While wellness is now part of our everyday vocabulary, its meaning still doesn’t spill off the tongue. Today’s interpretation can run into every aspect of our daily lives – from wellness retreats and drinks to food (maybe we will soon be wellnessing our wardrobes, too); it's becoming more of an overarching concept than a one-trick pony.
It is perhaps unsurprising that wellness packages are now popping up all over the spa world, while a certain spa company has even named its spa magazine Wellness.
But what exactly is it? A New Age fad? An umbrella term for alternative medicine, health foods and yoga? A load of hokum? Or the answer to all our emotional and health issues? The answer is probably yes to all of the above.
According to the World Health Organisation, wellness is a state of complete physical, mental, and social-wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity. Very simply, in order to feel the best we can, we need to focus on all aspects of our lives: emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social and environmental, instead of just the physical.
Wellness from a spa perspective is a more integrated way of feeling fabulous. Spas that focus on wellness often employ a team of experts to help you design your own personal package, from nutritionists to look at your diet to life coaches and therapists to explore lifestyle options. Or they may just run yoga and meditation classes on top of being more environmentally, and nutritionally, aware.
What is really different about the wellness trend, as opposed to a standard detox, is the concept that spas aren’t just places where you escape the stresses and strains of everyday life, but where you can begin to make changes that will help you manage those stresses beyond your visit.
Wellness: the low-down
If you make a list of wellness attributes and rate them one to ten, you may find that some need attention. That’s normal – like Enlightenment, Wellness is a state of being and one you’ll only fully achieve in this life if you’re a god. Trying is the key though, with six main areas to consider:
Physical: Physical wellness is holistic; not just about exercise and eating less, but eating foods that are good for us and the planet. Ditto whatever we put on our skin. Products such as Spiezia and Bamford are not just organic and natural, but sustainable. Many spa menus carry superfoods, raw foods and smoothies, and more and more offer bespoke nutritional advice from in-house experts. More spa pools are ozone-friendly, while yoga classes and outdoor exercise are also rising in popularity.
Emotional: Recognising the link between emotional and physical health, a good wellness spa will have been designed to feel nurturing: for example, post-treatment relax rooms with cocoon pods where you can curl up. Aqua Sana spas also have experience rooms for meditation or colour therapy. More spas offer yoga and meditation classes, both of which have been shown to relieve stress, anxiety and depression. Eastern massage techniques claim to find inner balance as well as soothe aching muscles: whatever their claims, a great massage (especially reflexology) can unblock difficult emotions. And it’s normal to have a little cry.
Spiritual: By spiritual we mean whatever taps into the part of you that is inexplicable, beautiful, even, and somehow makes you feel able to cope with things better. You will have noticed meditation classes springing up at many spas – these can facilitate spiritual connection.
Environmental: In studies carried out by mental health charity MIND, our relationship with our environment also has positive consequences for our sense of wellbeing. Spas with beautiful views, outdoor spaces or those which creatively bring the outdoors in (or vice versa) are inspiring as well as calming or uplifting. Some spa menus are plucked direct from their own organic gardens, others have non-chlorinated pools, solar heating and sustainable credentials to make us feel extra special, while sipping bubbly in a hot tub…
Intellectual: While spa and academia seem a tad oxymoronic, a wellness spa will rally a team of experts to educate and inform us in the ways of living a better life, be they nutritionists, dermatologists, therapists or out-and-out gurus. Wellness is about being aware, informed and empowered to make our own choices about what we eat, what treatments to have, which products to use and how we respond to – and affect – our environment. In this respect, wellness is a philosophical approach.
Social: One of the most important aspects of our wellbeing and happiness is in our relationships. Use a spa to enhance your friendships or marriage (tried a couples massage yet?) or join one of the classes on offer and meet like-minded spa-istas.
If you are still with us – and haven’t wandered off to pour yourself a large, dry Martini – then you’re probably already half-way there.