By Adriana Mariella
The “wellness” industry, including everything from saltwater floats to cryotherapy treatments to ayurvedic retreats, is today worth over $4 trillion and growing. But wellness, if it’s doing its job right, would eventually eliminate the need for itself, having provided the increased sense of well-being and happiness it promises.
This paper argues that “wellness” is today’s code for “happiness,” positioned to consumers as a constant work-in-progress, a journey for which supplies must be bought yet fulfillment never achieved. The products seeing a boon right now aren’t accessories for a happy life, but tools to achieve one: yoga classes, crystals, and journals to track self-discovery or reduce buying unnecessary things (a journal that reads “Stop Buying Shit You Don’t Need” retails for $6.99).
Pioneered by the likes of Goop but quickly overcoming our culture, I argue that as Americans tire of happiness via relentless consumerism, its existence has simply taken on a new material form. At no point in our history have Americans been so attuned to their own frivolity, yet so apt to buy anything and everything they can to achieve a higher sense of well-being, purpose, and ultimately happiness.
To illustrate my point, I will show that advertising, consumer purchasing trends, new content series, and public figures have increasingly adopted the rhetoric of wellness, in which minimalism, spirituality, and “meaning,” are treated as vehicles for increased happiness and satisfaction.