Toxic Wellness? How Mosaic Georgia’s Wellness Program Breaks Stereotypes
By Ashia Gallo
Wholeness Collective Coordinator at Mosaic Georgia
WELLNESS falls among the countless misused (and misunderstood) ‘buzz words’ in our culture slowly losing their meaning. In a climate of extremes where you’re either a ‘narcissist’ or a ‘spiritual guru’, it became essential for Mosaic Georgia to do wellness thoughtfully when its Wholeness Collective programming launched in 2022.
The Wholeness Collective offers survivors of sexual assault, child abuse, and other traumas a space to explore healing modalities like art therapy, yoga, hiking, dance, and more through a rotation of free wellness activities. These events are complementary, not a replacement to the mental health services of our incredible Mosaic Georgia counseling team. The vision has always been to offer wellness programs as an additional support in the recovery toolkit of survivors on their journey back to wholeness.
The wellness industry, which boasts a multi-billion-dollar profit worldwide, often targets those seeking these types of psychological and spiritual supports. With its allure of holistic health, personal growth, and enlightenment, the wellness industry has captivated the masses seeking healing and a better quality of life. However, beneath the glossy exterior lies a disturbing reality – the toxic underbelly of the wellness industry.
What exactly is toxic wellness? And how does Mosaic Georgia work to combat these stereotypes?
Unrealistic Ideals and Body Image
The wellness industry at large often peddles an unattainable standard of beauty and health. I learned to practice yoga for the first time from a cis-gendered, able-bodied, thin white woman on YouTube (no shade, Yoga with Adriene is awesome!) in my early 20s to cope with the stresses of newly adulting. While Adriene is incredibly respectful and relatable on many levels, she also represents the typical, palatable aesthetic that we see repackaged over and over in many yoga, meditation, and fitness videos that rule the wellness media sphere – though they derive from historical, indigenous practices.
Progress has been made across industries to increase visibility and recognize contributions of diverse cultural and ethnic identities, but there’s still a way to go. It’s also not the existence of these stereotypically picture-perfect influencers and business-savvy “healthy lifestyle” gurus that are the problem – their dominance as the face of wellness culture is where the issue lies.
The Wholeness Collective aims to push back against these industry norms by offering a variety of activities, modalities, and facilitators who match the diversity of the survivors we serve. The originators of so many of the marketed wellness solutions we offer were not majorly white, young, nor skinny. So, most of our facilitators and teachers aren’t either!
Harmful Practices and Pseudoscience
Within the wellness industry, pseudoscience frequently masquerades as genuine health advice. From dangerous dietary trends to unproven alternative therapies, individuals are bombarded with conflicting information that can be not only ineffective but potentially harmful. Detox diets, for instance, promise to cleanse the body of toxins but lack scientific backing. “Spiritual teachers” advise clinically traumatized people on the types of books or retreat packages they should purchase to alleviate their emotional pain. The industry’s tendency to vilify conventional medicine can lead individuals to neglect necessary medical interventions in favor of untested remedies.
The Wholeness Collective believes that science is real and that our survivors’ safety comes before our goals or a desired number of participants. Our carefully chosen facilitators are trained in their crafts to teach in a trauma-sensitive manner, work with children, make sure all bodies are safe during movement activities, etc. All folks who need clinical-level intervention are referred to trauma therapists and/or other clinical professionals most appropriate for their needs. We are a support, not a substitution.
Promotion of Anxiety and Perfectionism
Rather than alleviating stress, the wellness industry can exacerbate anxiety through its emphasis on personal responsibility for one’s well-being. The constant pursuit of an idealized state of health and happiness can lead to a sense of failure and inadequacy when these goals are not met. The relentless pressure to optimize every aspect of life by yourself can result in burnout, anxiety disorders, and a perpetual cycle of dissatisfaction. Unproductive thoughts can include:
“Why am I not further along on my healing journey?
“If I’m not at peace yet, I must not be trying hard enough.”
“Why am I not able to keep motivated with exercise? I’ll never lose the weight…”
“I cannot make it to these groups being offered. I’m alone and just not strong enough.”
The “wholeness” in Wholeness Collective represents our values of community support and nonconditional acceptance. We do everything within our power to eliminate barriers that many survivors face when trying to get help: hybrid group activities, transport assistance, childcare support, multiple forms of communication about events, etc. Though we do offer some affinity spaces (support groups for female sexual assault survivors only, youth-focused activities, etc.), inclusion is always our goal. You are accepted regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, race, or any other historically rejected identity. We are on this journey together.
While the pursuit of wellness is a noble goal, the emergence of toxic wellness threatens the very essence of well-being. At Mosaic Geogia, we seek to offer balance, authenticity, expertise, and self-compassion to survivors of trauma working to gain their sense of agency again. By raising awareness, promoting empowerment vs perfection, and prioritizing mental and physical health, the Wholeness Collective program works to mitigate the detrimental effects of toxic wellness and pave the way for a more genuine and holistic approach to well-being and trauma recovery.