The plague that struck the entire globe by 2020 changed the face of our world as we know it. With the lockdowns in full swing and more time on their hands than people knew what to do with, the online fitness scene took off like no other time before. People were more than ever, afraid for their health and taking more initiatives to maintain it.
The idea of “wellness” as we know it today was first made popular by Dr. Halbert L. Dunn in the 1950s. He defined the term “high-level wellness” as being the active pursuit of higher functioning as opposed to merely the absence of illness. That is, moving towards a better sense of living.
We feel empowered in the belief that our body is under our control. And in the face of the pandemic, “wellness” was a way of striving towards maintaining a sense of security in a world where everything else seems to be spiralling out of it.
The booming wellness industry, worth $275 billion in 2020, is defining proof of the stronghold that this ideology has over us. Fitness technology experienced a remarkable 29.1% growth in 2020 when as millions of consumers spent their exercise-related budget on online workouts.
What might have started off as a positive movement that picked up momentum when the world needed it most, has reason, like everything else that is so ever prevalent, to be questioned. There is a fine line between being aware of one’s health and needs, and obsessing over them. Especially with the internet and it’s abundance of information, sifting through what’s real and what’s just a gimmick can be quite overwhelming.
Protein supplements, super-food smoothies, sleep tracking apps, spandex leggings and influencers with their perfect skin, perfect bodies, perfectly optimized meal-prepped lives. Sunny skies, ambient sounds playlists, essential oil candles and that ethereally glowing beauty guru preaching “self-care”. Just another plethora of things for us to frantically be on to frantically be on top of. Cue the cartoon dog “This is fine” meme.
Detoxifying tea? You don’t need it, that’s what your functioning liver and kidneys are built for! How about we detoxify wellness as we know it instead?
Somewhere along the line, the core idea of taking well-rounded care of oneself has got a little lost under a market flooded by presumably well-intentioned products that are designed to fix all of the problems that this new movement has made us aware of.
There is obviously a need to care for one’s physical health. Eating balanced meals ensures proper nutrient intake, and in turn reduces the chance of deficiencies. Doing some form of exercise keeps the body strong and mobile, and extinguishes the problems that might otherwise arise without it. Going for a run can release pent up anxious energy. A night-time ritual can help one unwind and relax before bed. Living a healthy lifestyle certainly alleviates some of the unnecessary stressors in our already taxing lives. It all helps in little ways that add up.
But putting on a fancy face mask and calling it a day is self-care in only the shallowest sense of the term.