By Chloe Hardy
From the peace and love movement of the sixties and seventies to #vanlife, our idea of wellness is constantly being reshaped. And rightly so, as we struggle to keep up with the ever-quickening pace of daily life, social media niggles and money worries. Is it any wonder that millennials are spending more money on coffee than ever before? But as our expectations, values and spending habit evolve, so do our wellness habits. Aside from treating yourself to the occasional €4 cup of speciality coffee, here’s what else has changed.
Then: Going to the Spa
I’ve never really been one for spas myself, but I hear it goes something like this: Pay lots of money, enter a lovely, relaxing place with lots of swimming pools, being handed a white fluffy robe by a nice-smelling lady which you’ll wear for the rest of the day and then indulge in massages, beauty treatments and lots of hot-tub time, feeling the stress melt away until the spa closes at 6pm and you’re forced to leave. Ahhh…
For most people, the sauna is the worst part of going to the spa. It’s really hot, you get all sweaty and feel like you might faint. Your skin goes all red and blotchy until you look like you’ve got some sort of disease. But hang on, what’s that? We’ve been doing it wrong the whole time? Unlike the good people of Scandinavia and mainland Europe, us Brits don’t know how to do a good sauna. What’s all the rage on the continent right now is Sauna Aufguss, which involves going to a sauna (much larger than the 6m sq. faint-boxes we’re used to) and watching ‘Sauna-meisters’ infuse invigorating scents around the room via rituals involving wet towels, flags or tree branches. Some of them will even sing or do dance routines for you. Yes, in the sauna. Taking things a step further is SALT in Oslo, Norway, whose 100-person sauna looks out over the Nordic sea and is the location for events such as poetry readings, performance art and live music. It may sound like a one-way ticket to blacking out, but apparently, in the current ‘loneliness culture’ we live in, the social aspects of going to the sauna help us to feel happier and more socialised, as well as reap all the other health benefits saunas provide. When used properly, of course.
Check out SALT in Oslo and giant sauna experience, Loyly in Helsinki so ensure your next trip to Scandinavia is a good one. In Morzine, check out the incredible views from SKP Ski’s Chalet Chelmer’s six-person sauna (pictured) or the luxurious spa facilities at Chalet Hotel La Marmotte in Les Gets. You’re unlikely to see a poetry reading, but you’ll feel relaxed and pampered nonetheless.
Then: Feng Shui
An ancient Chinese philosophy used to determine where tombs, homes and significant structures would be placed, the art of Feng Shui was butchered in the late ‘90s when housekeeping and teen magazines tried to dupe women and girls into believing their lives would be blissfully enriched by moving their furniture around. I mean, we all feel better after de-cluttering our work and living spaces, but… no. Just, no.
Now: Wellness Architecture
Much easier to stomach than Feng Shui, wellness architecture is as simple as it sounds: much-needed architecture optimised for human health, comfort, wellbeing and productivity, whether it be a workplace, school, hospital or luxury retreat. The International WELL Building Institute has developed standards for buildings to meet, so new spaces can be designed for optimum natural light, clean air circulation, comfort and energy, while the Well Living Lab conducts research into what makes buildings healthier (and more pleasant) places to be in. Things to look out for include special energy-generating algae embedded into walls, buildings designed to get us moving around more and better acoustics for a more stress-free environment. Emphasis is also put on using greener materials to build and design with, so we’re not being sealed into toxic box of air pollution when we’re at home or work.
Hotels and wellness retreats are at the forefront of healthy architecture and design, and there are some right here in the Alps! Check out Six Senses Courchevel or Alpine Lodges for something a little closer to home. You can also check out local interior architects Shep&Kyles (pictured) who will optimise the space in your renovation or new build, the Alpine way.
Then: Being a Weed-smoking Hippy
It used to be that the path to mental enlightenment involved running off to join a hippy commune with a random man you met at an Eric Clapton concert, where you could stick it to The Man by wearing flowers in your hair, taking copious amounts of drugs and living off your commune’s smallholding. And that’s good while it lasts, but the financial boom of the ‘80s proved to many that money was more important than freedom.
Now: Cannabis-infused Health and Beauty Products
Now that weed has been legalised in a few US states, its health benefits are starting to emerge on a mainstream scale. And if you want to make the most of them without having to choke on a bong, get the munchies and fall asleep in a pile of crisp crumbs, pot-infused beauty products could be right up your street. Most of these products, such as soaps, moisturisers, essential oils and food supplements contain the nice part of cannabis, CBD, which helps with issues such as insomnia, stress and chronic pain. They contain minimal amounts of THC, the psychotropic part of the plant, meaning they won’t make you high, but are completely legal. Most products you can buy in Europe are infused with hemp oil although Canadian company, MOTA (which, fun fact, is Mexican slang for weed) makes THC-infused soaps and other products. Oh, and, most CBD-infused products are organic and made with natural ingredients. Win, win.
Make bath-time even more relaxing, check out Carun and The Hemp Shop – even The Body Shop has a range of hemp products.
Then: Self-help Books
Another good example from the ‘90s is that episode of Friends when Rachel quotes a feminist self-help book to Ross: ‘“How am I supposed to grow if you won’t let me blow?”’ As with saunas, I’m not really one for self-help books, but ’90s TV and film does a great job of summarising them; books by self-proclaimed ‘gurus’ that help you find love by advising you to alter your personality in order to seduce the opposite sex, or promote ‘the power of positive thinking’ to help cure your crippling depression and feelings of inadequacy. Generally with no scientific evidence other than the experiences of the person who wrote the book…
Now: Evidence-based Techniques for a Healthier Mind
Now, I haven’t read all the self-help books in the world, so I’m not saying they’re all terrible, although the last ten years has seen a surge of people coming around to evidence-based books by actual real scientists, or people who aren’t scientists but have consulted real scientists and done a lot of scientific research. These books are constantly topping best-seller lists and contain tips, instructions and examples that help us train our minds and improve our focus, memory, productivity and stress levels. After all, we train our bodies to be fit, strong and healthy, why should we leave our brains to get rotten and flabby while we stress out at work, binge on Netflix and mindlessly scroll through Facebook, dead-eyed and flappy-jawed? The best thing is that training your brain doesn’t have to take up all your time, as stated by psychologist Richard Wiseman’s 59 Seconds and Ruby Wax’s A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled (see our Summer 17 issue for a full review), which is based on the legitimately successful Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).
Other books to check out include Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist, Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit and Mark Williams and Danny Penman’s Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world.