Democratising wellness

Health is the new wealth and wellness has become a members’ club for the well-off, a new way to exhibit our affluence and brag about how well we’re winning at life.

But health shouldn’t have to be a luxury. And there’s a huge opportunity for brands to make wellness more inclusive, accessible and easy to understand. Achieving this can be as simple as a walk in the park. Literally.
The Daily Mile initiative encourages kids to get out of the classroom for 15 minutes of extra exercise, every day, no matter the weather. With no gym kit needed to participate, it’s all about getting on with getting active and reducing the barriers to doing so. The scheme that began in a primary school in Stirling has now gone international and even big businesses are taking note. Scottish Power implemented its own version of the scheme, albeit taken at a walk not a run, to improve workplace wellness.

It’s these local movements, begun by people that truly know the community they serve, that are key to the democratisation of wellness. Take Brooklyn café Heal Haus. The founders wanted to open an inclusive, community orientated space that was just as accessible to teenage fans of LeBron James as it was to reiki regulars and cranio-sacral therapy experts. From playing R&B music to running workshops on a pay what you can afford basis, the wellness café wants to bring people in through the doors that would otherwise be convinced that wellness just wasn’t for them.
In London’s Shoreditch, Self Space is similarly seeking to create a wellness offering that feels approachable. The brand seeks to open up the conversation on mental health, with counselling services in a space more akin to a vintage store than a doctor’s office. The emphasis is on everyday mental maintenance, positioning the service as a treat rather than a trial, a gift to yourself that’s just like having a chat with a friend. Granted, a very well qualified friend. You can even share the love via gift cards and purchase sessions for others, normalising mental health care by treating it more like going to the spa.

With 1 in 4 of us experiencing mental health problems each year, there’s a growing need to offer genuine support. And while not everyone has a hipster counselling space handy, brands can use digital platforms to make their wellness services accessible to those further afield. Text service Shine taps into the demand for trustworthy support that ultimately feels like it comes from a friend. Texts range from inspirational Beyoncé GIFS to daily motivational messages. The brand has made a real effort to be representative, using imagery of all genders, races, and body types and ensuring a large proportion of the audio offerings are recorded by women of colour, a highly overlooked demographic. Shine has seen 30 per cent month-over-month growth, mainly due to word of mouth, attesting to the strength of its approach.
In other contexts, providing wellness services is about addressing much more basic needs. When you can’t even shower in safety, wellness takes on a whole new significance. In response to the conditions in the Moira refugee camp, where women couldn’t go to the toilet at night without risking harassment or sexual violence, Showers For Sisters teamed up with Lush to ensure the most basic needs were attended to, in a dignified way. This was more than a mere sanitation project, Showers For Sisters created a space for relaxation, prayer and exercise in a place where a safe space was needed in the most literal understanding of the phrase.
Ultimately, people want to be happier and healthier, but need a helping hand to make the healthy choice an easy one. The way is open for brands to bridge this gap.
Images courtesy of Unsplash, Heal Haus and Shine.

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