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We’ve Misunderstood Wellness

I saw this article the other day and it covers many of the things we’ve been talking about here over the last few weeks and months. It’s about what is referred to as the wellness industry, which is a bit of a vague term, but it encompasses all of the wellness rituals and products that are being sold as “cures”.

It also points out that for all the money and time we spend on these wellness activities and products, the collective health statistics have been getting worse, especially for women.

‘We’re sedating women with self-care’: how we became obsessed with wellness

Maybe this is the best synopsis I can share, but do go read the whole thing:

Derkatch says that real wellness does not require an extensive menu of goods and services. It does not mean we swap out pharmaceuticals for natural products, or screen our tap water for hidden poisons, or sign up for resilience workshops. “Real wellness means having conditions under which we can flourish,” she says. It means social support, medical care that is accessible and empathetic, decent working conditions and ready sources of affordable and nutritious foods.

Ultimately, this is our reality. I live in an area of the US that has had a terrible drought this Summer. You don’t normally think about drought conditions in Louisiana because was are quite surrounded by water, but it has barely rained at all since the Spring, and the Mississippi River is running at such low volume that the salt water from the Gulf of Mexico is starting to come up river and threaten the drinking water of around a million people. We always live with the risk of hurricanes every year.

You can’t mediate your way out of that. There are no crystals you can buy that will make drinking water safe for an entire city. It’s not an individual problem, yet the Wellness industry, which includes mental health wellness as well as physical, offers up a promise that you can be the healthiest version of yourself just by following their leads and buying their products. All the while ignoring all of the societal problems that contribute to making us unhealthy.

I want to leave you with this quote from the article because this explains why framing our wellness as solely an individual problem overlooks so much and why I harp on this as often as I do:

According to one well-trafficked statistic, the social determinants of health – factors like air quality, domestic safety, community support and education access – account for as much as 80% of health outcomes. But these realities are neatly erased from most wellness marketing.

If 80% of our health outcomes are unrelated to exercise and nutrition, maybe we can just accept that we can do those things and make some small impacts, and we should, but the larger concern is a society that is actively making some of us unwell.

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