Saturday, 12 January 2019

2019 mood: wellness hoe

Wellness hoe: someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of astrology and all the best brunch locations in town. She knows the names of every employee at her local Lush store and spends her weekends with face masks, candles, and self-help books. She has an enviable Instagram but knows that social media cleanses are the way forward. Most importantly, she takes responsibility for her own health and happiness. I'm writing it into existence: 2019 is the year of the wellness hoe. 


I haven't written out any New Year's resolutions for 2019. I don't believe you have to wait for a new year to start working towards your goals, but it is the ideal opportunity for reflection. This year, I want to dedicate more time to wellness (and dress like a glam rock icon, but that’s a post for another time.) 

Looking back over 2018, wellness definitely started to play a more significant role in my life. This year I want to make a commitment through wellness to a more holistic approach to my own mental health. A lot of the mainstream discourse on wellness ignores the reality of mental illness and chronic pain. It is important to discuss all three together and recognise the intersections that make certain facets of wellness unrealistic whilst others are essentials, not luxuries. However, the aesthetic of wellness does make healthy habits more accessible and appealing, which is a good thing.

Medication and wellness coexist.

People who don’t live with mental illness and haven’t experienced the difficulties of trying to find the right medication and dosage often suggest that you make a choice: healthy living or medication. In reality, quite often, one will not work without the other. Medication can lift you out of depression just enough so that you can start making healthier choices and a healthy lifestyle can increase the positive effects of medication. People who take medication still very much have to do the heavy lifting in recovery.

In 2018 I suffered from chronic mental and physical illness, worse than I have experienced before. It feels like I tried every medication under the sun (an exaggeration, but my different prescriptions were into double figures) and none of them made me feel better. I wish medication worked for me, or at least didn’t make me feel so much worse. I have spent years wishing that it would and each doctor I see ignores the correlation between SSRIs and suicidal thoughts on my medical record and gives me more. If I don’t experience increased suicidal thoughts, I get awful nightmares and night terrors.


I rarely write about my personal experience on medication because you can read enough negative experiences online as it is. Sometimes I worry that I scared myself too much early on by spending hours scrolling through forums filled with horror stories. However, if you are reading this and feel hopeless because nothing has worked for you, know that you are not alone. There are certainly many positive and more balanced/mixed experiences as well, such as in this wonderful post by my friend Lucy.

Perhaps medication will be an option for me someday. I viewed its failure as a personal failure for a long time; an indication that I was incurable. There is no one-size fits all route to becoming mentally healthy. In 2019, I have decided to see my situation as an opportunity to invest in my health in every way possible. Self-destructive behaviours are out. Being a wellness hoe is in.



Do it for yourself, but also for the aesthetic.

On a superficial level, my motivation to pursue the wellness hoe life came from only getting 36% on the Buzzfeed wellness hoe quiz. I can do better. A lot of wellness has a superficial, materialistic exterior, even though it is about private self-improvement. Two of Buzzfeed’s wellness hoe criteria are having poppin’ Insta stories and #aestheticgoals posts.

However, screen time contradicts wellness. Social media increases anxiety and decreases productivity. I still get inspiration from Instagram accounts, but I have deleted the apps off my phone and usually only check on my favourites when I am on social media for work. Spending hours scrolling through social media is toxic. Too often there is pressure for your wellness pursuits to be digestible on Instagram.  In 2019 I want to spend more time living in the real world, not vicariously through someone else’s highlights reel. Do it for the real-life aesthetic, not the hashtag.


Aestheticism is the only thing worth pursuing.

Although the most important aspects of wellness cannot be found in candles and face masks, the wellness hoe aesthetic is what I needed to take responsibility for my health. Sometime late in 2018 I had a realisation that aestheticism is the only thing worth pursuing. My journal is spattered with these kinds of Wildean existential 2am epiphanies, but this one stuck with me. It has helped me find mindfulness on my own terms. In linking my life through the creation of these filmic moments, I find meaning, which brings calm.

There are certainly products that help in creating a feeling of overall wellness. Most of the Christmas gifts I received this year were wellness-related: a diffuser, Pukka tea, a rose quartz facial roller, a Himalayan salt candle holder, lavender spray and face masks. The jury is still out on their long-terms effects, but I have enjoyed starting to integrate them into my life to bring peace.

From years of trying different methods to try and stabilise my mental health, I have realised that professional help is vital, but there is a lot to be said for diet, exercise and mindfulness. As long as they are on your own terms.


This takes time. When a doctor tells you to exercise more and drink less alcohol it seems like an attack on your character. Especially if you know people that drink a lot and never exercise but don’t have depression. These are preventative measures, but when you can’t even get out of bed most days, you might as well be telling someone with a broken leg to just walk it off. I often come away from the doctors feeling so misunderstood that I want to do the exact opposite of what they suggest. It is only through finding what works for me that I have been able to take responsibility for my health and happiness.

On my worst mental and physical health days, going for a run is out of the question, but sometimes I will be able to do an at-home yoga practice. This month I am doing Yoga with Adriene’s 30-Day Yoga Challenge, a tradition that I have followed every January for the past three or four years. So far, it has improved my quality of sleep, reduced my alcohol intake and forced me to give permission to take time for myself each day.


The majority of your serotonin is produced in your gut.

It makes sense that a healthy diet will improve your mood. I don’t believe in dieting or restricting, but I have been doing a bit of research into foods that have been proven to enhance your mood. On bad depression days at uni I mostly lived off toast (which is basically Morrissey’s diet anyway) but I always tried to keep satsumas in my room, so I would at least get some vitamins. Satsumas are also great for mindful eating because the fresh smell stays on your hands, and the process of pealing and separating the segments can be quite calming.

Green vegetables, healthy fats and protein have been proven to improve your mood the most. Good news if you’re like me and could happily eat poached eggs and avocado for every meal of the day. A lot of people swear by a vegan diet to improve mood and overall health. I try to eat mostly vegan foods and replace dairy milk with alternatives, but, having struggled with disordered eating in the past, I find it too restrictive to follow all of the time. Remember that food is to be enjoyed. It can be one of the small pleasures when your mood is low. Savour it.  

The most exciting thing about becoming a self-proclaimed wellness hoe is discovering new wellness restaurants and caf├ęs.

I’m still not quite at the stage of meal-prepping gorgeous bento boxes for my packed lunch. I usually stick to Naked noodle pots. However, on the days when I want to treat myself to lunch out, I have been researching wellness hotspots near where I live/work/study. Maple & co near CSM have an amazing selection of salad boxes. Farmstand in Covent Garden have delicious choices from which you can build your own meal. Closer to where I live in Kent, Basil offers a range of salads and smoothies and I plan to try and arrange more lunch dates there with friends.


Your diet really lays the foundation for your skincare/beauty routine. Magdalena Frackowiak is my skincare icon because she preaches about the importance of not drinking or smoking, but there are numerous photos of her drinking and smoking at parties. Big mood.

Most of my skincare products are from Lush. My favourite is their Mask of Magnaminty, that I use two-three times a week. However, in terms of aesthetics, Herbivore is the quintessential wellness hoe brand. They do everything from day creams and face masks to bath salts and facial rollers, all organic and cruelty-free.

Try using organic products in your baths as part of weekly self-care evenings. I never used to take baths, but I didn’t have one at uni, so now I’m home I really appreciate it. I personally don’t add anything to my baths besides natural salt to care for the itchy skin I get on my legs because I find other products irritate me. However, I have been looking into CBD bath products. I have used CBD oil for anxiety before, but I didn’t take it regularly enough to feel the full effect. Apparently, it’s better if you vape it, but I’m not a fan of vaping anything. Yes, that is just another aesthetic preference. Give me a pretty bath bomb over a vape any day.



Drinking water is so important.

I bought a S’well water bottle last year and it is one of the best purchases I have made. It makes me want to drink a lot of water. I am very aware of how my body feels when I’m dehydrated. Dehydration is a trigger for my chronic pain, so drinking enough water has become a big part of my daily life. Sometimes I wake up feeling like I have a hangover even if I haven’t been drinking the night before and it’s because I didn’t drink enough water.

Often when I’m tired, it’s because I’m dehydrated, so water is a better choice than coffee. I am currently limiting myself to one caffeinated drink a day to reduce my anxiety and improve my sleep. Basically, if you’re reading this, go and pour a big glass of water. I’m going to go and do that now.

Downing pints of water can get boring and, this time of year, it’s cold. Swap water for herbal tea for most of the same benefits. I got Pukka’s Herbal Collection for Christmas includes 3 different types of immunity-boosting, detoxifying, calming teas. They are perfect for helping me achieve my goal of drinking less coffee. I also find myself reaching for herbal tea rather than wine in the evenings now. God, that sentence makes me feel old.


On the topic of alcohol, my main goal this year is to stop feeling guilty for drinking. I want to cut down my consumption of alcohol, which has been happening naturally due to daily yoga and a busy work/studying schedule. I’m not doing Dry January because I think that would set me up for a year of equating drinking alcohol with failure. Alcohol definitely makes my mental and physical health worse, but the anxiety I feel about drinking exceeds the anxiety I get from drinking.

One way to reduce alcohol intake without punishing yourself is to engage in mindful drinking. This is an approach I adopted last year, and it works better certain times than others because your judgement is skewed after a few drinks. However, the principle is that when you drink you ask yourself why you are drinking. For example, if it is because you feel sad then it will be more worthwhile to figure out why you feel that way. Let yourself feel sad, but don’t drink because the sadness will only come back twice as badly in the morning. If it’s because you are at a social event and you want to- pressure from anyone else is not a good reason to- then, sure, enjoy getting drunk. Whatever you decide to do, try not to feel guilty. Sometimes you will drink because you are sad, and it will make you sadder, but that’s ok. It’s normal, and human, to express your sadness in destructive ways as long as you learn from your mistakes as you go and look after yourself.


Hold yourself accountable with regular journaling.

I journal a lot already, but this year I intend to journal more mindfully. I am taking inspiration from the 5-minute journal and YouTubers like Rowena Tsai and Amy Landino. Yoga has taught me the importance of positive affirmations. Saying aloud or writing phrases like I am strong, I am worthy, I am loved etc. can really shift negative thinking into gratitude.


Reading is as important as writing.

The best way to start a new journey in your life is to read about those who have gone before you. I have an ever-growing reading list. Hopefully, spending less time on social media will lead to more time reading.

I am currently reading The Novel Cure which takes two of my favourite things (literature and wellness) and provides a novel to read as a solution to a variety of maladies; from abandonment to zestlessness. It claims to promote bibliotherapy- fixing your anxieties and health problems with novels. I’ll take a big dose of that.

The Wellness Hoe Reading List

Here are 5 books from my reading list that I hope to read this year in order to improve my life.

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It by Kamal Ravikant
In 2011, Ravikant gave a talk to a room of scientists, Pentagon officials, politicians and CEOs. The feedback he received inspired him to write this book. Ravikant says, "The truth is to love yourself with the same intensity you would use to pull yourself up if you were hanging off a cliff with your fingers." Amen to that. Plus, it's free on Kindle.

The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins
I have watched several interviews with Mel Robbins on YouTube. The 5 Second Rule teaches us how to take responsibility for our own lives. Want to wake up at 5am everyday? Count down from 5 then get out of bed. Run 5k? Count down from 5 then go. Ok, it's not always that easy, but the book explains how to make this method work for you.

Light is the New Black is about embracing your uniqueness and embracing feminine energy. This book appreciates the power of authenticity. We all have a unique point of view and things only we can bring to the world.

Last year I went through a phase of watching TED talks when I was at the gym (I know, even I'm shocked that my life once had that level of productivity.) I watched Sarah Knight's 'The Magic of Not Giving a F***.' I would recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it. Manson's book has a similar message. He argues that there are so many things we can give a f*ck about, that we have to make decisions about what is worth our time and energy.

Most people have heard about Kondo's minimalism now. It is about not owning anything that doesn't spark joy. I'm not entirely convinced by minimalism, but I am 100% supportive of only owning beautiful things that bring joy to your life.

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