What is wellness, exactly? What does wellness look like for you?
Wellness As A Commodity
Have you noticed a trend towards people consuming wellness? Objectifying it into a commodity that you can purchase to attain?
Instagram is rife with it. The building blocks of consumerist culture.
Aspirational living is so on trend – as though that is the only direction one should choose.
Isn’t the modern obsession with attaining wellness just sprung from the mythscape of “I’m not enough”?
Stop Your Perfectionism
In my opinion, the aggressive expansion in wellness marketing drives obsession, perfectionism, neurosis and the undermining of self-esteem.
In the quest for ultimate wellness we see unhealthy obsessions with:
- Healthy food (orthorexia nervosa)
- Life hacking
- Personal development
- Spiritual bypassing.
These obsessions also flood the internet with unreliable resources, and an ongoing lack of representation of diversity (age, body type, class, colour, style, life stage, ability).
We are perpetuating a myth of what wellness looks like.
What Is Wellness? What Is NOT Wellness?
Let’s not be manipulated by all this imagery and marketing.
Wellness is not something that you consume.
Wellness is a state of being, and not always relating to your physical state of health.
I love what Dr. Gabor Maté said recently on healing being a subversive act:
“… our work with people is about subverting their self-image as isolated, simply biological or simply psychological creatures, and helping them see the connections among their existence, the nature of the culture we live in, and the functioning of all of humanity.”
On what wellness is not, Dr Mate` also said:
“[We need to challenge] the idea that someone’s value is dependent on how well they fit into an abnormal, unhealthy culture. Ideally, as healers in the broadest sense, that’s what we should be doing.”
What Is Wellness from a Chinese Medical Perspective?
Chinese Medicine has a concept of Yang Sheng, commonly translated as ‘Nourishing Life.’
The Chinese word “Yang” means to nurture, take care of, and nourish. “Sheng” means life, birth, growth and vitality.
Together, “Yang Sheng” means to nurture life or to cultivate health and vitality.
Yang Sheng is the practice of health cultivation/preservation by nurturing body, mind, heart and nature.
Yang Sheng is an accessible practice for ordinary people to cultivate health and harmony through daily activities – the micro-moments in which you choose what benefits you, and then what benefits others.
Chinese medicine has always considered both the internal landscape and the external environment of a patient – the ways in which the patient participates and interacts in the world.
The cultivation of health, rather than simply the treatment of disease, is a major characteristic of Chinese medicine, strongly differentiating it from modern biomedicine.
The Many Ways to Nourish Your Life
Nourishing life is about nurturing yourself. This can occur over many aspects of your life.
Nourishing life could look like:
- Saying no
- Having pyjama days
- Chewing your food
- Watching comedy
- Giving up on shit that’s not working
- Shopping for your food
- Making your own food
- Spending time with music or the arts
- Connecting with a community to support a cause you’re passionate about
- Calling your mum
- Spending time outdoors
- Spending time with your family and friends
- Having fun
- Watching a sunrise/sunset
- Having conscious sex
- Getting good sleep
- Knowing your limits
- Playing with animals
- Financially living within your means.
Abandon Perfection, Focus on Balance
Seriously, it’s time to stop striving for perfection.
Instead, focus on maintaining balance through an awareness of our connection to nature, to our own bodies, to our heart and to society. Yang Sheng is a powerful practice that can preserve and improve health when engaged in daily.
So, What Does Wellness Look Like For You?
Maybe take a moment and draw your own little map, keep it simple.
I’m not enough is pandemic in our society. Maybe it’s about what not to do. Be mindful of the endless, unattainable self-improvement list that is stemmed in an inability to accept who you are, as you are.
Getting Support for Restoring Wellness Through Balance
In the beginning of a holistic treatment process, you may need to apply some discipline to change habits and the corresponding dynamic in your body or behaviour. A practitioner (or, if accessible to you, your community) can support you through that.
Ideally, through that process you glean what you need to do. Your plan of action (or inaction) should be appropriate to your lifestyle, your needs, your stage of life and your capacity, so that you stay well. (Most of the time.)
You will still get sick.
You will still feel pain.
You will still experience difficult emotions.
Your heart will break again.
You will have significant traumatic events happen.
Life will always challenge you.
Wellness resides in your adaptability in response to challenge and in your resilience to get through it.