Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is; why do so many people still run for the hills, arms flailing, catching bugs in their teeth whenever I mention the words ‘mindfulness’ or ‘meditation’ or ‘wellness’. Metaphorically speaking.
I thought about it for a while, and I finally had my aha moment a few weeks ago when researching some UK wellness retreats. I’ll take a guess as to why just mentioning wellness and meditation and all that other delicious brain candy often leaves a sour taste in our mouths…
In short; Wellness is for nutters.
Or at least it all-too-often seems that way. Not even just, like, slightly out-of-it-in-a-good-way nutters.
We’re all a bit nuts though, no? Wellness nutters are different.
It’s not like drinking wine at 9am on a bank holiday Monday. Monday morning, Jerry Springer on TV. Guffaws and pseudo judgmental hums and hahs floating through the empty living room as you get day-drunk on the 3 day old moscato your sister-in-law Sharon brought round when she found out she got an audition for X Factor. You chug away, who cares if you’re hammered by 11am? It’s Springer time!
Sharon sends you a message.
“What you doing?”
Mind your business Sharon, I’m too busy to get into X factor now, I’m simultaneously solving other people’s TV problems and winning at life.
No. This is not 9am drunk nuts. It’s not that kind of cool nutter everyone loves when they get drunk and lick stuff. It’s not eating chicken wings on the toilet crying about The Red Wedding kinda nuts. These wellness types are full frontal nutters, right?
Sharon: “Whatcha upto?”
Me: *makes fingerprint smudge art on half-full wine glass*
“at the gym Shazza, spk later”
*dips finger into moscato. temperature still good. turns TV over to Jeremy Kyle*
Like I said, I was researching, and page after page, video after video, post after post gave me the same result: an overwhelming amount of intense hippy types waxing lyrical about interconnectedness, spirituality, self love and gratitude practices. Nutters?
Add to that an abundance of unnaturally happy looking women running through fields, arms spread wide, talons poised and ready to grasp joy (or Xanax), utterly criminal grins on their faces. Bonafide would-be psychopaths. Regardless of content, these days every time I see a wellness ad or blog post my brain automatically slaps on The Marshall Mathers LP (2000). It’s an affliction, I’m working though it.
Its either that or hot air balloons, idyllic beaches with white sands, or close up green plants that may or may not be (but definitely are) questionable. All perfectly lovely. All perfectly not my lifestyle by a thousand miles. I just can’t relate.
Pictures depicting lifestyles that I can neither afford yet, both in time & money, nor aspire to. I adore my busy working life. I like having a nap on the subway next to a grandma with a mustache. I like skincare and Gary Vee on youtube. I don’t have time for this seemingly unattainable world of wellness! I’m a sane, hard working person with bills to pay.
I get it. Say interconnectedness to a room of people at a party, and you might not be invited to the next one. You’d be a nutter, in certain circles. I love learning other points of view, but it can be intimidating and alienating. I’ve been there, and often still am.
Self-love is an absolute prerequisite for moving towards a happy life. But ‘wellness’ as a concept, despite all it’s good intentions, is kinda like the new kid at school; doesn’t seem to fit in, untrustworthy, smells a bit weird. It’s for liberals. It’s religious. It’s (insert word that suits your bias here). It’s never gonna solve any of MY issues. I could go on.
In my humbly loud opinion, ‘wellness’ could shake off some of it’s old, dated appearance and reemerge revitalized and ready for a 21st Century comeback. A bit late to the party, but still in time to deal with our 21st Century Blues. Wellness never left, of course, but anyway, I digress…
The upside of these 21st Century Blues, however, is that they’re accompanied by 21st century joys – split-second content sharing, honesty(sic) trading, information highways, the demand for truth – all at the swipe of a screen. Screens we could use to deliver a simple daily dose of wellness practice. Because our 21st Century truth is; ain’t nobody got time for sitting around meditating all day. How the heck do you meditate, anyway?
It’s a full-on bummer because wellness, mindfulness and self-love practices are paramount to cultivating optimal mental health. Mental health is so F-utterly important, and we mustn’t consider it a fault or abnormality should someone choose to care for their mind the same way we care for our faces, our personal hygiene or our shoe collection.
We can literally, at the touch of a button, have relevant, simple and guided support to each part of our lives – food delivery, bank transfers, stocks, communication… So why not the mind?
Our minds are the control centre for everything we are, do and become… I often hear people say about another, “He’s lost his mind”. Honestly, no wonder. If you don’t care for something properly, it simply perishes. Rots away like a moldy old ham or a squidgy pack of carrots at the bottom of the fridge. I have to care for my mind and body. I have to, my life – and the lives of others – depends on it. Before I knew I cared about my self care, I didn’t really care. You know? And now I know that I care, I really frickin’ care. You have to treat yourself like you matter and you’ll start to matter more. It’s a love cycle. And arming yourself with the right information is potentially incredibly powerful.
Wellness is also often seen as a fad, a movement, something for rich people. I’ve been in that mindset before, too. It doesn’t help that we’re often sold an idea of wellbeing accompanied by the next diet craze or a 12 step plan to ultimate joy that comes with a price tag hefty enough to make my toes curl. But wellness is something we all need, perhaps even more so the people in our society who are living a harsher reality than (maybe) you or I. The rich can afford to be a little nuts. The poor aren’t afforded such privileges.
And its no fad. It’s Science, brah. The results of meditation for example are phenomenal. By doing a wee bit of research you’ll find effective and excellent resources for wellness. Dig further and we find that spirituality isn’t a terrifying religious cult, that self-help doesn’t mean you’re not whole and awesome already. Self care, lifestyle management and self love are wonderful and viable ways to rock out at being human, if being human is your thing. Not for everyone, I guess.
If you can get past some of the bullshit, you’ll get an eyeful of really cool science and easy transformations that make such a huge difference in even the day-to-day. Waking up and looking forward to work, feeling a bit more confident to speak our minds in a board meeting. It’s life; new and improved. Of course you don’t have to believe me, but if you’ve read this far, stay with me to the end…
I need no-nonsense, practical goal setting, regular exercise, self reflection, good food, brain stimulation, habit transformation, mindful living and meditation that fit into my life. I’m busy, we’re all busy. And when we get free time, realistically how many of us actually want to spend it on self development instead of binge watching AHS or getting a few in at the local. (Personally though, I think that, with the exception of harmful behavior, almost anything can serve as your version of wellness, allowing us a wholly nurturing and healing experience that is relevant and effective to the practitioner). But who has the time, right?
Time is precious, and I empathize with that. Which is why I want to break through those image barriers that say ‘wellness’ is unattainable in a contemporary 21st Century life. Its the most attainable it’s ever been! The same images that promote wellness as a lifestyle for hippy hedonism and rich nutters. The images that say it’s not for ME.
I want to combine my busy life with peace of mind, to feel anxiety-free, and to bend my legs into pretzels whilst chanting Pali and texting His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself. I want stillness and quiet meditation, and noisy and fun meditation, and mindful eating, and yoga, and good sleep, and great brain stimulation and all those tools to put in my toolbox to serve me for life. To mix and remix and change when and as I grow.
We have to find our own version of wellness that works for us. Something that allows us to be silly and goofy and still mindful. Something to get our contemplative rocks off. Something that clicks.
In his book The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, Vishen Lakhiani talks about making life goals that depend absolutely on ourselves and not others. For me, that resonated so loudly that I have made it part of my daily and monthly practice; to set goals that I am fully in control of, in fact I pretty much copycatted my most recent modes of living. For example:
Instead of my previous goal, ‘I will study online for 30 minutes per day’ (which isn’t always possible as a broadcast freelancer, student, teacher, mum of a 4 year old with a start up to actually start up.) Instead, I changed my goal to ‘I will learn and grow each day’.
I can control that. I don’t automatically ‘fail’ if I have no time to study, but I can always learn and grow no matter what. And I try hard to do it. It’s obviously no use to just say “X is my goal” then let it slip away, or completely disregard it altogether. Luckily, we decide on how we live. Choice is the biggest privilege of being human and, if we’re afforded it, it’s our responsibility to make some serious choices.
Choose Life. Choose Wellness. Choose Trainspotting references. Wellness is absolutely for everyone. Our society is literally dying for some peace of mind. Life isn’t always beautiful, but those aspects of life that are undeniably exquisite – kindness, gratitude, love, mindfulness etc – should be facilitated and encouraged everywhere.
I’m not (totally) preaching (yet) but what I will say is that despite often wanky appearances, wellness, meditation and mindfulness etc in all their colorful forms are absolutely there for the integrating, and I encourage you to integrate them all, as often and as vigorously as tickles you. Science backs it, the brain loves it, and from personal experience, a well-being approach to living really can bring you a knicker-load of clarity and calm in this big ole stinkin’ world.
You know, if less images of contrived wellness practice and more honest portrayals of what everyday wellness can and does look like were shared and liked and reposted, maybe we’d spend our scrolling time a little differently. Or maybe not.
But hopefully after dipping your toes in, something will click, and you’ll come out the other end ready to run open-armed though a field of bluebells, face like the joker, brain rattling around on cloud 9. Who the F runs like that anyway? Nutters, thats who.
Don’t pooh-pooh it before you’ve given it a go. Just go and find something that works for you, and run with it.