The new wellness craze… spirituality?

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Spirituality is slowly seeping more and more into the instagram wellbeing bubble – I’ve recently heard spiritual wellness coaches like Jody Shield speak at events alongside fitness and nutrition professionals, showing people that spirituality can combine with modern life and isn’t just for hippies in a field dancing naked wearing hemp and sandals.

Former ‘fitness only’ influencers have moved across into yoga, astrology and crystals (quite a few instagrammers, for example) and then there are the public figures like Mel Wells who has moved from food coaching into more of a ‘spiritual wellness’ space having launched her new membership product, The Goddess Collective… Figures like Jasmine Hemsley combine nutrition and Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science)…

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a new wellness craze! But none of these things and ideas are particularly new, it just seems they’re reaching a new market and being taken on by a new ‘generation’ almost…

Wellness and lifestyle bloggers are expanding the areas of content they cover from fitness, fashion, nutrition and health into the spiritual. And I guess that can be quite polarizing for some people, who maybe don’t agree with their ideas, or odd for others who haven’t encountered these ideas yet.

The Big Questions

Religion and myth have been a part of humanity for as long as we’ve been conscious – humans naturally crave explanations for things they don’t understand and the mysteries of the universe.

I’ve been asked recently in a Q&A I did on instagram if I’m religious, and if I think religion and spirituality can help mental health. I didn’t answer it on IG as it needed a fuller post to be honest, it’s a huge topic! So here goes!

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My two cents…

Let’s just get it clear that all of these things are deeply personal and we all have to respect that people won’t always agree…!

I am an atheist. I’ve never believed in a creator god, and still don’t. I was made to go to Christian Sunday school as a kid for a bit, but my parents aren’t really Christians either (my grandmother and former stepmum are) but I never believed in it.

I grew up near Glastonbury and so as a teen discovered paganism and Wicca and dabbled for a while for fun, but never seriously believed in it. Yes, I did a couple of Witchy Rituals following Fiona Horne’s books. It’s funny looking back on it now 🙂 However I did learn loads about the pagan tradition, gods and goddesses in all kinds of different traditions, crystals and new age philosophy, and all that jazz. I first started learning to meditate as a teen but stopped and didn’t come back to it til later in life.

I’ve also, with my other half, rejected a lot of the Glastonbury naval gazing and hippyisms as we’ve witnessed first hand how the lack of responsibility and drug culture can mess up peoples’ lives (particularly kids).

At university through literary criticism I discovered philosophy and found myself to be an existentialist. I don’t believe life has inherent meaning, I believe we create it, and have to work to create it and find meaning in things.

I went to Cambodia and Thailand in one of my uni summers and was OBSESSED with exploring the gorgeous temples of Angkor Wat.

I’ve always been interested in world religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism (and my mum was interest in Buddhism too so I read loads on it as a teenager). I’m fascinated by ancient cultures and indigenous peoples, and love to hear about myths in, for example, Aztec and Mayan traditions, and Japanese and Chinese beliefs.

I got diagnosed with depression in my 20s although I’ve had it my whole life. I remain an atheist and existentialist, but after years of work combining fitness, nutrition, medication and meditation to manage the condition, I started looking wider.

I’ve (in the last year or two) dabbled in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian holistic wellness system (and even did a mini course), I’ve read more widely on meditation, spirituality, Buddhism and mindfulness, and I’ve been part of wellness groups which incorporate spirituality (originally Jody Shield’s Tribe Tonic, which I left, and now Mel Well’s The Goddess Collective which at the time of writing I’m still in).

I’m also fascinated by the commonalities between religions, and the ways in which conquering religions like Christianity used existing Pagan holidays to persuade people to adopt their practices more easily.

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So where are you now? Do you believe in god or a creator? How does it work with your rational logical side? Does it help your mental wellbeing?

I’m still an atheist.

I’m still an existentialist.

I’m also a Scorpio with Capricorn rising…!

Do I rationally and logically believe in astrology? No. Do I match everything my chart says about being a Scorpio with Capricorn rising? Hell yes! Do I enjoy it intuitively? Yes. Is that a bit of a paradox? Probably, yeah! Whatever!

In Ayurveda, I’m very strongly the pitta dosha. Do I believe this is biologically, scientifically a thing? No… but I can still relate to it, enjoy it, use it to derive meaning and adopt self-care practices…

Not everything, for me, now, has to make clinical sense. At one point I’d have rejected all this. But I think it’s totally fine to do your own personal thing.

If I had to be labeled, I’d be nearer a Buddhist as they don’t believe in an active being, or creator.

I think you can create meaning and fun however you want. I enjoy hearing about different cultures’ believes, I enjoy astrology, I may not rationally believe in tarot but why the fuck not if you like that kinda thing?

Keats was a poet who wrote about ‘negative capability’ – the ability to hold two conflicting thoughts and beliefs at the same time, so why not do that?!

I think generally religion is two things – a source of comfort and guidance to people (nothing wrong with that!) and an attempt to explain things that science has not yet been able to. If you want to enjoy the fictions to bring meaning to life – why not?!!

Given that I don’t believe in a god, I don’t exactly have a being I feel comforted by, or ask for guidance from. But my foraging into meditation and Buddhism has definitely helped me get a grip on my brain and managing my thoughts, emotions and moods.

What are your thoughts?

Let me know what you think about how spirituality is really kicking off in the wellness field, and share your beliefs and practices if you feel comfortable!

B x

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The end result of my vegan trial… (flexitarian-ism!)

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So in this post I told you alllllll about how I had watched all these documentaries and for both environmental and ethical-animal-based reasons, I wanted to try being plant-based.

I committed not to the full vegan lifestyle, but to being as plant-based as possible.

It was amazing initially – read the original post for the energy and endurance boost I felt. Then I had a couple of odd symptoms (not the ones you’d expect funnily enough!) and then it was fine again.

I managed to last a couple of months, before landing back at officially flexitarian (eating some meat, some fish, some dairy but aiming to be as plant-based as possible – so I tend to have at least 2 vegan meals a day generally).

Why did I ‘stop’?

The blunt honest truth is I do still agree with the ethics and environmental arguments, but I had to stop for my mental health.

As an ex-ED sufferer, I was aware ‘restrictive’ ways of eating need to be handled with care. I really didn’t think I’d be affected. But I was. I started to get anxious, obsessively check labels, feel sick and jittery around meal times, and obsess about what I could and couldn’t eat. If I had to go out, I’d worry about if I’d be able to eat anything or not.

And while maybe it’s possible to work through these things, given my history, and my on-going story with depression, I decided I didn’t have to be perfect.

I can still aim to eat as little animal produce as possible. To choose clean, ethical beauty and makeup products as much as possible. To help promote healthy plant-based options. I’ve swapped my shakes to vegan protein, converted Boy to almond milk in his lattes, we’re making changes…

But I’m not perfect. I’m not fully vegan. And while I’m sorry I can’t be fully consistent with the fact that I think it’s ideal to be vegan, I feel the need to be selfish and take care of myself on this one.

I hope I’m not letting anyone down, but I wanted to tell it like it is!

Positive lasting effects

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I now do eat pretty much 2 meals a day that are vegan now, we’ve made some permanent swaps, and I’m more aware than I ever was before of the impact of my lifestyle choices.

It also made me make WAY more effort with fruit and veg variation, and getting more colour in my diet definitely felt like it gave my skin, mental clarity and energy levels a boost.

I feel better educated about animal welfare than before, and so I am trying to make more conscious decisions. While I’m not perfect, I’m working to reduce my impact and avoid supporting animal products as much as possible.

I care more about the impact of my lifestyle in other areas and make more effort to reduce plastic and recycle too.

It’s taught me loaaaads of tasty brand new plant-based recipes, and learning about plant-based protein sources has been great nutrition knowledge.

So there have definitely been some positives!

Fundamental philosophy

As my nutritionist and the lovely human being Rhiannon Lambert says, we don’t have to label our food choices.

I firmly believe this. But if I had to technically put a label on it to sum it up for you, I guess you could call me flexitarian.

However, ultimately, you are unique and need to do what works for your mind, body, ethics, all that good stuff. So don’t stress! Let’s support each other in making incrementally better choices for the planet, but also support good physical and mental health in others, whatever that may look like, and try not to judge others’ diets.

What about you guys, how do you try to live consciously while balancing your own physical and mental health?

B x