2.9#6 Documentary

Documentary: What on earth is wellness

Produced: British Vogue

Commentator/Main figure: Camille Rowe


This documentary, a personal favourite of mine due to the topic and science involved, follows the journey of French/American Model Camille Rowe, by British Vogue, around LA searching for the meaning of “wellness.” She visits the office of meditation app Headspace, talks to neurosurgeons, crystals healers, nutritionist and therapists as well as going to a communal hiking group, a therapeutic dance groups and gets an MRI scan (Magnetic Resource Imaging) of her brain. British Vogue has made this entire project to get to the bottom of what real wellness of the mind, body and spirit is, and what we can do in order to not fall into the trap of the wellness industry; while providing real solutions in order to live a more holistically happy life. Some of the topics discussed in the documentary are, how the idea “wellness” has become capitalised by different industries, how the idea of wellness should have a more holistic approach, and the benefits of mediation on the mind and body.

The documentary starts off with a short monologue by Camille as she talks about her frustration with the “wellness” industry, and all the misleading information surrounding these. Camille talks about how she is fully aware of her own buying into the nonsense of these companies, getting anything that her friends recommend, simply in the name of health. As a personal journey she wishes to have a larger and better understanding of what wellness is an how to achieve it, without the commercialisation that LA is filled with. One of the first people she meets with is Dr. John. W. Travis who has studied the idea of wellness for more than forty years. “I’ve been fighting a thirty year battle in order to promote this positive idea of wellness out into the world…Now if you search up wellness, you get a dog food brand,” this quote from Dr. Travis shows us how he has seen the adjustment from the early 1970’s to now in the idea of wellness, and how it has become a sellable product rather than an idea of betterment. The two discuss the wider world problems that most people are facing when it comes to being healthier. The fact that we are one: inundated with information and two: that this information is given to you as a capsule or a tea, an advertisement sold to you by your favourite celebrity, and three: that we are still not there yet, even with modern advancements, toward the idea of overall wellness that was set out in the late fifties. From this interview I learnt about how the idea of wellness was first talked about in the late fifties but was first made its into “wellness clinics” in the late 70’s. In Dr. Travis’s  words, “we began to see health as not simply the absence of sickness,” he and Camille talk about how there a four pillars of health. Social, meaning your connection with friends and family and your ability to have good social interactions that benefit you mentally. The mental emotional, meaning maintaining a reasonably stable emotional state in which you are able to process your emotions in a safe and healthy way’ allowing yourself to be sad and angry and happy and to grieve when need be, but to be able to acknowledge this and move forward with your life. The physical, this is the one that most of the wellness industry works off; and this is where you fuel your body with food that is wholesome and will give you the right chemicals in order to function and having a regular exercise program to keep muscles healthy and happy. The last pillar is spiritual. This can be religious or not, it simply means to have a faith in something whether it be a god, a spirit, crystals or science. The idea of these pillars is to have a balanced connection with yourself and those you surround yourself with. The documentary aims to educate those who view it on the information regarding these pillars of connection, opening up their audience to the choices for mental, emotional, physical, social and spiritual health. “I summarise all my work in six words..The currency of wellness is connection.” – Dr. Travis. I found that I strongly agreed with the idea of pillars of connection and the breaking down of the idea of wellness to incorporate more idea than simply the physical aspect, this opinion came easily as the information presented in the documentary is able to teach viewers, myself included, about topics such as holistic health in a interesting way. 

Along her journey Camille also stops into the office of the app “Headspace.” This is a meditation app the was created by Andy Puddicombe, an Englishman who went to tibet in his late twenties in order to become a monk. Coming back he wanted to bring the benefits of meditation to people’s everyday lives in a convenient manner; so that the benefits were widely available and easy to incorporate into daily routines. Andy, and now his team, have developed the globally used app with mediation run-throughs and goals, so that learning to meditate is easier. Andy and Camille talk about the difference between meditation and being mindful, before we then go and see this research backed up by neuroscience. “Mindfulness is being present, being in the moment..practising this and becoming more aware, this is what meditation is,” This is a quote from Andy is his own simplified description of the important differences he sees between mediation and mindfulness. A practise such as mediation, is to help people become more aware and more present in their waking moments, rather than being distracted, their minds somewhere else. Camille uses her own experience with mediation and her personal struggle to stick with the practise in order to have Andy share some more knowledge in the subject. When told this is a very common problem, I as the audience can share in this experience with Camille of how I may have struggled with meditation or how generally many do not fully understand the concept, making the information then given more useful and even more intriguing. The solution he provides is called coupling. This where you place two ideas together or two activities in order to remember to carry out meditation. For example meditation and drinking your morning tea, or having your shower. This means that the practise is non time specific, but you will likely still have your cup of tea or have your shower, meaning that you will still carry out your meditation that day. This information is beneficial and, as the app is meant to be, easy to implement; it’s information that is useful to the audience, whether they are entirely new to the concept of meditation or learning more. After her talk with Andy Puddicombe, Camille turn to the UCLA campus in order to look into the science behind a physically healthy mental state and the physical benefits of meditation. “Those kinds of mindfulness practices have been associated with increased well being. It actually changes the expression of DNA in our cells, and can actually alter your responses to stress, and can ‘quiet down’ the signals that make you feel bad.” That is a quote from Dr. Robert Bilder (Professor in chief of medical psychology – neuropsychology), talking about the physical changes that mediation can bring. He introduces a scientific approach to the concept of mindfulness and the benefits that they see in people, both in their physical and mental state. I found that this documentary went on to present findings in more ways than one, it chooses different ways in which to appeal to its audience, backing up the science with a more personal connection and vice versa; this method leaves little skepticism and maybe leaving people more readily able to accept the information presented to them.

One of the main themes that I saw was returned to throughout this documentary is the fact that the concept of “wellness” has become capitalized and industrialised for public consumption. “ There are positives and negatives. You’ve got to generate income, and I don’t blame people for that…However now that the word is popular you get everything.” This comes from Dr. Travis again, talking about the rise in the commercialisation of the word and idea of wellness. He mentions dog food brands and wellness shops on every street corner of LA, and that’s because this word has been coined for use for anything, even things that are not healthy or serve no purpose. Products that fall under this guise, and simply contribute to the information overload that has fueled the industry, are products like bespoque diets and crash course exercise programs, as well as supplements and cleanses. Sure, not one way of lifestyle will help every single person, however adding the name wellness to a juice or a burger does not necessarily make that product any better for you, and this is what is currently on the market for the everyday person. Camille goes to crystal healers in order to have her aura cleansed. This practise seems silly to most and has proven to do nothing to  affect physical health, meaning that for most people it will fall under the commercialism guise. For some people however, the placebo from this kind of practise does provide mental rest and betterment, and is  a practice that even Neuroscientist Dr. Robert Bilder says may be helpful to those who fully embrace the concept and believe that this crystals will give them the ‘energies’ that they are sold to them as. This is an example of commercialism that is either harmless or positive in almost every respect, providing a happier lifestyle to those it does impact. Supplements are another and more sinister part of the commercialism of wellness. Diet supplements saying it will give you immunity boats and adrenal rest and turmeric pills for ‘wellness’, line the cabinets of our host Camille’s kitchen cupboards. The Documentary brings in Dr. Molly Maloof (personalised health practitioner) to talk about these supplements and how they are definitely false advertising and are a bad side of the industrialised wellness community. Most of the supposed benefits of most basic supplement and vitamin pills can be provided for through diet. Having more leafy greens, higher fibre fruits, more whole grains, can provide all the chemicals and supposed things needed into our diets in order to be physically healthy. Obviously prescription medication is sometimes necessary, what Dr. Molly Maloof is referring to is the self medicating and the promoting of products that are not needed in the average diet of most people. This themes of the documentary is referenced and talked to by both degree holding health professionals, as well as chefs, crystal healers and gym owners. It’s the main cause for this documentary and collaborations and collecting of information that make it; the fact that commercialised wellness has been distorted to show a view that we need increased methods and various products in order to be happy inwardly and outwardly. Research is being done into certain aspects of wellness, such as meditation, but increased industrialising in false information in for our physical betterment is hindering the bringing forward of real findings. From a wider world perspective, this information is readily available to anyone who wishes to have it, and is able to provide actual solutions to those who watch it. This documentary has been created to bring all of it to a  more accessible platform, to an interested audience, the professional filming and tying in of a well known model draw in a captivated crowd for long enough to leave them with more information on a topic that does affect everyone.

We the viewers of this content are able to find what we need in order to bring positive change into our lives through the information learned in this documentary. This “What on earth is wellness” documentary created by British Vogue and hosted by Camille Rowe, I believe is an innovative modern collection of knowledge, created for youth and all those interested in free information on something we should all know more about. We learn about more topics than the ones I have discussed and are given more than just the opinions of doctors, some that even contradict each other, leaving me once again to have to form an opinion that will be my own, but still a better informed one than before. Ultimately I think that this documentary is a film that is beneficial for the youth of today to learn from, and about practises they may not have heard of before and to have their misconceptions around others squashed. “ Wellness represents loving yourself, being kind to yourself, in a balanced way.”

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