I talk about wellness way too frequently. It’s getting to be one of my favorite topics, along with the inexhaustible lists of books and movies. Partly it’s me (what kind of millennial yoga-loving anorexia-surviving introspective vegan would I be if I didn’t?) and part of it is the current craze for wellness, mindfulness, and all of the associated paraphernalia (rose quartz lamps).
Interrupting this broadcast: I HEAR THUNDER THANK GOD FINALLY
I have ambivalent feeling about the current cultural boom being experienced by wellness. On the positive side, it’s helped me find more people who share my interests and brought my niche interests to a much wider audience. Yay! An opportunity for new friends with new shared interests!
Additionally, as society and the market adapts to appeal more to this current cultural climate, it also suits me better. There are increased vegan dining options, more articles around that I find compelling…. more things are available that resonate with my lifestyle and mindset.
On the other hand:
I’m only human, and as a human I can get annoyed when people pick up what are, for me, deeply held convictions and goals because they’re fashionable or trendy. Because they look good on Instagram. I don’t even have an Instagram, and if that’s not doing it for genuine reasons, I don’t know what is (but I do have a blog, on which I’m currently talking about wellness so… *shrug*).
But there’s something worse than fair weather wellness (and worse than my hipster selfishness, I hope), because there’s always the possibility that people who get into self care for the ‘wrong reasons’ will end up loving it for the right ones. (And also obviously it’s not my job to arbitrate between what the right and wrong reasons are, or to say that the right/authentic reasons are my reasons- but I’m doing it anyway and feeling a bit guilty).
No, but I don’t really like the suddenly burgeoning wellness industry (which by the way grew by 10.6% from 2013 to 2015), which is capitalizing, sometimes kind of unfairly, on people’s desire to better look after their physical, mental, and emotional health.
Obviously there are exceptions: some companies are offering really valuable goods and services that weren’t available before. But every time I see ‘hygge essentials’ or ‘correct essential oils for your dosha’, I feel the need to take a few more deep cleansing breaths (just kidding, I have a punching bag for that shit).
And don’t even get me started on the Goop-driven obsession with toxicity, fear-mongering gluten-haters, or Law of Attraction apologists.
From where I stand, there’s a great need for a focus on what mindfulness and wellness and your best self is really about- easy steps, simple living, and equal opportunity self care.
With that in mind, here are my tips for wellness and self care on a $0 budget.
Please keep in mind that some are so straightforward and obvious that you will undoubtedly want to throttle me.
- Use Daily Affirmations: Write them, live them, believe them. I don’t frequently use daily affirmations, but there’s one really prominent moment when I did that comes to mind. Sophomore year of college, when I was really struggling with an anorexia relapse, I wrote a ton of personal affirmations reaffirming my belief in my value as a human, my right to exist, and the friendship of the people I cared about, and put them up on the wall over my bed so that I could see them reading in the evening, when I woke up, and when I went to sleep. And other people who came into my room could see them as well. But if you don’t want to have an impromptu paper redecoration, you could also write affirmations in a notebook or on your phone or laptop. After all, the benefit isn’t just seeing the words be there, but also (and more importantly) being the one to give them to yourself.
- Spend More Time Outside: There’s something really regulating about being out of doors, even if you’re in a concrete jungle rather than a natural space. It gives your body a passive way to freshen up- reacting to changes in temperature, the breeze, sunshine, and different smells and textures. Be barefoot on the grass, take a moment in the rain (it’s just water!), and don’t miss out on the cold in winter. It’s as easy as eating outside, sitting on a bench, reading in the sun (and then switching to the shade when it gets too hot), maybe napping?
- Get a Full Night’s Sleep: Speaking of napping (which would be on this list accept I’ve never really figured it out so I can’t recommend it in good conscious)- getting a full night’s sleep and waking up naturally is a great feeling. I have very strong biological rhythms, so I reliably wake up from 5-8 am (depending on my current schedule) without an alarm (both a blessing and a curse). I don’t understand people who have forced their body to acclimate to less than six hours of sleep a night (I generally get about seven). Sleeping costs nothing and it sets you up for a good day- and it’s a fail safe and free way to look glower and more happy. I would much rather be told that I look well-rested than that I look tired (though still no one has told me the former- I’ll have to get more sleep! 😛 )
- Stay Hydrated: Didn’t I tell you you would want to throttle me? How many times have you been told to stay hydrated by someone or other? But do you know why people tell you so much? because it’s true and it’s genius. Water is like medicine and it’s free. Forget detoxing and fasting. Water is what you wash your body with both inside and out. Your kidneys need it to clean your blood. Everything needs it. You know how you can tell if your horse is dehydrated? You give its skin a tug and see how quickly it goes back into place. If it only returns slowly, your horse is dehydrated. Water makes your cells happy.
- Try Meditation: I’ve already gone on the record here about my contentious relationship with meditation, so I’m going to include a quote from my Grandpa Arthur, who is rather further along than I am (and hopefully he won’t mind because I didn’t ask- Grandpa Arthur, if you see this- Surprise!): “The main thing is to not try to do anything at all while meditating. One cannot achieve anything very relevant in life by trying, though we are often taught the opposite. (Turning off the internal chatter is not an objective, but a symptom of a higher state. What you do with internal chatter is observe it without getting hooked to it.) The thing is to just sit there comfortably (with back straight), keep breathing deeply enough to stay well awake without forcing ones breathing, and pay attention without getting stuck with any particular object of attention (a thought, feeling or sensation). It’s like traveling in a train, the landscape goes by, and you see it but you let it flow by without staying with anything in it. The real objective of meditation practice is to learn to live all that arises in life always with a meditative attitude, which in practice amounts to a solid permanent contact between one’s personality (trained, mechanical side, or ego) and one’s essence (innate, conscious side, or soul), so that the first can operate under the control of the second instead of the opposite.” Well said, and though this heat wave has blasted apart my optimistic goal of daily meditation, yoga, and dry brushing, this description gives me some new inspiration and initiative. Plus, it’ll be easier to stay still and silent in this stuporous heat.
- Get Moving: I don’t know that I mean exercise, exactly, but staying in touch with your body is important- how can you take care of it if you’re not in connection with it? I really like words like limber, spry, and agile. So I think those are my fitness goals. Maybe yours are buff, built, and firm. (I’ve never understood the adjective ‘statuesque’- statues can look so much like anything).
Anyway, I think people need to let go of exercise and move toward effort, endeavor, and movement. The term exercise is so wrapped up in feelings of obligation, burden, and compulsion. At the bare minimum, exercise should make you feel good. Give yourself some relief from increasingly sedentary modern life without bullying yourself.
- Keep Calm: Wellness and mindfulness go hand in hand. Unfortunately, with so much attention being paid to the trendy outward signals of wellness, mindfulness is falling by the wayside. Mindfulness is, to me, wellness’ internal aspect, typified by buzzwords like slow and intentional living. Remember to show the same understanding to your mind and emotions that you’re showing to your body. Harder to define and even harder to advise, mindfulness is different for everyone. Try giving yourself some personal time for reflection and introspection. Your connection to the world and the people around you, both known and unknown. One of my favorite places to go for this kind of food for thought is Sadhguru’s youtube channel (a favorite video is here). Added bonus? His voice is super relaxing.
- Feed Your Inner World: In many ways, this blog is a documentation of my obsession with books and movies. I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving them and I credit both (but reading especially) with a lot of the traits that I like best about myself. Movies and books can expand your horizons and your dreams, and apparently books can make you more empathetic and, by extension, compassionate. I thought this was a $0 list, you say? Most of my reading and viewing material comes from my local library- check yours out, they’re a treasure trove.
- Act Kindly: Time for some old-fashioned, trite, PBS Kids-type lesson-learning and moralizing. Being kind to others helps you feel better as a person. Be gentle to animals (Kant: “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals”) and hold doors open. If you’ve watched the recommended Sadhguru video, you’ll be acquainted with the belief that everything is connected. If you like physics better, you’ll know that everything has an equal and opposite reaction. Also, karma’s a bitch. Dorian Gray. All of it. Being kind is its own reward- not necessarily because you will get something back and not because of the satisfaction, but because the world is you.
- Release the Unnecessary: The KonMari Method and related programs have started a bit of a frenzy for streamlined living and ownership, but relinquishing the unessential is a practice that goes back thousands of years. Buddhism teaches that much of life’s suffering is caused by useless craving- because craving never ends and so its satisfaction can never create happiness. You are more likely to be happy and content if you modify your cravings. That’s something I’m working on- and it’s the work of a lifetime (or many lifetimes, when you consider how long Buddhism has been around). But you know that quote- “Happiness is not having what you want but wanting what you have”? That’s part of it. Differentiating between what you need and merely want. Honestly, as I try to boil my belongings down to the things that I value the most, I feel increasingly like a weight is being lifted. Part of what capitalism has done really well is convince us that more is better, but possessions weigh you down. They add complication and choice when frequently we would be much happier with one quintessential perfect piece.
I do still think it’s important to leave room for exploration and discovery, but even that feels more lovely and special when you’re not overwhelmed by new things, when the backlog of possessions isn’t keeping you from seeing and appreciating any one on its own. This is getting really verbose because I’m having a hard time putting into words this thing that I’m only starting to approach understanding, and I apologize for that. But one last thing- maybe it’s about life through your actions and thoughts, as opposed to life through the material things you carry with you.
And I’ll cut myself off there, though I have so many more guesses about what it is I’m trying to verbalize. I think that last point is the one that is really being missed when we look at the wellness industry. Wellness may be a trend, but there must be a reason that the trend is wellness and not something else (like, say, grunge). I’d like to think that part of that is people actually looking for a deeper sense of peace, or self, of connection. But buying scented candles and essential oils and crystals isn’t going to do that. They’re all well and good, but… there’s something else.
I guess the good news is that lots of people since time immemorial have searched for wellness all life long in abject elected poverty and renunciation. So you don’t need the very expensive vitamin test and personalized kit.
Well, this post got much longer and deeper than I was anticipating!
Stay grounded, everyone ❤