Wellness Industry
Jenna Brown

Jenna Brown

The wellness industry: Gurus or Greedy monsters

I’ve been pondering this for a while now, quite a few months actually.

Like many others, I read The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, and approximately 70,000 other books related to manifesting and the universe. I spent some time talking with life coaches, and a large range of people I would describe as in the wellness industry.

I can only think of one or two who I think are genuinely taking the piss and are pedalling snake oil in the form of “therapy” but I think many more believe they are doing a service to humanity and being paid handsomely for their efforts.

First of all, the global wellness industry including spiritual self-care topped its highest ever rate of 4 trillion dollars in 2021, 4 trillion! That’s big business.

The rise of middle-aged suburban Mum’s worldwide donning the latest Lululemon yoga outfits, sipping from crystal infused glass water bottles and heading off to the latest wellness retreat has skyrocketed.


So when did this happen and why? Where is all the profit going? People like Tony Robbins have been in this game for years, decades, raking in upwards of 500 million dollars from people dealing with grief, mental illness and general life disappointments. We now have the likes of Eckart Tolle, Deepak Chopra and about 100,000 other you tubers, influencers and content creators fighting for a space on your social media scroll and asking you to join their latest offering.

The wellness industry and mental health

If you’ve read any of my other blogs you’ll know that I’ve been a very long term sufferer of depression and anxiety. At times, I’ve felt quite hopeless, a burden to those around me and have been quite desperate to try anything and everything to overcome these feelings and “get better”. Looking at it as I write, I would say I’ve been in a very vulnerable state at times and an ideal target for the wellness industry.

Aside from medication and therapy with a psychologist I’ve tried women’s empowerment coaching, Reiki, CranioSacral Therapy, Listened to spiritual podcasts, Float Therapy, Essential Oils, Sound Therapy, Yoga, Meditation, White Noise, Kundalini Yoga, Energy Healing, Tarot, Breathing Techniques, Mindfulness, Gratitude Challenges, Seen Psychics and read more books than the average bear.

I’ve spent hours journaling, practising gratitude, repeating affirmations, noting down self-limiting beliefs and identifying the ponderings from my shadow self.

What I’ve learned along the way is that all of this “healing” comes at a price. Not only a price of time but a tangible monetary price, usually an exorbitant amount of money. I am wondering, if the truth is that, we westerners who are busy “manifesting” our best lives may find that we are instead indulging a thriving industry and basking in the glory of our own privilege rather than the divine intervention of the universe.

What’s very concerning to me is the messaging and uneducated advice bandied around in wellness circles. After having trained with the police, spent time escorting people to mental health wards, having participated in psychological therapy of my own and educating myself as much as possible I really worry that there are vulnerable people out there who are opting for these self-proclaimed therapists over trained, experienced medical professionals when facing psychological or psychiatric issues.

Someone experiencing clinical depression can easily be harmed by a fresh graduate of a $7,500 online life coaching course run by another self-proclaimed life coach/guru.

Who are these wellness industry leaders?

Practitioners are often being coached by people they’re spending a LOT of money with, sometimes 2-3 thousand and sometimes 10’s of thousands and usually offshore over zoom. These coaches learn the ways of the master so they can absorb and then redirect it to the clients they will gain in the coming weeks, months and years.

They spend time pouring their hearts out in small groups with others on the same “journey” and share intimate details about themselves. These “gurus” claim to really hear and see the people, at a soul level and this can all sound very exciting if you have a yearning to be seen and validated. But thinking about it logically, it’s not really validation when you’re paying for the pleasure. These people are kind of like spiritual hookers, taking your money to make your soul feel pretty.

From here the students of the gurus are being taught that they have medicine on their hearts that the world needs and they should spread the message far and wide. Some are even set up with their own websites and marketing funnels designed to draw people in with a freebie and then upsell, upsell, upsell until they land the big-ticket item. The booking for your retreat or the 12-week course container that will forever change your life.

The wellness industry and religion

My current thoughts around spirituality are this, and you’ll notice that I said current because beliefs and thoughts always change when faced with new evidence. Do I believe that some people have psychic abilities? Yes. Do I believe there are Charlatans who have figured out a way to make a quick buck by preying on those who have lost someone and are in a state of desperation and grief, also yes – of course there are.

Do I believe in God? No. I don’t believe there is a sky daddy who created everything and then he gave up his son etc … do I believe there’s some higher power or force, maybe, the jury is still out on that one. Reincarnation, nothingness, heaven, no idea, no one has any idea. I’m currently very interested in simulation theory, I think that’s the most exciting answer for the life we live that I’ve come across so far.

The wellness industry, MLM’s and toxic postivity

I digress, back to wellness, I question the “well” in wellness. With all the toxic positivity, involvement by many multi-level marketing companies and life / spiritual coaches that seem to come along with the industry I can’t help but think the wellness industry doesn’t actually want to see you “well” any more than big pharma does. Once you are seeing profits in the trillions you just know that there are boardrooms full of high-level marketing teams targeting you and your weaknesses and exploiting them to sell you something and turn a profit.

As some of you will know I am in digital marketing and web development. The more I have learned about the marketing industry the more I see the tools, tactics and other ploys used to reel in the unsuspecting “unwell” … and more importantly, their credit card details.

I worry about accountability, responsibility and peoples well-being. I worry that people who are living in hardship and who are desperate are using their limited disposable income to pay $100’s of dollars to receive Reiki remotely in the hopes of a quick fix to their failing business or abusive relationship.

I worry that with the rates of suicide sky high and the state of the world at the moment that vulnerable people are getting into a bigger hole by investing money they don’t have into an industry built on hopes and dreams while sinking further into a state of discontent because the real issues aren’t being addressed.

I’m all for people evolving, educating themselves and living life to the beat of their own drum but I’m not so into deceit and taking advantage of peoples mental health to make a buck. If you believe that you are busily manifesting your best life based on the principles of the law of attraction then I highly recommend you check out this video by one of my favourite YouTubers on her channel Anna’s Analysis.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on it all. Are you into self-help? Have you been down the rabbit hole and come back out? What’s your take?

J

Disclaimer: The J Word NZ and its media content are created based on my own experiences and opinions, as well as those individuals who share their stories with me. I do not have any formal medical or mental health qualifications. If you are experiencing any issues with mental health, please consult your doctor or a medical health professional for advice.

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2 Responses

  1. Great read, I actually think we’re confused by what being well actually means these days, because of the way marketing has pushed this industry forward into mainstream and made it a lot more about performance, and perfection.
    There’s so much that is unwell about selling wellness. The truth is true wellness (and spirituality) is mundane, because as you say, it’s about being a human being and acknowledging that we experience difficult and undesirable emotions too, we have days where we feel like shit, sometimes months, and I think the more we normalise that, the healthier the wellness industry will become. I think it’s courageous to speak openly to this topic and acknowledge the polarity in how wellness as an industry is being portrayed. I will say this, there are many doorways for people to walk through, in my experience the doors are often a starting point, and over the years I’ve turned my frustrations around what I was seeing being portrayed as wellness towards a curiosity. It actually motivates me to be even more creative around now I show up in my roles amongst the wellness space.

    Love your courage to open up a very important conversation…
    Thanks Jenna 😊

    1. Hey Amy,

      Thanks for your comment! As someone involved in the industry I loved reading your insights and thoughts on it all. I think it’s really important that people question what they are doing and what tangible results they will see for their money aside from the “feel good in the moment” value. Judgement can become clouded when we are in a life lull and throwing money at the problem or hoping someone else can fix it with an aura photo or a crystal wave could probably use some more balanced thought. With both of us being in marketing I guess we can see the grift. Love to have a cuppa and chat more about it sometime. Jenna 🙂

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