Wellness: What does it mean to you?

While the term itself is oversaturated, the exploration of how we define ‘being well’ for ourselves is more important than ever. It’s personal, but it doesn’t need to be preachy or complicated. Health and wellness can be nurtured in any aspect of our lives, from the physical to the mental, emotional, spiritual and financial. Any of these pillars, when examined and cared for, can contribute to a richer and more enjoyable existence. In this series, we share the stories, challenges and discoveries of a diverse range of people who each have a unique perspective on health and wellbeing, and how these pillars manifest in their lives.

“Wellness is made up of the conscious choices we make in order to thrive instead of just survive.”

For photographer and film-maker Jen Raoult, a firm belief in the healing power of nature guides her approach to her own wellbeing. Having grown up in a small town in the South of France by the Mediterranean Sea, her career has taken her all over the world — from Paris to London, India, America, Mexico and Africa. She relocated to New Zealand in 2009 and, through it all, a close attachment to the natural environment has remained an important part of her life. 

“I believe wellness is directly related to the relationship we have with our environment,” she says. “Many of our ailments and discomforts in our lives, I think, come from a disconnection with our surroundings — with the natural world.” For Jen, the pursuit of wellness centres on finding a balance in all aspects of life — the emotional, the physical, spiritual and mental — through both stillness and movement; connection and nourishment, to re-establish a connection to the natural rhythm that guides all things. 

It’s also about living life to its full potential, she says. “Wellness is made up of the conscious choices we make in order to thrive instead of just survive.” 

This connection with the nature is a guiding factor in her photographic and film work. “I mainly photograph people in their natural environment, or a place they’re resonating with that tells their story. I also mainly work with natural light.” In terms of film-making, Jen says she loves taking people into an intimate and immersive experience, an emotional and sensorial journey that leaves an impression on more than just their intellect. 

When it comes to her own health journey, Jen says she’s not had any major issues to speak of, however has always harboured an awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle and how to go about working towards that. Her very first experience with a sauna was in Mexico, but rather than an infrared sauna, it was during an ancient sacred cleansing ceremony called a Temazcal ceremony — “basically, a sauna inside an igloo-shaped hut in the forest, led by a shaman.” 

“To look after ones self is to look after the whole.”

Jen started regularly frequenting Hana very soon after it opened, and loves that the space incorporates both the benefits of the infrared sauna and a beautifully-designed, calming and luxurious atmosphere. “I love hanging here. I always feel blissful the next day, with a lot of energy.” 

She has noticed several other benefits from regular sauna visits, including reducing muscle and back pain, and helping eliminate toxins in her body. “My skin is also looking and feeling amazing — so smooth,” she says. A large part of the appeal is the easing of mental burdens, thanks to a session in the sauna being so calming and relaxing. 

Jen’s other wellness rituals are copious – “I love rituals!” – and include 20 minutes of meditation upon waking every morning, followed by a self pamper session-of-sorts using natural oils, serums and moisturisers on her face and body after a shower. Diffusing essential oils in her house and drinking herbal teas are habitual, and she treasures moments of affection, kisses and cuddles with her partner and daughter. In these disconnected times, as many of us spend large chunks of the day on screens, the therapeutic effect of skin contact with loved ones is very important, she thinks. “But, the most essential one is spending time in nature, among trees or by the ocean,” says Jen. “This is the most healing, effective, powerful ritual — along with the kisses!” 

Jen believes that the key to establishing our relationship to the earth lies in seeking out self-knowledge and learning, and also in having a holistic viewpoint that looks externally as well as internally. “To look after ones self is to look after the whole. We need to feel responsible, as our wellness choices are impacting each and everyone — and the health of our planet.” 

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