As we move beyond the summer solstice, thoughts of outdoor fun, making time to relax and rejuvenate, and holding gatherings with family and friends fill my imagination (and even my calendar!). However, I’m still enmeshed in an internal conversation about the themes I’ve recently explored in my work and in my writing – how the wellness industry can be so exclusive and what this means for all kinds of communities.
My younger daughter attended a college that, among its many wonderful features, had several-day breaks every month during which students were encouraged to travel, explore nature, volunteer, and hit reset in whatever way made sense. This is great…if you can afford it and if you were brought up to value these things. What about students without the resources (financial and otherwise) to take advantage of this opportunity? Doesn’t feel very inclusive, and actually could be rather stressful and the source of feeling less-than. Ditto all the focus on self-care right now, with an emphasis on taking time and treating oneself to lovely mind/body therapies. While I love all of these things, it strikes me as something available to those of us with the time, funds, seniority, and access to such wonderful comforts.
As I noted in my conversation with the CNN Health reporter (Does GOOP need science when it has Gwyneth Paltrow?”) it is worrisome when we conflate wellness with spending money. The basic principles and tenets of wellness are, by nature, accessible to everyone. Access to the tools needed to live a healthy life is, in my opinion, a human right. However, the explosive growth of the wellness industry and the commercialization of health (in general) have created an environment where the prevailing philosophy is that we can buy whatever we need to make ourselves feel good, supported and whole. It’s imperative that we resist the trends that paint an image of exclusivity – marginalizing those with lesser means or different values – and take intentional steps to remind ourselves of the countless ways we ALL can participate in healthier living.
So, as summer dawns, below are a couple of my favorite FREE (or almost free) things to do to support physical and mental health, commune with nature and people, and build a deep sense of peace and an abundance of energy:
And, while we’re at it, see if you might include people who you don’t generally hang out with – new friends, neighbors, colleagues. Celebrate what they offer to the mix: the sun is out for a while, and we have wonderful opportunities to expand our horizons!