It is Monday morning, and let us face it. You are already pretty exhausted, despite the weekend that has just passed which is meant to leave you feeling refreshed for the upcoming week. Everything is worrying you, from current news affairs, work related issues and events going on in your personal life. Yet, you will continue to convince yourself that everything is fine. Providing that you can continue going out at least once a week, to loosen up, get really drunk, then really, everything is fine. Until, one day, you realise that everything is a bit of a mess. You come across ways and instructions on how to be healthier. How to address and heal your anxieties, rather than constantly trying to avoid them. How to become healthier, instead of continuing to indulge in junk food, alcohol, and whatever else that dtrings your imagination. Then it suddenly occurs to you how you have been avoiding nature for so long, as you have been treadling along in a foggy old city for so long. Time for a better life, don’t you say? Time to ensure that you take as many vitamins as possible, that you practice yoga for a solid hour each morning and time that you decide to engage with crystals.
What is Wellness culture?
“Wellness” became popular in the late 1950s by the “Father of the Movement”, Dr Dunn. He defined wellness as an “active ongoing pursuit”, which “focuses on the improvement of the self.” Wellness culture can look like improving physical and mental health, including gaining strength and “improving” the appearance of the body, engaging in “self-care” and even engaging in subjects like astrology.
The History of Wellness Culture
During Victorian times, many life reformers took some pleasure in asceticism, which involved taking to the outdoors. However, health was blended with beauty, leading to the point where one’s outward appearance was an indication of their health, reinforcing western beauty standards. This gave them “a sense of agency in their own future”, during times of social and economic change. Nineteenth century wellness culture promised health, success, and personal fulfilment. Now, in 2022, there are some parallels between now and at the end of the 19th century, including “a technological revolution, capitalist expansion and labor insecurity.”
However, there is another element to the history of wellness culture, which was developed by feminists and civil rights activists in the 1960s/70s. They established health centers and programmers, in response to the bias of a “white, male dominated medical profession.” While this sent a particularly important message that equality of health is crucial to establishing a more equal society it could be contested that this has contributed to some of the anti-scientist health which aspects of wellness culture hold today.
Potential Benefits of Wellness Culture
The habits relating to wellness culture can be enjoyed and can benefit many people’s physical and mental health. This is due to the emphasis that this has on taking care of the body, giving time to oneself as well as concerning the spiritual benefits. The importance of wellness culture is emphasised in schools, hospitals and even prisons, which is very suggestive of the possible benefits that it holds.
Why it is so Appealing
We would all love to strive for this ideal of life, especially if there is accomplishment involved in doing so. This way, it is understandable why a healthy lifestyle combined with some logical and some interesting ways of becoming happier, while it is nice that it at least takes the focus away from productivity culture. Also, in the world of uncertainty we are in today, it is understandable to want something which offers predictability, not to mention a break away from the hustle and bustle of today’s culture.
The problems associated with Wellness Culture
While engaging in it a little bit can not only be healthy but also enjoyable, I think that you will agree that not everyone enjoys yoga. In practice, this means that if people set unrealistic goals, becoming extremely set upon wellness culture, it can lead them to a “slip into perfectionism.” This is unhealthy for anyone, because it can lead to “an incessant striving or need to be perfect” and when things do not go to plan which is often the case when people do strive to perfection, there can be “a deep contempt or rage at the self when we haven’t lived up to those elevated expectations.” This can lead to “anxiety, hyper vigilance and obsession” if one fails to meet those exacting standards. Moreover, while this may not be the intention of those who engage in wellness culture, there is still a strong emphasise on the individual, due to the strong focus on the self within a competitive, pressurised environment. And when people put this pressure on themselves then fail to meet up to their expectations, it can lead to a lot of “self-blame” and “self-criticism.”
Furthermore, while not all be aware of this, it reinforces western beauty standards, concerning the emphasis on improvement of the image, which goes hand in hand with individualism. This can be traced back to how people see beauty standards and want to “improve” their appearance to match accordingly, therefore they can engage in wellness culture to help them strive to this.
Also, to engage in wellness culture, one needs to hold a certain amount of privilege to possess sufficient time to engage in it. Which is difficult for one living in the 21st century, having to work as many as 4 jobs, to merely make ends meet. This becomes more obvious when we consider the price of “self-care” products, spa retreats and, well, sufficient funds to afford to maintain this “ideal” of health, or beauty. Additionally, when we put “special diets” into the equation, the reality is that it can become nearer the opposite of self-care, when these diets end up looking restrictive, leading to unhealthy views concerning diet.
Merely Money Making
So as already mentioned, for many, engaging in wellness culture is costly. Yet let us just think for a minute about who benefits from all this. Afterall, the wellness industry benefits from the money which we choose to spend on it. Further, because of the pandemic, more people have sought the purchase of exercise equipment within their homes.