Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
The domestic stasis of lockdown has for many ignited a new zeal for wellness. Whether it’s baking, walking or running, taking up arts and crafts or spending more time in nature- for those privileged enough to enjoy lockdown in relative stability, distraction has come in the form of decidedly wholesome pursuits. This is no bad thing: there are obvious benefits for mental and physical health, for the planet, for encouraging new hobbies and habits. But let us not forget, as we start to inch closer back towards the slightly less languorous pace of our pre-lockdown lives, that there is no obligation to commit ourselves to our new routines.
Wellness has proved a welcome distraction from the rather dystopian reality of these last few months and has filled the time left empty by a lack of social activities and commutes. As we start to return to work, see more people and resume our ordinary pastimes, it is naive to think that we can simultaneously continue to churn out sourdough loaves, bash out daily Duolingo, spend an hour doing Yoga with Adrienne, before finishing the day with an Ottolenghi recipe that requires overnight soaking and trips to various shops in search of black garlic. These are all lovely things and implementing them with more regularity is likely to be one of lockdown’s more joyful legacies, but we must be careful that it does not start to feel like an obligation; another expectation to meet or item to tick off a list. As our priorities shift again, putting extra pressure on ourselves to maintain these rituals will make readjustment all the more challenging.
There’s a lot to be said for wellness, but there’s also a lot to be said for the world outside of its harmonious and orderly enclaves. Perhaps, we may find ourselves baking less bread but that doesn’t mean that this time cannot be filled with other more spontaneous, less virtuous delights. Let our fixation with wellbeing not be so unshakeable that we forget about the beauty offered up by life’s messier, less sanitised moments. Greasy, salt encrusted chips after an equally greasy night out, guiltlessly lounging in bed as the sun streams in without feeling any obligation to go out into quite yet, walking home arm in arm with friends whilst the light’s coming up, and then spending the entirety of the next day in grotty pyjamas recounting the night over endless slices of golden buttery toast.
I suppose I might borrow a beloved mantra from the wellness community and say that what I’m arguing for is balance. For the most part, our newly healthier lifestyles are to be celebrated, but we must take care not to become too puritanical and abandon our love of less wholesome and ordered pursuits of pleasure. It is understandable that we have clung to rituals and routine and found comfort in living more insular lives during a period of such tumult. Yes, the world outside is scary but this is nothing new, if we think about it there have always been a myriad of reasons to fear the uncertainty which lurks beyond our four walls. So whilst we should rightly celebrate our newfound health consciousness, we mustn’t shut ourselves off completely from the unpredictability and chaos of normal life. Not only is it impossible, but it deprives us of life’s richness.