The global wellness industry is worth over $4.5 trillion—that’s a lot of skin-care products, yoga mats, and smoothie bowls that purport to make us happier, healthier people. And with goalposts that are so shiny (who doesn’t want to live a longer, better life?), many of us have become all too eager to opt in, filling our carts and schedules with more name-brand leggings, fitness classes, facials, things.
But do these things really make us well? And who is actually benefiting from all the money we’re pouring into the pursuit of well-being?
“I call the capital-w Wellness industry the ‘wealth and hellness’ industry because…it’s not about health and wellness. It’s about money,” author, racial justice educator, and spiritual activist Rachel Ricketts says in the first episode of The Well+Good Podcast.
Yep, we’ve launched our very first podcast. At Well+Good HQ, we spend our days talking to and learning from the most interesting people in wellness—experts, thought-leaders, and celebrities—and now we want you to join the conversation. With each episode, our hosts will dig into the big questions surrounding some of our most clicked-on topics in order to reimagine what it means for you to find well-being.
And because we’re not messing around, we’re starting with a doozy of a question: Are we well? In our first episode, Well+Good General Manager Kate Spies speaks with Ricketts, yogi and best-selling author Jessamyn Stanley, and actress and wellness entrepreneur Kristen Bell about how they define “wellness,” what true well-being looks like for them, and how the whitewashed wellness industry needs to change to become more representative and inclusive.
Which brings us back to Ricketts: “A lot of the ‘wealth and hellness’ that we partake in is very individualistic,” she says. “[It tells us] that we need things outside of ourselves to be well and that’s just not true…I have all the tools that I need [to be well] inside of me, and it’s just a matter of…peeling back the onion [layers] of all of the conditioned bullshit that we’ve acquired and returning to who I really am, who you really are, and an understanding of collective and community care.”
Bell, meanwhile, says it took entering lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to get her to view wellness in a new way. “I feel like the pandemic has certainly opened my eyes to this trial period of what my life would look like if it were a little smaller—and I have really relished in that,” she says. “Self care and wellness can be any little pick-me-up throughout your day. It should be accessible to absolutely everyone. It can be asking for help; it can be listening to a podcast; it can be doing a puzzle. It doesn’t have to be a product. It just has to live by the mantra that, ‘When I am caring for myself, I can better care for those around me.’”
Stanley says she’s noticed a “shift from wellness as a club sport—as a trend—toward wellness as a survival tactic” as well. “This old idea of wellness is not about healing. It’s about painting over,” she says. “And so I think we’re really moving into this space of wellness being about trying to take care of yourself not so that you can live forever or so that you can be like, ‘Look at what a great human I am; look at the great condition that I’m in,’ but literally just so you can survive.”
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. For more wisdom from Ricketts, Stanley, and Bell, you’ll need to tune in to the first episode.