Mental health awareness week shines a light on the experiences of the 1 in 4 people in the UK who are living with a mental health condition each year. The conversations during mental health awareness week are very much needed; whether to raise awareness, change perceptions, promote accommodations in the workplace or even to push towards mental health parity. It’s a progressive, valuable platform.
The week also provides an opportunity to look at our wellbeing as a whole. Wellbeing as a concept has become very popular in the past decade; and as consumers, we’ve become somewhat obsessed with our quest for it. Google trends show that there are 75% more searches for wellbeing in 2019 than there were in 2004, which reflects findings from 2013 that 74% of consumers think that wellness/wellbeing is going to become more important in the future.
Trend Watching put a name to the wellbeing trend in 2016, defining it as the megatrend of Betterment. They were the first to link the quest for wellness to one that goes far beyond health and towards wider self-actualisation: ‘For many people, physical, mental and emotional peak performance are a fundamental part of self-actualisation. That means they are a fundamental part of how they seek meaning in their lives.’
The wellbeing trend is supported by significant advances in technology, increased awareness of the impact of poor mental health, and the motivations to live a healthy, fulfilled and balanced life (health is the new wealth, after all). Equally, there has been a tidal wave of brands that help you achieve wellness and wellbeing, all at the small price of a product purchase or monthly subscription. Globally, the health and wellness market reached £532bn in 2016 and is expected to grow to £632bn by 2021.
It’s curious, then, that the wellbeing trend sits against a backdrop of rising levels of diabetes, obesity and mental illness; mental health being the very issue it was meant to address in the first place).
So where are we going wrong with our quest for wellness?
The World Health Organisation defines wellbeing/wellness as an optimal state of health: concerning an individual’s health physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, as well as their role in society and fulfilling expectations in their family, community, workplace and environment.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds very complicated to achieve! Research, however, has found that consumers think of wellness as something that only exists in certain places and times. So maybe this is what is fuelling the relentless (often fruitless) pursuit of the state of wellbeing. Consumers believe -we believe – that if we were to do just one more thing, we will get there.
My personal pursuit often goes hand in hand with a stick to beat myself with: when I haven’t met my 10,000 steps for the day, or I’ve ordered a Chinese takeaway. I also attribute my lack of wellness to not having the shiniest running shoes, or not pushing myself for a promotion, or not having the ability to redesign my non-existent spare room into a yoga/meditation space. Thinking about it, I’ve really set myself up to never get there!
Here at Six, to coincide with mental health awareness week, we held a series of wellbeing initiatives which included meditation, hydration stations and a workshop on wellness and productivity. I was expecting the workshop to provide me with ‘10 things I needed to do to achieve the state of wellbeing’, but instead I was asked a question: What is your way of wellness?
The guidance was not to do things or buy things to improve different aspects of my life (which in itself would be exhausting and expensive). Instead, the guidance was to take care of each of them – a much kinder and compassionate prospect.
The realisation that wellbeing is not a destination, but a journey, may sound simple, but it’s something that many people can miss.
Instead of pushing to achieve the state of wellness in the short term, which I believe is where failure often occurs, I propose we change the way we think about our wellbeing. Rather than pushing to achieve it, we make a commitment to it. Let’s help ourselves, our families, friends, employees, employers, clients, brands and the audiences we are trying to engage, to go on the wellness journey rather than promising to take them there. Because, frankly, no one will be arriving there any time soon.