Wellness: The best disguised inside job
I don’t know about you, but I find there is so much noise around the term 'wellness'. Along with the word comes plenty of baggage; a backpack of skincare and beauty products, a bum-bag of incense sticks and crystals, a holdall of exercise routines, a suitcase full of diets, a purse with a few mindset hacks in it, a travel tote overflowing with gratitude journals and affirmation cards and a wooden trunk full of photos of other peoples ‘wellness’ definitions, just for good measure and comparison.
I think for so many of us, it is easy to feel confused about the ‘right’ way of reaching the wellness ‘holy grail’. What should I and what shouldn’t I be doing to live well, feel well and be well? Well, that’s the point. There is no right way. Ultimately, wellness, just like everything else, is yours to define, it’s completely personal.
Wellness can often be perceived as something that’s available for sale, something that is touted as being able to cure you or solve your problems. This comes as no surprise, as in Britain, it is estimated that we’re exposed to over 5,000 adverts and sponsored messages per day. I am not sure what percentage of these are promoting things associated with ‘wellness’ but I can guarantee they may have some influence on how you feel about yourself.
A University of Warwick study showed that the higher a country’s advertising spend was in one year, the less satisfied its citizens were a year or two later. Their conclusion was that advertising makes us unhappy. Advertising can make us feel that we are not good enough and need to have products to improve ourselves, often aesthetically.
We need to look beyond the wellness baggage and see the person in the middle, the one sweating a little bit, the one trying to carry it all, the one who might benefit from pausing and choosing a few tools from their bags that they enjoy to support their inside work. This isn’t to say the contents of the bags are unworthy or useless, far from it. However, if you feel like you are using them and are still not feeling well - if you still have that constant stress in your shoulders, the dull ache in your back, a busy mind or a clenched jaw - it may well be time to put the bags back on the carousel.
Take some time out to do some groundwork and rest assured that the carousel will be there turning ready for you to choose what you want and need later on.
So how to begin the groundwork?
Recognising that while external solutions can be useful and valid, you have the power to improve your wellbeing by pausing and taking stock of what’s going on for you personally. Either feeling totally overwhelmed about where to begin, or the other extreme of doing everything (e.g jumping from one diet to the next or from the shakti mat to the HIIT programme or from the micellar water to the botox) and still feeling underwhelmed and unwell, means it is time to hit pause.
Firstly, take some time to ask yourself:
- What does ‘feeling well’ mean to me? How do I define it?
- What aspects of life contribute to my wellness? (for example, body - physical health? Mind - mental health? Career? Finances? Physical environment? Relationships? Learning? Giving? Sleep? Spirituality? any others?
- What is happening when I feel my best, mentally and physically? If you find this one difficult because it’s been such a long while since you felt well, imagine how you would like to be living if you were feeling your best – how would you move through your day? How would your mind feel?
Secondly, begin to actively notice the things that do not serve your definition of wellness. What are they? Are there things that sap your energy?
Thirdly, look at what has come up, consider it, spend time with it.
- What aspects of my life are not feeling great?
- What, specifically, might I do to improve them?
It is so important to lead with self-compassion and avoid the desire to do everything at once. It can really help to work with a coach or find an accountability buddy. Real change takes time; new boundaries need time to cement, habits need time to form, learnings need time to appear and be noticed. Be okay with the fact that your definition of ‘wellness’ may change too and each different definition will serve its own purpose in your journey.
Give yourself permission to leave all the bags on the carousel for as long as you need whilst you spend time on the inside work – the focus on the internal will pay off far greater than chasing the external. Know that wellness is not a competition. It is not important how your version of wellness looks to anybody else, it is about how it feels to you. A reminder - wellness is not something that can be completed – it is a state of being unique only to you. Your journey will not be linear and that is okay.