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In Defence of wellness, Not Wellness

05/05/2016 11:27 | Updated 05 May 2016

I have become so much happier recently, but it has taken me trying to comfort one of my best friends who has just been dumped to be able to articulate this to myself properly. My advice to her has been: 'what you need to do is to run along the Embankment to St. Paul's and back, and make yourself a smoothie when you get back. Just go.' She keeps wanting to order Domino's, but like a modern day Jesus of Nazareth, I keep telling her that her body is a temple. She looks at me like I am mad. I remind myself of the 'in a relationship friend' in the illustrations on the Instagram account @butlikemaybe: urging others to find inspiration and self-love through fitness classes, nature and green juice.

I am happy, and I have found this happiness through wellness. I'm not talking about 'the wellness industry' of voga, turmeric lattes, paleo brunch clubs, and skinny bitch collectives. I have no idea what the last one even is, but it's something I keep hearing and it (they?) will be at Wilderness festival this year, along with Deliciously Ella, which really tells you all you need to know. I love all this stuff, I really do, but no: I am talking about wellness right now, rather than Wellness. Think hiking in the Peak District as opposed to finding yourself in Goa.

I know all this is ripe for derision and mockery ('Running a marathon cured my heartbreak'; 'Voga taught me to love myself'; 'Going gluten free has really realigned my chakras') but it really needn't be. The extent to which the Wellness industry is routinely satirised as a sort of quintessential LA vacuousness that has gone global makes it easy to lose sight of the fact that actually, looking beyond the commercialised bullshit (and there is a lot of it, granted) much of what it espouses is just so right: age-old pleasures like going for a walk in the countryside; going for a run as the sun sets (or just whenever); closing your eyes and listening to birds singing. Even just yoga at the leisure centre, in fact, makes me feel good. I use the word 'even' because it is 2016 and therefore any yoga without a prefix attached (rage yoga and hip hop yoga, I'm thinking of you) is now probably deemed a bit passé. When people used to say this sort of thing to me I would just assume they were insincere, because how could such simple things possibly make anyone happy, really? But, oh god, they seriously do. LA might do Wellness the best, India might be the best place to go for spiritual awakening, and Bali may be the most restorative place on earth, but there is nothing quite like walking through the English countryside when the sun is shining to make me feel so hopeful, expansive and, well, happy.

The main difference to my mind between wellness and Wellness is that the former is actually accessible to everyone. Before I clarified this distinction in my mind, I wrote a blog post dripping with sarcasm and rage, in which I vented:

'I'd 'get the glow' too if I had the money to spend my days brunching in Chelsea and staying in luxury resorts in South East Asia every other month. I feel like I'd get more of a spiritual experience meditating in an ashram in India than in my bedroom. I generally feel more nourished when I've had a raw acai bowl with chia seeds for breakfast than a mere banana.'

Basically, I wanted all the things that I believed were necessary for 'proper' wellness, and I was angry because I couldn't/can't afford them, at least not regularly. I felt like I was being denied the sort of lifestyle I wanted - because it is an expensive lifestyle if you want to do all this stuff. There is no getting around that. And reading women's magazines or blogs like 'Well & Good' just perpetuates the feeling that you are doing it all wrong: the attention is always on new fitness trends, or new superfoods. Read Women's Health, for example, and you will be told that quinoa is so last year, because don't you know that freekeh is the new grain du jour? It's exhausting, and it is exclusionary to quite a large extent for those of us who are a.) not particularly well off and b.) not living in London.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with freekeh, or hip hop yoga, or Lulu Lemon leggings, or anything else that is 'the' trend of the moment, but we need to resist equating having/doing these things with our sense of wellbeing. Wellness (that's wellness, not Wellness) does not depend on novelty. Yes, I like barrecore classes, and Psycle classes, and Voga looks like a lot of fun. But throwing my money away with reckless abandon (it's about thirty pounds a pop for these classes) makes me feel actually anxious afterwards. Going for a run isn't an inadequate form of exercise just because it is marketed less.

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