In 2013 Ariana Huffington called for an additional Third Metric of wellness to be added to the existing metrics of money and power as a means to measure success.
As a health practitioner I applauded this bold campaign and was so excited I wrote a blog about it. As a business owner I know too well how easy it is to put personal wellness on the back burner because decisions need to be made and work is the priority.
I still applaud it, however in the last few years my personal journey on the wellness path has taken me to a place where I believe that the word "wellness" can be misused and taken lightly.
The commonly heard phrase " I'm into health and wellness" is often code for "I do yoga, I'm careful about what I eat, I meditate and I exercise"
These are hugely important steps, but they are the basics in terms of creating an optimised body, they aren't actually enough to be living your whole life from a place of wellness.
The definition of wellness according to The World Health Organisation is this:
Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. "...a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
The key part of that for me is this: "becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life".
I want to get something really straight here. MOST of the time my job as a health practitioner is getting people onto the first step of their wellness journey, just drinking water or becoming conscious of the food they eat is a MAMMOTH improvement but, if we are to include wellness into our core values as a society we need to dig deeper
When I teach I like to talk about something I call "The Spectrum Of Health". Essentially the spectrum of health is a line chart representing two points A and B and the space between the two.
Point A would represent the "average" person before they become conscious of their diet or their emotional wellbeing. Point B would represent, well someone like me - an extremely crazy health freak.
There is a lot of distance between the two of these and whilst I don't believe everyone needs to be as extreme as me, there is a lot of scope for people to keep moving along the spectrum of health.
As I have said taking care of your emotional, energetic and physical body (the basics) is essential and yet for me it isn't enough and it doesn't fully represent the WHO's definition. Wellness takes time, it takes prioritising how you spend your cash but hardest of all, it takes courage. I'm not talking about juice fasts and 10 day silent retreats (which actually take massive amounts of courage to do), I'm talking about having the courage to deeply face aspects of your life that aren't working to create massive transformation.
Remember the quote "Wellness is an ACTIVE process of becoming AWARE". Or to put it another way, becoming conscious or shedding light on something.
In my private practice it has never ceased to amaze me how many people are unfulfilled. They a) hate themselves, b) hate their job, c) hate their relationship or d) hate all of the above. Whilst I continue to be amazed by how "un-fulfillment" is the most prevalent human condition around, what totally confounds me is how few people are actually prepared to do anything about it.
There are always reasons " I cant leave because of the kids, I cant afford it, I haven't got the willpower, I'm too busy", but the truth is that people often stay in the same place because they fear change and they fear looking at the darkness within. It's much easier to put the discontent in a box and pretend it's fine and smile through gritted teeth whilst slowly dying inside.
The irony is that the more we ignore these deep issues the more our bodies will show us our discontent by creating symptom after symptom, it's called "psychoneuroimmunology" and even proper scientists study it.
The questions we usually shy away from are endless but as a starter for ten here's a few basics: Are you truly happy? How much do you love yourself? How are you at keeping boundaries? Do you have great sex? Do you know what really great sex is? How is your relationship with money? With food? With your partner, children, parents? Is your life what you thought it would be? Did you dream of more? How do you need it to change?
It's not about having a "perfect life" because it doesn't exist, it's about having the deep unwavering courage to look, really, honestly look at every single aspect of our lives and truthfully say what isn't working and objectively figure out what needs to happen to change it.
We deserve more than a "veneer of happiness", let's risk looking at the demons that stop us from claiming the life of our dreams.
You might say that I have a Disney-esque view but I believe we can have it all, we can have the life we dreamed of, and all it takes is discipline and courage (and sometimes it takes someone to support us along the way).
I know this path only too well, I've spent the past decade dealing with: Depression, Chronic Fatigue, PTSD, menstrual cycle irregularities, structural pain, IBS and more recently an unpicking of some serious trauma that I experienced early in life. Trust me when I say I have tried it all. I supplement, eat obsessively well, do yoga, exercise, meditate, have no toxic chemicals in my life and only use organic products (I even brush my teeth with clay). I have regular Kinesiology and other alternative therapies. I work on my spirituality and spent masses of time creating a co-committed conscious relationship. Please remember that I don't believe everyone needs to be this extreme, I had some extreme issues to deal with.
But, what I have witnessed time and time again in both my personal journey and my professional practice is that the people who are FULLY prepared to commit to looking at every aspect of their life in the cold light of day, and leave no stone unturned to find the stuff that is holding them back, and who then have the courage to throw themselves straight into the jaws of the beast until the demons have been vanquished, have life changing transformations. Their health changes, their lives change, their relationships change and they end up, if not with the life they dreamt of, at least on the path to it.
The beauty is that when they have risen out of their murky depths they have the tools to help another to rise, be it their family, friends, colleagues, whomever, we all benefit because one by one the consciousness of our society changes.
If we start to use wellness as a metric how are we going to measure that? Are we going to create a chart like the BMI graph to judge if someone's skin is glowing enough?
The only real measurement we can use is a subjective one. When we are around someone treading this path they emanate certain qualities, authenticity, transparency, integrity, safety, strength, sensuality, sexuality, self-confidence, compassion, wisdom, intuition, a deep sense of joy and a bottomless depth. We are drawn to them. As Dodinksy said "They who do not fear darkness have learnt to light their own candles"
It's worth the fear, the pain, the tears and the confusion that this journey offers.
Don't do it on your own, find a tribe to help you, invest in a great practitioner who is as intuitive as they are brilliant at their craft. Don't be afraid to ask them how much of their stuff they work on. I believe strongly that it is imperative for practitioners to have the courage to look at their own darkness so they can help others work through theirs.
So Ariana, I'm with you 110%, I'm treading the path and I agree wellness is a valid metric after all who wants a corporate CEO who is knackered (actually, according to Russell Brand we don't want corporate CEO's at all) I'm just saying that I think the use of the word wellness can be used flippantly and I'm asking for us to be really honest about what it truly means.