I read recently that ‘Wellness is a scam‘. That’s a big statement, given that Wellness is BIG and everywhere. According to research by the Global Wellness Institute, the industry is worth over $3.72 trillion dollars. The sector grew by 10.6% over the last two years and is one of the fastest growing industries around.
According to the National Wellness Institute in the US, “Wellness” is defined as:
“A conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential”.
To achieve one’s ‘full potential’ means various things – it could be to get physically fit or stronger, allowing us to maximise our potential in pursuit of our passions or live a long and healthy life, it could be to improve one’s mental health to achieve what we wish in our careers, or it could be as simple as ‘being healthy’, for at the end of the day, your health is the greatest wealth.
That is why I have participated in and practiced many difference therapies and classes, because I want to live my full potential as a human being – I have gifts, just like all of us, that need to be nurtured and allowed to blossom. Wellness gives us that opportunity, as well as opening up the possibility of enjoying experiences I could never have imagined. Yoga retreats over Christmas, anyone?
Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post and now founder of Thrive Global, agrees. She believes that there is a strong connection between well-being and performance. The usual perception of those who have succeeded professionally is that they have worked long hours and have super human powers of resilience in the face of extreme stress and adversity – but rather what is being shown is that taking care of one’s self, getting enough sleep, practicing yoga and meditation is actually the way to optimise performance in the workplace.
Moreover, the rise of wellness is a result of the state of the world that we live in today. The age of the “Anthropocene” is well and truly here – our streets are highly polluted (it took London just one week to breach its annual pollution levels this year), our food is processed and often filled with chemicals and other nasties, and levels of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, etc. are on the rise. The more stress we place on our living environment, the more we desire to find a different way to live a better life.
Yoga, for example is a by-product of this. There are studios on many corners throughout big cities (and yoga retreats have taken a life of their own), meditation is becoming increasingly mainstream and we are bombarded with marketing campaigns promoting natural products that are filled with organic ingredients and free from parabens, sulphates etc…In fact “free from” has become an industry in its own right, with the prevalence of many allergies that never existed 50 or so years ago, so my uncle says.
Essential oils, bath salts, skin creams and hand lotions are popular, filled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and exotic herbs that we have never heard of and which allegedly have mysterious healing properties….But hang on for a minute, has the desire to find a cleaner, greener, healthier way of living also evolved into something a little darker and not quite as genuine?
Roll on the beginning of the new year. For the wellness industry, January is boom time. Detox diets are the rage – soup cleanses, juice cleanses, potato cleanses, raw-food-only diets etc are common. Excess is the new normal until the commitment to such a faze inevitably fails. We should ask ourselves whether it is really a great time to detoxify deep in the middle of a bitterly cold northern hemisphere winter?
Is a “juice cleanse”, with all its concentrated fruit sugars and not much else really, the answer to all your metabolic health issues? Perhaps drinking less alcohol, eating better and exercising more might be a better place to start.
With all this being said, wellness can often be all about promising an experience or end result. It’s like, with such a plethora of products on the market, it’s only just a matter of time before finding THE right one that will solve all of our daily problems. Social media, in particular Instagram, is like rocket fuel for this, with products promoting seemingly perfect bodies and lives without any resemblance to actual reality. No wonder eating disorders are so prevalent.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for a proper detoxification regime – quite the contrary, but the problem is that we are led to believe that there is a strong connection between what the product promises and what it is perceived to deliver, completely oblivious to the life that we actually lead. No product can work in isolation, but that’s not mentioned in the way many products are marketed today.
So, if one’s goal in life is to live to your full potential, we should be saluting efforts to improve ourselves. If, however, we are unhappy with our lives, there is no shortage of takers out there convincing you to buy a product to make you feel better, which may well in the end, just be another scam.
In the age of wellness, let yourself thrive – yet not so much where thriving is associated with a product, but rather, where it becomes a way of life.