Wellness goes to people's heads

WellnessKiel, Germany - Current trends in the wellness industry such as brain training, sudoku and positive thinking are mainly mental in nature.

The industry is wooing new customers with programmes like "selfness" and "mindness," novel terms for what essentially is nothing new: getting one's mind and spirit in shape, and consequently one's life back on track.

People have come to realise that focusing solely on the body is not enough in the long run, remarked Julia Scharnhorst, a psychologist from the northern German town of Wedel, near Hamburg.

"Body-oriented wellness makes you happy for a short time only," she said. "People no longer want to feel merely fit and relaxed - they also want to discover a meaning in their lives."

Scharnhorst noted, however, that the labels attached to the trend were simply new names for well-established concepts. "The concepts designated by terms like 'selfness' and 'mindness' used to be called things like 'positive thinking' and 'work-life balance.' Economic interests are behind the new names," she said.

In 2003, Matthias Horx, a trend scout from Vienna, used the term "selfness" for the wellness industry's turn toward the mind and spirit. "Selfness has to do with self-competence, the ability to examine, judge and change oneself," Horx said recently.

In future, this ability will be the decisive qualification in life, he declared, saying that in a knowledge society it was no longer a matter of obeying commands or simply being disciplined all the time; rather, the ability to shape one's own life in its many transformations, and to get a grip on it, was crucial.

In contrast with wellness, which consists chiefly in having oneself physically pampered, Horx remarked, selfness was aimed more at a long-term change in self-perception and attitude toward life.

"Wellness is based on the culture of relaxation - simply wanting a to feel good," he said.

A selfness holiday, on the other hand, involves a degree of self- revelation: The holidaymaker returns as a changed person, Horx explained.

He said mindness was a narrower concept than selfness and that it referred to the aspects of selfness having to do with consciousness.

"You can also describe it as mental attentiveness," Horx noted. He said a huge field of therapies, training courses, coaching sessions and advisors was developing around selfness and mindness.

Volker Warnke, a specialist in psychotherapeutic medicine based in Kiel, said, "The people that I counsel in my life-coaching sessions are unsatisfied with certain aspects of their lives. A lot of them also ask themselves what their life means," he related.

At his institute, Warnke offers life-coaching sessions that operate on the principles of selfness. He said the sessions helped his clients in their search for personal goals in life.

"In my sessions they become aware of their own negative, obstructive beliefs. People often don't realise how they manipulate themselves. You usually need an attentive helper for that," Warnke remarked. He said his clients overcame their inhibitions during coaching in accordance with selfness, enabling them to attain personal goals.

Mental and spiritual development is possible at any age and phase of life. People are especially likely to seek support for changes when they are at important crossroads in their lives, Scharnhorst noted.

"It could be retirement or a career crisis," she said. (dpa)