"Wellness" is a strange word. Recently, it's been used to discuss anything and everything from green juices and diet tips to body positivity and mental health. Essentially, it's an all-encompassing term for denoting anything positive that you do for your body (or mind) that puts you in a state of good health.
However, what works for one person might not work for another, and I've definitely found that definitions vary from country to country. I spoke to five different women from around the world to get a sense of what wellness means to them—and it yielded some surprising results. From looking after their hair to working on body acceptance, their answers were fascinating.
"Our wellness habits in Canada have stemmed from being a culture that is subject to extreme weather. In the summer, it's essential to escape the smoggy heat of the city and take weekends away in northern Ontario," says Isabel Mundigo Moore, associate social media editor for Who What Wear UK. "Be it swimming in lakes, canoeing or campfires, that connection to fresh air in nature is key.
"While in the extreme colds of Canadian winter, I think our wellness habits have centered on creating amazing restaurants. Truly! Toronto has such a diverse range of excellent restaurants, and that is the direct result of being so cold in the winter—we had to get together and eat well to stay happy in all that slush and grey. The most comforting and typically Canadian thing to eat to feel warm and cozy in Canada is poutine."
"There's a huge divide in the UK about what wellness actually is. I see much of it as faddy and trend-driven, but the reality is that you step out of London and no one cares what leggings you're wearing or what superfood you're eating," says Pandora Paloma, nutritionist, life coach and founder of RootedLondon.com. "There's a huge emphasis in the UK on 'the latest,' whether that be a food, an exercise, diet or a person. And that's cool because everyone has a voice and should share it."
"But what it does is often drive body shaming and comparison, which is a negative way to look at our wholesome and magical bodies. We tend to have an all-or-nothing attitude—diet on the weekdays, and then face slam into pizza and carbs on the weekends. This is bad for our bodies and also for our minds—constantly depriving and then binging is a cycle that's hard to break away from. I'm less (both personally and in my practice) about weight loss and more about satisfaction and promoting kindness to our bodies. I like to empower women; we are smart creatures, but we just need to listen to our bodies and the messages they send us about what they need to thrive both mentality and physically."
"For my peers and the majority on the West Coast, wellness is definitely something that is centered around lifestyle," says Amelia Rynkowska, founder of Cult of Treehouse. "Being spoiled with the weather and the terrain, in particular, can dictate this slightly because a lot is propelled by a symbiotic relationship with nature. You can get outdoors and feel automatically grounded, whether that's getting into the water (surfing or swimming or paddleboarding) or climbing up a mountain."
"Living in a land with perennial sunshine and easy access to canyons and the Pacific (a stone's throw from the fray of Hollywood) means it's automatically included into a daily routine and not just an Instagrammable moment. There's also a much bigger emphasis on preventative health by being well and staying at an optimum, so as to try to not get sick (in large part because of the expense of going to the doctor). The idea of wellness as a lifestyle is, of course, still very much a choice and not a default, but it's an opportunity to live a certain way."
"Wellness for me is how to be my best self: healthy, strong, productive and self-accepting—as well as being able to stay vibrant," says Jiyeon Yeom, owner of Pretty Small Shoes. "I want to reach new dreams and feel freedom from physical disease or pain. I don't particularly have rules or do things to look after myself especially, but I just make sure I do a few things like everyone else—such as keep dreaming and questioning myself, feeding my own curiosity through things like reading, exercising, dancing, eating more salads (I'm trying to eat more avocado, although it's not my favorite) and always trying my best to make myself happy! In Korea, kimchi is really popular, as is red ginseng and mountain vegetables (among older people) for staying in good health. We're also very obsessed with our skin, as you might know from how many cosmetic skin products we create!"
"Beauty and cosmetic treatments are super advanced in Turkey and are therefore more accessible and affordable," says freelance PR professional Gozde Demirezen. "Due to the high demand for hair removal, for example, advanced laser hair-removal clinics have been in operation for over 20 years in Turkey before the trend became popular in the UK—almost all of the women are smooth as silk! It's also a well-known fact that the Turkish hairdressers are some of the best. They start young and build their way up. You can pretty much find a hair salon every 100 yards."
"Again, due to affordability, having a blow-dry two or three times a week is very common amongst so many women in Turkey; I've known women to come out of the shower and head to the salon at the bottom of the apartments to have their hair blow-dried! Almost every hairdresser can do an amazing job. One old tradition that's always been popular amongst Turkish women is the use of rosewater—you can find it in your nana's home, even! Rosewater helps to reduce breakouts, tone skin and keep it fresh."
"A healthy lifestyle is a relatively new trend in Russia, but more and more women have started attending gyms, eating healthy food and using services of beauticians," says Ekaterina Gulina, marketing assistant at You Are the Ref International. "However, alternative medicine has always played an important role in Russian culture. For example, we have a very big variety of herbal teas and all sorts of honey that are widely used by Russians for different purposes.
"Some of the health and beauty recipes are very common in Russia (e.g., washing hair with nettle broth or drinking tea with homemade raspberry jam when you have a cold) and could even be found mentioned in classical literature. But some families have their own recipes passed from generation to generation. Being a nation of 'generous nature' (as we say in Russia), we exchange those recipes with our friends. But it should also be mentioned that Russia is a big country with more than 200 nationalities, and women of different nationalities have their own unique secrets of staying beautiful and healthy."