What ‘wellness’ really means

Self- care is an aspect of life that is heavily overlooked in the rapid paced environment in which we live our 21st century lives. Life these days is like marching to a never-ending beat in a constant struggle to keep up. It is easy to forget to attend to many basic necessities of existence with the thought, time and care that they properly require.

A great deal of irony lies in the gap between the popular culture we are exposed to and the extent to which we are capable of implementing that culture in the reality of our lives.

Specifically, in recent years, a pervasive culture of ‘wellness’ has emerged. Health food stores abound in number, ‘clean eating’ has become a common term and exercise statistics in America have been on the rise. Our culture makes it look appealing to sip green juices and engage in daily rounds of squats; however, the struggle to live the life that culture depicts is an experiment in itself.

There is an air of unattainable perfection that hangs over this idea of wellness. Take Gwyneth Paltrow’s famous lifestyle website, “Goop.”  Does Gwyneth embody wellness? If so, I am concerned because we have very little in common.

Wellness itself is a hard term to define. Out if its ambiguity, what remains is the task of the average Joeanna to take matters into her own hands, to define the term for herself.

Wellness, I think, becomes attainable and real when it is approached on an individual basis. Working out twice a day is not necessary for my success in the way that it is for the Victoria’s Secret model who is paid millions to maintain our culture’s problematic take on physical ‘perfection’, so I should not become confused and feel inclined to do so.

Wellness is about balance and consistency, in the things that, literally and figuratively, help us stay alive. Think sleep, hydration, exercise, healthful eating, mental health, maintaining relationships, going to knitting club or writing a poem and having pure fun. Whatever activities contribute to a prolonged, happy existence should be given time in the busyness of life.

Though I realize this is still a quite broad definition, that may be precisely my point. In the broadness of the term, there is room for personal interpretation.

I think that stepping back and taking the time to be sure that these various aspects of life are cared for is essential to maintaining a life of success. As college students who are subject to unending distractions, remembering to do things for ourselves is not selfish⎯ rather, it is key.

What I have learned is that it is necessary to stop marching to the beat sometimes, despite the fear of lagging behind. It is okay to stop working on homework to go to the gym and it is okay to have fun on the weekend as opposed to slaving over application after application during the 48 hour respite that Saturday and Sunday provide.

The mind and body need time to rest and to heal, so in the long run, taking the time to slow down is actually beneficial. We all need to march to our own beat sometimes, that way, when we feel rejuvenated, we can simply jump back into the race ready to win.