The Wellness Syndrome
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Not exercising as much as you should? Counting your calories in your sleep? Feeling ashamed for not being happier? You may be a victim of the wellness syndrome.
In this ground-breaking new book, Carl Cederström and André Spicer argue that the ever-present pressure to maximize our wellness has started to work against us, making us feel worse and provoking us to withdraw into ourselves. The Wellness Syndrome follows health freaks who go to extremes to find the perfect diet, corporate athletes who start the day with a dance party, and the self-trackers who monitor everything, including their own toilet habits. This is a world where feeling good has become indistinguishable from being good. Visions of social change have been reduced to dreams of individual transformation, political debate has been replaced by insipid moralising, and scientific evidence has been traded for new-age delusions. A lively and humorous diagnosis of the cult of wellness, this book is an indispensable guide for everyone suspicious of our relentless quest to be happier and healthier.
face to the outside world, Skeggs points to a barely hidden undercurrent. For her, such shows aim to ‘expose working-class families, especially mothers, as incapable of knowing how to look after themselves and others, as irresponsible’.63 Fat shows visualize ‘the failures of self-responsibility. They provide a spectacle of subjectivity turned sour, an epidemic of the will, their own responsibility for making bad choices.’64 These exhibitions remind the viewer what it means to be irresponsible and
they are based on scientific evidence or improvised on the spot. (We will have reasons to come back to the ‘scientific’ basis of happiness studies.) Seligman sees happiness rather like a gigantic hi-fi that can be turned up, and made louder and richer. All you need to do is to put your mind to it. As the motivational guru Zig Ziglar has put it: ‘I'm super good, but I'll get better.’3 After being elected President of the American Psychological Association in 1997, Seligman made positive
Augustine, around 400 CE, listed 289 different theoretical accounts of happiness52), we seem to avoid this question in everyday parlance. It is unlikely that you would hear the question, ‘How happy are you today?’ A more acceptable question, which we tend to ask instead, is ‘How's it going?’ This seemingly innocent saying has attracted well-deserved suspicion. Pascal Bruckner subjects this phrase to detailed philosophical scrutiny. ‘How's it going?’ he says, ‘is the most futile and the most
convincing performance. The jobseekers whom Ofer Sharone followed were asked to develop a thirty-second commercial of themselves that had to be performed in a smooth and convincing manner. They were even asked to imagine they were delivering their own personal commercial to Bill Gates as they rode in an elevator to the twentieth floor. The need to put on a performance can also be found in Ivor Southwood's insider account of unemployment. Among the endless stream of emails from various job
exception. We meet him in a short television advert launched during the 2013 Australian Open: ‘I'm a new-age man. I'm ageless but not ageist.’ The words flow smoothly from this lightly bearded man with bedroom eyes as we watch him confidently striding through the Café Latte precincts of a modern city: ‘I'm free-range, free-spirited, free-willed…but on a leash.’ He is a self-aware, freedom-loving man with an environmental consciousness: ‘I push the envelope, push the button, push a pram, push it