Hauora and what it means to our co-founder, Michele

It’s Mental Health awareness week here in Aotearoa and even though we all have mental health that must be nurtured every single day - we think it’s a really great time to reflect on our own health and well being, and set goals for optimum mental health to see us through to the new year.  

Here at AWWA and in my home with my 2 daughters, we live and breathe by the principles of Hauora - the Māori philosophy of health that considers the person holistically by looking at their body, mind and spirit -  which differs from the western philosophy of health that generally tends to medicate the symptom of an illness rather than looking at the cause. I learnt soo much about Hauora during my Rongoa study a few years ago and could not believe that this was not taught in schools.  I certainly did not learn these things while at school or at home.

Hauora is a way of life that just makes sense.  It’s an approach that cultures all over the world would benefit from - how on to it were our Tupuna?!

Te whare tapa wha was a Hauora model of 4 dimensions developed in 1984 by Sir Mason Durie.

Here’s each dimension of Hauora in a bit more depth and according to my understanding of it and how I practice each dimension.

Taha Tinana

Taha tinana is how your body feels. How you are fueling it and treating it.  Refueling your body with healthy food and water and exercising your body helps your mind feel better. It seems simple enough, but how many of us feel a bit low sometimes but don’t consider what we have given our bodies the day or days before?

Practise - Have gratitude daily for your tinana (body) for all your working limbs and organs. 

Taha Hinengaro

Ki te wātea te hinengaro, me te kaha rere o te wairua, ka tāea ngā mea katoa / When the mind is free and the spirit is willing, anything is possible. 

Taha Hinengaro is your mind, heart, conscience, thoughts and feelings. It is so important that we all understand the importance of taking care of these things and understanding how to do it.  We live in such a busy society and often our minds are working overdrive with thoughts, ideas, to do lists, future goals and wishes, past regrets etc  - our mind is not equipped to cope with all of this information without breaks.  What’s the best way to give your mind a break? My fave ways are meditation and mindfulness.  Both on trend words that actually are very very old traditions. I try to be mindful a few times a day.  To me, this basically just means I clear my mind of everything and concentrate on what is in front of me. If that’s playing lego with the kids, then my mind (tries) to stay focussed on just that. If I am driving, I try to focus only on what I can actually see outside. 

Meditation was life changing for me. I know that if I have not meditated in a few days, my mental health begins to suffer and shines through as anxiety. Yoga nidra is a form of meditation that I have recently discovered that has been incredible for me. Here is the link to a yoga nidra practise I listen to every night or you could Spotify any meditation or find one you like on an app


Practise: think of 5 things that you are grateful for and do this morning and night. By doing this you are literally rewiring your brain to think it is happy!

Taha Wairua

Wairua is about taking notice and appreciating the beauty around us. It’s about rediscovering things that make you feel awe, hope, strength, unity and connection. Wairua is your relationship with the environment, people and your heritage. For some, wairua is faith or a higher power. There’s no wrong way to think of or experience wairua*.

Feeling comfortable in your identity, values and beliefs helps you feel secure in who you are and what you stand for. When you are content with yourself it is easier to cope with challenges, build strong whānau relationships and discover the things that uplift you*.

Practise - practise mindfulness, walk in the ngahere (bush) connect with Tipuna and try to find and live your purpose and your truth. I remember hearing a kaumatua speak on the marae one night about an elderly woman who had a fulfilling happy life weaving. In her later years, she began to get ill a lot. The Tohunga, looked at her tinana, hinengaro, wairua and whanau and found out that because her fingers were getting arthritis, she was no longer able to weave and this left her feeling hopeless and low. The Tohunga asked the women’s daughter to arrange for this kuia to be taken into some kura to teach her craft of weaving once or twice a week and amazingly, the kuia began to get less and less sick. Why? Because she woke every morning with purpose!  We owe alot to working on our life's purpose and finding things that fill us with joy.

Here are some miharo maori mindfulness practices - https://mindfulnesseducation.nz/a-maori-perspective/

Taha Whanau

Taha whanau is nurturing relationships with our loved ones - not just our relatives, but the people we care about, friends, colleagues etc. I have learned of a situation where someone was very ill physically and the tohunga established that this person had negative relationships in the past with loved ones which were not rectified. Once the relationship was healed, the person began to improve in symptoms!  We all know how much lighter we feel when we have a positive connection with someone we love.  It's simple - increase these experiences and feel happier for it!

Practise - note down and have gratitude for those that we love.  Call them and visit them and let them know you are thinking of them. Wish them a happy day :)


Whenua is our connection to the land. It’s soil, plants, animals and people – tangata whenua. It’s the earth through which you are connected to your tūpuna/ancestors. 

Everything in the Māori world has a life force, the mauri, and when our natural resources are not looked after, this life force is weakened. This has a direct impact on mental health and wellbeing.

Practise - start the day with a karakia acknowledging the whenua:

Korihi te manu - The bird sings 

Tākiri mai i te ata - The morning has dawned 

Ka ao, ka ao, ka awatea - The day has broken

Tihei mauri ora -  Behold there is life

Take barefoot walks through the ngahere often.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it.  Would love to hear your ideas and whakaaro too!

xx Michele  


* Some information has been taken direct  from www.mhaw.nz we highly recommend a visit to this site and if you feel you would like more support please do reach out to the following places:

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor 

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email or online chat




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