Wellness advice is great… but it’s not everything.
Books and social media open up new information about health and wellness, they hold power in their words and imagery and let us learn in ways we never could have before, but for someone struggling with chronic illness, there lies a danger in how we consume this information, and how this information, eventually, consumes us.
I LOVE self-help books. I’d say they make up about 90% of my bookshelf. If you took a look at my amazon shopping list, you’d see that I have not held back on my “fix my entire being” literature adventures over the last few years, but recently I can’t help but notice how overwhelming it has all become and why I needed to take a big step back.
My experiences with illness taught me an important lesson, that fixing myself isn’t the answer to being happy. No matter what treatment, what diet or how many supplements I take, they will not lead me to the sort of happiness I dream of.
These books explore the idea that the wellness industry, and the way we approach it, may actually be making us feel worse.
Cold-pressed juices, “clean” eating, colonic vacations, mindfulness apps, and Paleo: health-care trends and miracle diets seem to be more plentiful each year. But do any of these tactics actually work? What does “wellness” even mean?
In Wellmania, longtime journalist Brigid Delaney tackles the good, the bad, and the just-a-little-ridiculous of the wellness industry, using herself as the guinea pig. Starting with a brutal 101-day fast, she leaves behind her thirty-something-year-old lifestyle of late-night parties and all-day hangovers to test the things that are supposed to make us healthy and whole: yoga classes, meditation, CBT, Balinese healing, silent retreats, group psychotherapy, and more. Writing with self-deprecating wit and refreshing honesty, she sorts through the fads and expensive hype to find out what actually works, while asking, What does all this say about us? Is total wellness even possible? And why do you start to smell so bad when you haven’t eaten in seven days? According to comedian Judith Lucy, the result is “a bloody entertaining read that leaves you wondering whether you want to do yoga or get mindlessly drunk and despair at the state of the world.”
How have we messed up our relationship with food and exercise so badly? Despite an explosion in the number of gyms, health foods, and activewear, we are more obese, less active, more stressed than ever before.
We obsess over looking healthy, but our health is getting worse. Why did we start equating beauty with health? And is it possible to be fit and fat?
Equipped with Instagram accounts and blogs, online ‘wellness experts’ lead an army of followers towards what is labeled ‘health’ but might actually be far from it. We photograph ourselves and our food but aren’t sure whether we like the images until someone else ‘likes’ them first. It seems all this health and wellness is making us unhappy, poor and pretty unhealthy instead.
Heart surgeon and health commentator Dr Nikki Stamp unpicks the web of online pseudoscience and urges us to take back our health from the people who don’t value it as much as we do. She explores the secret of long-term motivation for healthy diet and exercise and shares the scientific value of self-kindness for true physical and mental health.
‘Women are in pain, all through their bodies; they’re in pain with their periods, and while having sex; they have pelvic pain, migraine, headaches, joint aches, painful bladders, irritable bowels, sore lower backs, muscle pain, vulval pain, vaginal pain, jaw pain, muscle aches. And many are so, so tired … But women’s pain is all too often dismissed, their illnesses misdiagnosed or ignored. In medicine, man is the default human being. Any deviation is atypical, abnormal, deficient.’
Fourteen years after being diagnosed with endometriosis, Gabrielle Jackson couldn’t believe how little had changed in the treatment and knowledge of the disease. In 2015, her personal story kick-started a worldwide investigation into the disease by The Guardian; thousands of women got in touch to tell their own stories and many more read and shared the material. What began as one issue led Jackson to explore how women – historically and through to the present day – are under-served by the systems that should keep them happy, healthy and informed about their bodies.
Pain and Prejudice is a vital testament to how social taboos and medical ignorance keep women sick and in anguish. The stark reality is that women’s pain is not taken as seriously as men’s. Women are more likely to be disbelieved and denied treatment than men, even though women are far more likely to be suffering from chronic pain.
In a potent blend of personal memoir and polemic, Jackson confronts the private concerns and questions women face regarding their health and medical treatment. Pain & Prejudice, finally, explains how we got here, and where we need to go next.
Underwhelmed by your ordinary existence? Disillusioned with your middlin’ wage, average body, ‘bijou’ living situation and imperfect loved ones?
Welcome to the club. There are billions of us. The ‘default disenchanted’.
But, it’s not us being brats. Two deeply inconvenient psychological phenomenons conspire against our satisfaction. We have negatively-biased brains, which zoom like doom-drones in on what’s wrong with our day, rather than what’s right. (Back in the mists of time, this negative bias saved our skins, but now it just makes us anxious). Also, something called the ‘hedonic treadmill’ means we eternally quest for better, faster, more, like someone stuck on a dystopian, never-ending treadmill.
Thankfully, there are scientifically-proven ways in which we can train our brains to be more positive-seeking. And to take a rest from this tireless pursuit. Whew.
Catherine Gray knits together illuminating science and hilarious storytelling, unveiling captivating research showing that big bucks don’t mean big happiness, extraordinary experiences have a ‘comedown’ and budget weddings predict a lower chance of divorce. She reminds us what an average body actually is, reveals that exercising for weight loss means we do less exercise, and explores the modern tendency to not just try to keep up with the Murphys, but keep up with the Mega-Murphies (see: the social-media elite).
Come on into this soulful and life-affirming read, to discover why an ordinary life may well be the most satisfying one of all.
Our obsession with being healthy and living forever has driven us to push our bodies to the absolute limits, but still every year we’re being told how unhealthy we are as a population. Despite a wealth of information at our fingertips, there are still so many things we get wrong about food and health. The No Need To Diet Book explains the reasons why diets and over-exercising don’t work; the problems with eating for aesthetic goals; the science behind orthorexia, food anxieties, and emotional eating, and other unhealthy habits formed by misinformation. This book will challenge our misconceptions about what is healthy, and get to the heart of it using evidence-based science.
In 2001, Toni Bernhard got sick and, to her and her partner’s bewilderment, stayed that way. As they faced the confusion, frustration, and despair of a life with sudden limitations—a life that was vastly different from the one they’d thought they’d have together—Toni had to learn how to be sick. In spite of her many physical and energetic restrictions (and sometimes, because of them), Toni learned how to live a life of equanimity, compassion, and joy. This book reminds us that our own inner freedom is limitless, regardless of our external circumstances.
Updated with new insights and practices hard-won from Toni’s own ongoing life experience, this is a must-read for anyone who is—or who might one day be—sick or in pain.
What’s your favorite not-self-help book?