optimal Healing Environments framework is made up of four environments that work together to support health, wellbeing, and healing. Each works on a personal level and is important to the relationships in our lives and to the groups and physical environments where we live, work, play and receive care. If just one of these areas is out of balance, it can prevent you from achieving health. These areas of your life are called your internal, interpersonal, behavioral and external environments.

Internal Environment

The internal environment is at your deepest inner level. It is made up of your mind, emotions, wishes and intentions. Healing and a feeling of personal wholeness only occur when the mind, body and spirit are in balance. Balancing them all is necessary for a happy and fulfilled life. Weakness or imbalance in one of these can negatively affect the others. For example, severe emotional stress of the mind can cause high blood pressure and other illnesses in an otherwise healthy body. Similarly, physical illness or injury can cause depression in a usually healthy mind.

The optimal internal environment supports developing the intention and the expectation for healing and experiencing the personal wholeness that comes from harmony of the mind, body and spirit.

Interpersonal Environment

Your personal support system consists of a number of relationships. These include your family, friends, doctor, pastor, neighbors, coworkers, boss and many others. They can support you, or they can add to your stress and burdens. An optimal interpersonal environment is made up of more positive relationships than burdensome ones. Those that are healing in nature are loving, kind, trusting and benefit everyone involved.

Why is creating healing relationships so important? Love and support among family, friends or colleagues actually boosts our immune systems and can delay disease and death. Research published by Carnegie Mellon University in the past decade showed that social support and belonging can reduce stress, heart disease and improve quality of life.

Trust, honesty and compassion are the three elements of a healing relationship. Being loved, respected, understood and connected to others can have a profound effect on your health. If you find that a relationship does not contain all three of these aspects, don’t feel like you must shut that person out of your life. It is possible to learn skills that infuse relationships with the healing qualities of trust, honesty and compassion.

It’s also important to create healing groups. Whether it’s a school workplace, church or community organization, you are part of many groups that impact your life. Being involved in groups that are healthy and have healing qualities supports your health and well-being. These types of healing groups allow you to participate in making decisions that affect you. They promote open and honest communication, create a climate of trust and personal responsibility and inspire a sense of belonging.

Behavioral Environment

The behavioral environment is made up of those actions we take to prevent illness, improve health and engage in self-care in a way that allows your natural healing processes to emerge.

The optimal behavioral environment supports practicing healthy lifestyles and applying collaborative and integrative medicine. Healthy behaviors can enhance your well-being. They prevent, treat or even cure disease. Making good food choices, exercising, relaxing and avoiding unhealthy behaviors is important to lifelong health and wellness. The problem lies not in knowing what you should be doing, but rather in getting motivated to actually lose that weight, stop smoking, get on that treadmill or even just take time out to relax. But for most of us, motivation to change is hard. Wanting to change our lifestyles is not enough. We need to change our environments so that we find satisfaction and rewards for our healthy habits. Making a small change, such as drinking water instead of a sugary soda or finding a buddy to walk with once or twice a week, can help support change.

External Environment

The external environment is the physical environment where you live, work and play. Many people don’t realize the extent to which their surroundings and role within that environment affect their ability to find peace, rest and vitality. Instead of becoming numb to your surroundings, turn your awareness outside of yourself. See how your external environment makes you feel, whether it supports your healing and what you can do to improve the things that you have the ability to change.

Healing spaces minimize stress; they make you feel good; they bring your family and friends together; and they allow you to perform at your best. Physical space is one area of life over which most of us have some degree of control. So by using intention and purposeful creativity, you can design a space at work or at home that can become part of your Optimal Healing Environment.

There are ways to create and enhance the healing powers of the personal space in your workplace or home, even in the middle of the demands of hectic daily life.

You have within you the ability to heal. By making small changes in your daily life, you can increase your body’s ability to heal and foster healing in your community. Being mindful about what makes for an optimal healing environment can make a difference in respect to your body, mind and spirit. Try to commit to those practices and consider making them a part of your life––both in times of sickness and in times of health.

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