What does wellness mean to you? Should we – the chronic illness community – be redefining wellness?
Google ‘wellness’ and you’ll find countless definitions, centring mainly around positive well-being. This goes beyond physical health to encompass well-being in many dimensions of a person’s life, ie mentally, socially, spiritually, and so on. It can also be described as a lifestyle – an active pursuit for self-improvement.
But it has also become a shorthand term for the face of a number of bloggers and instagrammers who may be focusing more on what’s outside than what’s within. Please don’t get me wrong – there are many fantastic people sharing their knowledge and advice with the world in the hopes that other people might find benefit. But I do question some people’s motivations and when the pursuit of wellness equals following trends I start to feel uneasy.
So I want to try and explore the concept of wellness – no easy task! I will ask a number of questions which I hope will help you consider what you want wellness to mean to you.
How do you feel about product promotion?
An area which is tricky to navigate is the promotion of particular brands or products. Now as I write this I know for a fact that the time will come when I share with you particular products that have helped me. I may or may not name particular brands. I’ll be upfront about the pros and the cons. And I will do this in the hopes that someone else might benefit.
But is the case for everyone? I was very shocked and disheartened to read to story of Belle Gibson. The wellness blogger claimed to have survived terminal brain cancer by shunning all traditional medicine and focusing on healing through clean eating and holistic therapies. Belle was a huge social media presence. She made vast amounts of money through sales of her app and cookbook, a portion of which she promised to charity. However when no charities received the money and people started to look into Belle’s story more closely, things started to unravel. Shockingly Belle never had cancer.
I myself have spent evenings trawling the internet, desperately looking for a solution to take away my pain. It’s heartbreaking to think what the consequences may have been for those who rejected traditional medicine in favour of following Belle Gibson’s ‘miracle cure’. I suppose we should always be wary of things that seem too good to be true.
It’s very hard to know whether people’s intentions are good and true. So I think it’s important to take everything you read with a pinch of salt. Do your own research. Perhaps read product reviews in multiple places. Find out more about the person promoting the product. And perhaps seek advice from a trusted professional.
Should there be such a thing as a wellness product?
Wellness should arguably be about achieving a particular state of mind, not about owning particular cult products. Can buying things really lead to self-improvement? I feel baffled and astonished when I see particular industries being so prominent in the wellness market. Beauty and wellness as an example. My immediate reaction is that part of wellness is about feeling comfortable in your own skin. And surely if this was happening you would need less beauty products, not more.
However, the more I consider this I realise that how I look is linked to how I feel. It affects my self-confidence. I don’t know whether this is right or wrong, but I do know that once I have applied a little make-up I feel more confident that I don’t look so ‘ill’.
So if particular products help us get a place where we feel better in ourselves then perhaps that’s a good thing?
Is there a set path to wellness?
My answer to this would be that the path is not one-size-fits-all. And that’s where it’s difficult to follow the advice of others. Everyone has a unique starting point. A unique body and mind. Unique experiences. Every person will have their own strengths, and their own challenges to overcome. And therefore the path itself is bound to be unique.
I think it’s important to bear this in mind and know that it’s OK that something which works for others does not work for you. For example, due to my Fibromyalgia I struggle with traditional exercise. As much as I am bombarded with messages that more exercise leads to a healthier body, all it does for me is cause additional pain and fatigue. And I tell myself that’s OK. My path will be a little different – but I’ll make improvements over time.
Shouldn’t it be for everyone?
In all honesty, it’s difficult sometimes not to look at the countless pictures of beautiful young women in their workout gear, drinking their latest nutri-bullet concoction with a fresh glow, and not feel like a failure. I don’t think I’ll ever be the woman in that picture. Resentment and self-loathing kicks in. I feel as though things are destined to be negative because of my condition. And I have to stop myself – breathe – and I tell myself it doesn’t matter. I don’t want to be that woman. Other things make me special. I can still have fun. I can contribute unique things to this world.
This is the crux of wellness for me. It involves not just following the trends of others in the pursuit of becoming a better you. It’s about working out what your instagram picture of a better you should look like. I have seen some people choose to carry out this exercise in their bullet journals, defining what they want to improve in different aspects of their life. It involves really looking inwards and being honest with yourself about how you feel about different areas of life and what you would change. For me, this is how you create an individualised wellness plan. I think this is a fantastic exercise and something I plan to do in the future. Here’s a great example of a ‘level 10 life’ spread by Shelby at Little Coffee Fox.
Should we really be talking about self-care?
Perhaps as the chronic illness community we should be focusing more on the concept of self-care? For me this just feels a bit less like an exclusive club, and more like a supportive community. Since I joined instagram I have found the #chronicillness community so supportive. I have learnt a lot about self-care from other people who are like me.
I have realised that trying to achieve wellness or practising self-care does not have to be elaborate. Two of my favourite people on instagram to follow are @makedaisychains (Hannah) and @agirlcallednaomi. Hannah’s ‘boring self care’ series and Naomi’s ‘365 days of self care’ have helped me recognise the little things I do for myself that are oh so important. These things make my life so much better. I have realised that my goals might seem small to others, but they’re not living my life. I’m not doing things for others, I’m doing them for me.
I suppose it doesn’t really matter what we call it. We’re all on a personal journey to try and improve the quality of our lives. Personally I’m going to try and hold onto the notion that I can be different. I can stand out from the crowd. And this is because my starting point and my journey will of course be different to everyone else’s. If I’m focusing on working out what’s best for me then I’m doing it the right way.
What are your thoughts on wellness?