Indigenous wisdom for modern mental wellness

The tranquil expanses of indigenous territories' (where the rhythms of nature deeply intertwine with human existence) unique and profound approaches to mental wellness have evolved over centuries. The holistic practices of various indigenous communities around the world harness the therapeutic powers of rituals, nature, community, and ancestral wisdom to foster mental health.

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We need to begin to open our minds to a world where mental well-being is a communal, integrative, and sacred journey, deeply rooted in the understanding that personal health is inextricably linked to the health of the community and the natural world. 

This exploration is a call to action for mental health practitioners, policymakers, and individuals seeking alternative paths to wellness. By understanding and integrating the holistic, community-focused, and environmentally attuned practices of indigenous cultures, we can foster a more inclusive and effective mental health system.

By honouring these diverse healing modalities, we can expand our toolkit for mental health intervention, create more adaptive services, and cultivate a deeper, more resilient approach to mental wellness.

This community-centric and holistic approach offers a stark contrast to the often individual-focused methods prevalent in Western mental health practices. We often approach interventions and treatments as an individual with not much support from others. In fact, it is when we do approach as more of a community that we have a stronger sense of togetherness and healing as seen in mindfulness groups and sound bath healings that are now becoming popular.

Western approaches to mental health typically concentrate more on the individual and are characterised by clinical and biomedical models, prioritising diagnosis, individual therapy, and medication. While Western methods often rely on evidence-based practices and standardised treatments, indigenous approaches offer a profound understanding of the importance of a holistic approach.

Both approaches have their strengths, and there's growing interest in integrating indigenous wisdom with Western techniques to create more holistic, culturally sensitive mental healthcare. This has seen the rise and interest in practices such as mindfulness, sound healing, Reiki, spiritual gatherings, and meditations.

These interventions focus on the person as a whole - mind, body and spirit - and explore healing in all areas, not just focused on the mind as a separate entity.

In a world where modern medicine dominates healthcare discussions, a profound and often overlooked wellspring of knowledge exists in the healing practices of indigenous cultures around the globe using holistic approaches to healing.

Think about this - our ancestors used to rise with the sun. In the early hours, we would be outside working the land, collecting resources, building shelters and gathering food. There would also be community healing practices in the form of dance, meditations and sounds. We would eat nutritious food from the ground consisting of nuts and berries full of rich omegas. We would spend the day working together, supporting each other, finding our tribe and collaborating. We would sleep with the sundown.

Now, in the Western world, we rise before the sun, and rush to get ready. We are lucky to grab food on the go and, if we do, it's usually full of processed sugars, which leads to inflammation. We drive to work, do our jobs with little sunlight or connection, return home stressed and carry on working or doing our family tasks, stay up late and get little sleep. And yet, we wonder why mental illness is so profound these days.

We need to incorporate a more open approach to our wellness that makes holistic approaches commonplace and not something seen as separate from traditional treatments.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Therapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, NE28
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Written by Deborah Buxton, BSc Hons Psych, MSc Masters Mental Health, DIP Mindfulness
Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, NE28

Deborah Buxton is a holistic psychotherapist and mindfulness practitioner believing in a mind, body and soul approach to healing. Her private practise Through the Woods, is a calm space to reflect on challenges and gain support and ideas of how to move forward. Deborah supports individuals and groups 1:1 and online, regularly working into business

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