To me, true wellness requires realness. It’s not just about drinking matcha lattes, eating plant-based, doing yoga, and meditating. There are hundreds of thousands of people and programs out there, preaching to us about how to be well and ultimately, offering us the recipe on how to change our lives. But, at the end of the day, we can drink all the matcha, and do ALL the yoga but if we are not being real with ourselves and with others, we are not going to be well, and these practices will only get us so far, until we are slapped in the face with the same old demons we’ve been battling for years.
The myriad wellness rituals and health crazes that are explosively gracing the inter-world can become just another cloak to hide under if we are not careful. Or, worse, yet another oppressive industry, haphazardly bombarding us with unattainable or unrealistic standards of living (that only seem to represent a small percentage of people-essentially: privileged, affluent, white folks, from what I can see), which only perpetuates collective feelings of disconnection, worthlessness, and isolation. How on earth do these things contribute to wellness?!
The kind of wellness I would like to advocate for is an inclusive kind of wellness, rooted in connection and realness, as opposed to disconnection and perfection. I want people to know that they are good and worthy JUST as they are and that they have a chance and the RIGHT to be well, even if they cannot afford to drink matcha lattes or if their anxiety is too high to even dream of stepping foot in a yoga studio. The wellness journey should be accessible to all and it starts with connection through authenticity.
As a social worker and mental health therapist/advocate, who is relatively new to the wellness industry, I have surrendered to the inevitable position of power and influence I stand in, whether I am guiding people through yoga, meditation, mindfulness or therapy.
I have made it my mission to always be real - in life in general, but especially with the folks I work with.
One day, I was teaching a Mindful Movement class that I started in the Mental Health Programs at the hospital, and a young man asked me, in front of the class: “Have you ever been or felt like us in here?” My inner therapist voice surfaced and told me to be mindful of self-disclosure (which, with therapy clients, I always am, and am very intentional about what, when, how, and why I share) but in that moment, my HUMAN voice, which is all about truth, love, connection, and authenticity spoke louder. It said: “Janice, you were bloody close to being in here at one time in your life. You met with an intake worker, who didn’t do so well at the connection piece, and left you feeling too ashamed, exposed, and embarrassed to own up to what you were really feeling, so instead, you went to your doctor and were put on three different medications to help you get by for a while.” I hushed my inner ‘professional’ blank slate of a therapist self and allowed my human self to shine through. I responded with a simple and clear: “Yes, yes I have,” accompanied with a gentle head nod, and proceeded to teach the class.
What struck me that day was that rather than feeling completely exposed, embarrassed or ashamed, I felt the most grounded and connected I ever had, with the people I was teaching. I felt a palpable openness between us. A oneness. I much preferred this feeling, to the feeling of being the perceived expert or ‘guru’ at the front of the class- teaching and preaching a bunch of stuff from a position of non-relatable and unapproachable, ego-laden, authority. Since that day, I have proceeded to be mindful of my position and I always make it a priority to connect with people from a place of authenticity and realness.
I may drink matcha and practice yoga and meditation but I am nowhere near perfect. My wellness journey has been an ongoing dynamic process, which has unfolded alongside the many challenges, trials, and tribulations I have endured throughout my life- physically, mentally, and spiritually.
We may be walking different paths but we are all on this journey together.