‘Wellness’ is a term that up until recently, not many people have understood or known how to incorporate into their everyday. When people think of the wellness industry, they tend more often than not to associate it with things like going to the gym, loosing weight and dieting or getting their hands on the latest protein shake on the market. I will put my hands up and admit that’s certainly how I once used to picture it too. In the last couple of years education around wellness has evolved massively but I’m still not convinced we have completed the mission on educating people around the diversity of it and how to make the shift from mood to movement.
For the purpose of this post I decided to research wellness and it’s true definition. Here’s what a found..
“the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.”
“an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life.”
“a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
“a positive approach to living – an approach that emphasizes the whole person. It is the integration of the body, mind, and spirit; and the appreciation that everything you do, think, feel, and believe has an impact on your state of health.”
All of these definitions encompass the idea of embracing wellness as a gradual state, it’s not just a mood, and it’s not something that can be achieved instantly. I think people need to understand the importance of words like ‘process’ ‘approach’ ‘body, mind and spirit’. For me ‘wellness’ should of course incorporate physical and social well-being but most importantly highlight mental health. After all, if we don’t feel wellness, what is the point?
There are a few reasons why I wanted to write this post; firstly with it being mental health awareness week. Secondly, I wanted to talk openly around the pressure today that comes with the Health industry and terms like Wellness and ironically, how it can have a negative effect on those looking to embrace it. Thirdly, to share some of my own mental health experiences, specifically with anxiety, what I prefer to call un-balanced.
We all know the impact social media and the world wide web can have on today’s world and how quickly the online universe moves. I know better than most people, given the nature of my job, how fast the industry operates and for brands and organisations to thrive, they too need to move just at quickly. This in turn encourages the consumer to try and keep up with these ‘fast fashion’, ‘trend-led’ phases which explode over a period of a couple of months until the next thing comes along; it is a rat race. Wellness, I would say, has unfortunately fallen under this ‘trend’ label which is something I’ve always found hard to understand, given the pure nature of the term promotes the total opposite idea of slowing down. Perhaps this is the reason it has exploded like it has, maybe Wellness is it’s own form of rebellion movement?
Don’t get me wrong, I do think social media has also had it’s positive effects on the Health & Wellness industries. Mental health awareness is the one thing that stands out for me here. The union of humans and communities across cities, countries, the world is immense and something that has given me hope when I’ve dealt with my own personal struggles.
I went through quite a tough time in my final year of University when I lost someone very close to me. Although it wasn’t a shock, it’s something that you can obviously never say you were prepared for. I still can’t quite put my finger on the moment I started feeling un-balanced. What I do know is that it was a gradual change both mentally and physically over several years. I have so many memories of feeling emotions I didn’t recognise and wanting to explain it to others but just didn’t know how. I now realise I couldn’t identify my feelings because they were just a jumble of little voices all of which amounted to me feeling severe anxiety. Naturally my mum was the person that noticed my behavioural shift first, as I lived at home shortly after I finished my final year. Throughout my teens my relationship with my Mum was turbulent to say the least and like most mother-daughter relationships, it was challenging, so her watching my every move and worrying about me translated to me as being needy and suffocating. I obviously look back now and want the ground to swallow me up thinking about those moments because I see now all it was, was love. Pure love and compassion and worry.
The anxiety swallowed me up for several months and only recently have I realised how it has impacted the last couple years of my life. It fed on the lack of control I felt I had in my life; I couldn’t help the one person I needed to and in turn I lost them. I didn’t live in my own space, I didn’t earn enough money to do everything I wanted to do and I couldn’t control my feelings or rationalise why I was feeling the way I was. All control and life had be taken from me and it was suffocating. This very quickly came out in my social behaviour (or lack there of). I didn’t want to see people outside of my close circle, and if I did I found it very hard to talk to them. My life became a bubble of things I knew I could control and as you can imagine, that wasn’t a lot so I spent a lot of time on my own. I have always felt very comfortable in my own company so this was’t a problem for me. To this day, I still love to and do spend a lot of time in my own company but the difference is I know balance. Wellness has most definitely been a movement for me; I would find it very hard to go back to the way I was living and thinking before I made changes in my life and I totally believe that they have had significant effects on how I breathe, think and do everything I do today.
What a lot of people who I meet today don’t understand is why I am the way I am. What I mean by that is control is still very much a part of me but in, what I hope, a much healthier form. Time is precious to me and I cherish it both on my own and with other people. I believe its one of the most important things you can give to yourself and others. I am super punctual so I hate being late and I cannot be rushed. I am list and plan crazy which can payoff at times, depending who I’m with but most of all I wish I was more spontaneous, thankfully something my better half more than makes up for! I am also very independent and this over everything else has only been made apparent to me in the last couple of years – something I will talk about in another post! What has helped me get to this point is knowing when to talk, knowing who to talk to and getting to know myself – the good and the bad. What makes you tick? What brings you joy? What type of people bring out the best in you and what do you value in them? One of the biggest things I’ve learnt about myself is that I need discipline and I am awful at giving that to myself, until that is, I hit the yoga mat.
What is most important to me when I practice is how I feel (even if it is a little faint and wobbly) and what I let my body and mind to gain from it. Yoga helps me build strength, pushes me to new physical highs but most importantly takes me somewhere else mentally. It’s something you can’t quite explain until you open your mind to it and try it. In my world it is either a tweet minute living room taster in the morning or a seventy-five minute class of what I can only describe as pure indulgent selfishness. The good kind, the kind where no one else even enters your mind, the kind where the only focus is your body and your breath and everything becomes clear. It gives you superpowers that can last for hours after sometimes.
I imagine the same can be said for meditation but this isn’t something I’ve mastered quite yet. The furthest I’ve got is about a minute of stillness and then I get restless because my breath isn’t quite right or I get pins and needles in my right bum cheek. Mindfulness is a totally different kettle of fish to me but for some people it comes hand in hand with a practice like yoga. I find it very hard being non-occupied, more so my mind than body, and being ‘still’ is surprisingly challenging. If you are interested in learning how to be more ‘mindful’ try one of these apps; Headspace, Calm (the songs on here are my personal fave), Aura and The Mindfulness App.
Wellness really is something that everyone should consider for themselves. It may not come in the same form for everyone but it is really about giving yourself what you really need, physically or mentally. People often mistake needing to change your physical appearance or ability for something that actually might be a mental state which needs addressing. What’s important to remember is that the changes that you are making can take some time, and there’s absolutely not problem in that. Whatever you do, don’t do it for a great Insta photo or check in opp. Do it for you, I promise you will see and most importantly, feel the change.