When ‘I’ becomes ‘we’ even ‘Illness’ becomes ‘wellness’
In the quickfire world of social media, the wellness trend has grown from a minor tremor to a global craze to the point that nearly every bookstore now display numerous shiny and colorful healthy recipe books.
Social media feeds are chock-full of smiley bloggers posing in fashionable yoga pants, drinking green smoothies and filling their accounts with near professional pictures of nutritious meals.
With this information overload, it can be difficult to stop and think if this sort of lifestyle is actually realistic, inclusive or sustainable.
Some critics argue that wellness advocates are self-centered and judgmental, making wellness an obsessive ideology. Sometimes the image that comes across through social media gives these critics valid ammunition.
The concept of wellness has its roots in a holistic approach. Halbert L. Dunn, M.D. first introduced the term ‘wellness’ in the late 1950s to describe an integrated lifestyle focused on maximizing physical and psychological well-being.
Unfortunately, this original concept has since been misused and misrepresented as we have lost sight of the bigger picture, that individuals are interconnected, not only to other people, but also to the environment that surrounds us.
One of the reasons modern wellness is so popular is because of an increase in chronic diseases and mental issues, society’s over-reliance on medication, stressful working environments, and, in general, an imbalanced society.
Many people (like myself) came upon wellness looking to manage numerous health issues that affected me physically and mentally, and which traditional medicine didn’t seem to help improve .
Unfortunately, wellness has become an industry and most of its promoters seem detached from important global issues. Their focus seems merely on the self, as if individuals should concentrate on eating healthy and improving their yoga poses in a fashion disconnected from the rest of the world.
The privilege to decide about our health should be for everybody, no matter our social or economic background. However, health has become a luxury that only some can afford, while others struggle in a world far removed from social media and shiny health books.
The reality is that many people don’t have access to food in general -with 795 million people undernourished globally- let alone nutrient dense foods. For example, many health stores now focus on selling expensive imported superfoods and supplements, rather than promoting locally grown, fresh food at affordable prices.
Wellness is an integrated approach, and it should be inclusive of those who can’t afford to choose what they eat, or look after their own health. It also means taking responsibility for the impact that our individual actions have on the world.
Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit… but it goes beyond that. Wellness should be a lifestyle of care and respect towards oneself and everything that surrounds us.
For example, we can minimise our consumption of processed and packaged foods and buy from local farmer’s market. This way we consume nutrient dense foods while avoiding harmful plastics, decrease our waste, and support a fairer distribution of wealth in the local economy.
If you have a vegetable garden, share the surplus with family, neighbours or support initiatives that address food poverty and promote access of healthy food for low-income families and the homeless.
For exercise, cycle more, drive less or practice sports outdoors whenever possible and minimize the use of electric machines in gyms. Practice yoga for personal and physical growth regardless of the latest legging fashion trend, and meditate to to become a more empathetic and tolerant individual towards oneself and others.
Wellness, has the potential to become very positive, and this will depend on how its message is shared. Hopefully, the word wellness will one day mean that health equals a healthy body, healthy planet and a healthy society.
Jenn is a PhD researcher on Peace Studies and Environmental Issues