Forget ‘well-being,’ it’s now ‘wellness’Bring back the fat and fun! More and more people are moving away from the culture of self-denial that was part of the so-called “well-being” craze and opting for a slightly more indulgent lifestyle, termed “wellness.”
Over the past few years, the influence of the well-being craze meant that many Koreans of all ages turned to a healthier diet and regular exercise. But now, well-being has given way to “wellness” ― a combination of “well being” and “happiness.”
It refers to a lifestyle that focuses on mental comfort and happiness, while well-being focuses more on physical health. From restaurant menus to new lifestyle trends, savoring the moment has become the rule.
This means that levity has become important in the workplace, as well as outside it, while people also seek to indulge in food and exercise in a fun and upbeat way.
As soon as she arrives at work, Jinhee Kim, a director at the U.S. public relations company Incomm Broder, logs onto the company’s online humor Web site. She spots a new article titled, “Time to Take Your Medicine.” This is a witty parody about a well-known cough medicine, vitamins and other pharmaceutical products sold at local drug stores. The Web site also contains hilarious photos, humorous comics and cartoon strips.
As she browses through the various articles posted on the site, Ms. Kim can’t contain her laughter. She looks around and finds she’s not the only one. All around her, Ms. Kim’s colleagues are giggling or trying to suppress their laughter. Soon, people start to chortle out loud, and the laughter becomes contagious.
Working in public relations is a demanding job, requiring a lot of night shifts and occasional company drinking sessions. The firm has a program called “Stress 119,” in which workers can report a stressful incident to an in-house group dedicated to making people laugh. The group then gives out “prescriptions” based on the stress that the employee feels.
For example, on April Fool’s Day, the president of the company issued a promotion, thrusting an entry-level employee into an executive position. The news shocked the company’s employees for a day. All were then told it was a hoax, giving everyone a good laugh.
Kim Min-young, leader of the in-house “laugh patrol,” said, “Laughter is a way to overcome stress, and it is a source of ideas and the very first step toward wellness.”
Joseph Lee, director of the Korea Laughter Institute, said, “There are statistics to prove that [as laughter increases] divorce rates decrease by half and labor-management conflicts decline by one-third. If you want to succeed in life, make it a habit to laugh and do it on purpose if you must.”
Not just laughter, but also enjoying food, is a big part of practicing wellness. Hale Sofia Schatz, a nutrition educator who operates an obesity prevention program at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital in the United States, asserts that eating what one desires is a way to cleanse the body. She does not approve of people starving themselves or depriving themselves of good food.
By eating fresh vegetables and fruits, carbohydrates and meat, one can get rid of the toxins and wastes that have accumulated in the body, she contends. Dr. Schatz says suppressing one’s desire to eat is not the answer to a healthier life.
As more and more wellness seekers emerge, the food culture is slowing changing. The number of well-being followers who are vegans, eating only vegetables, is now on the decline. Instead, pescatarians, those who eat seafood as well as vegetables, and ovolacto-vegetarians, those who eat both eggs and dairy, are increasing. There are also new terms, such as semi-vegetarians, for people who eat meat once in a while. To cater to the increasingly sophisticated tastes of the wellness seekers, fast food companies and other food manufacturers are rushing to produce new products.
The attitudes incorporated in the wellness trend also apply to exercising.
Shin Bo-gyeong, 28, an investment banker, recently quit her fitness club, where she had been working out diligently by running four kilometers (2.5 miles) per day, doing 10 kilometers on the bicycle, exercising with barbells and doing bench presses. Ms. Shin said she got fed up with the boring exercises.
To stay fit, Ms. Shin has opted instead to take jazz dance classes. Although jazz dance is a heavy workout, she does not mind because she finds it pleasurable. “If working out feels like doing your homework, then it’s just not worth it,” she said.
Ms. Shin is also a swimming enthusiast, but that doesn’t mean she pushes herself too hard by doing endless laps. She swims only as long as she wants to. She especially likes to go swimming when she’s got a lot on her mind. Ms. Shin says an adequate amount of exercise helps her regain her concentration.
When Ms. Shin goes jogging, she goes with her friends. She believes that exercise should be a time in which to relax physically as well as mentally, and she finds it more refreshing to work out with friends. She also does not abstain from eating greasy foods such as pork and hamburgers. Her secret to healthy living is eating what she feels like eating.
Well-being seekers generally jog for the sake of health and abstain from eating junk food, but wellness seekers like Ms. Shin focus on enjoying exercise and good food for their own sakes.
Businesses are also taking this opportunity to target wellness customers. Kolon Group recently introduced a “Wellness Plus” strategy in their businesses, using organic materials in the chemical textile business unit and creating “health apartments” through their construction business unit. Wal-Mart Korea has created a “wellness” corner in its supermarkets, selling vitamins, herb tea, wine, aromatics and yoga books.
Advertising executive Lee Yong-chan also is an opera singer. He started taking singing lessons as a hobby, but he finds that singing has enabled him to make better presentations to clients. He has even installed a grand piano and a karaoke machine in his office.
“If you sing with a joyful heart, then it will lead to more creative thinking,” he said.
by Lee Hoon-beom