Wellness Where You Are

An interesting thing happens when you read Apartment Therapy CEO Maxwell Ryan’s books on creating pockets of tranquility and wellness at home while you’re on a business trip from New York to LA, as I recently did. You start to notice that the theories he espoused back in 2004 regarding the way our home environments affect our sense of health and well being are now becoming the modus operandi outside the home as well, whether in airports, hotels, at work, or in our own neighborhoods.

“Food was the big change agent,” Ryan told me, when I sat down with him at Apartment Therapy’s airy and light office space in SoHo, which was overflowing with bananas and healthy snacks and health-conscious employees who have an ongoing contest — with prizes! — to track their steps through countit.com, which was founded by Ryan’s brother Oliver.

“That was back in 1990. Everything grew from there. As people started living longer, we started to care about our health and well-being.

“Then the same thing started happening in the home. Now, as this country has aged and matured, health and wellness have crept into every crevice of our private and public lives. Silicon Valley companies that offer healthy cooked food, nap pods, and flexible schedules so that employees can work from home, take care of their kids and exercise each day. City bike programs that have infiltrated the toughest city in the world, NYC, as well as others, have been welcomed with open arms as people turn to cycling for health. I would credit the aging Baby Boom generation who is feeling a little mortal for kicking this off and wanting to do anything to extend their lives, but also the Millennial generation that has welcomed it and has even come to expect it.”

When I landed at LAX, for example, I was first surprised — then not — to see a farmer’s market at the airport. The car I rented at Enterprise was an energy efficient hybrid. The interior design of my hotel, The Standard on Sunset, was serene and minimalist, with a gigantic silver beanbag chair for flopping, a minibar stocked with healthy snacks, a wireless speaker playing soothing music, shampoos and soaps made from all-natural ingredients, and a little sign in the shape of the parched state of California that guests could place on the bed in the morning to instruct the housekeepers to save water by not changing the sheets every day. Even the breakfast offerings in the hotel leaned more toward the kale/quinoa end of the spectrum as opposed to, say, oversized pancakes with artificial syrup. And the pool scene was hopping.

Yes, I was the only one lounging poolside who was not tattooed, and I was probably older than everyone there by at least a decade, but by the end of my two weeks of working on the TV show YOUNGER, I noticed that my surroundings at the youthful, wellness-aware hotel was actually making me feel younger.

Ryan, too, exudes a youthful awe. He was once a Waldorf teacher, and it shows. He has a gentleness about him, a serenity that comes from practicing the wellness you preach. His work as an “apartment therapist” began almost by accident, when he started visiting students’ homes and realized that, “Those children who did better in school were the ones whose families encouraged healthy rhythms and rituals at home.” Each of these healthy homes, he realized, no matter how modest, shared a few common traits. “They were quiet and organized, and though not necessarily large in terms of square footage, they felt spacious and open. Books and toys were not stuffed into every corner. Framed photographs did not cover every wall. The children’s play areas were clearly separated from their study areas.”

As I gazed around my room at the Standard, I noticed this same aesthetic. The room felt open, well organized. There were nooks and shelves for things to keep them organized and hidden. There was a space to sleep, a space to work, and a space to flop on the beanbag and dream. The walls were for the most part bare. Even the furniture had a non-intrusive feel.

In fact, I was so invigorated both by reading Ryan’s books and by staying in a wellness-where-you-are hotel, when I got home to New York, I did a mini renovation of my own bedroom, to keep it in line with everything I’d learned. Out went the clunky bedframe I no longer loved. Instead, my bed would be low to the floor, like the bed at the Standard.

With the bedframe now gone, so, too, was the storage space underneath it, so out, too, came all those framed photographs of war from my last photo exhibit back in 2001. Yes, that’s right: I was literally sleeping atop images of pain, sadness, and mayhem for fifteen years and wondering why I couldn’t get a decent night’s sleep.

That night, for the first time in years, I slept for eight hours straight, without waking up once.

Back here at the Edelman office in New York, I’ve discovered the 9th floor wellness room. It has a massage chair. And little white rocks with words like love and serenity on them. I’m too busy writing these essays right now to book the room, but the minute I’m finished, you’ll know where to find me.


Deborah Copaken, award-winning journalist and Edelman’s deputy editorial director.

Edelman’s Wellness 360 recently unveiled ten “Wellness Trends to Watch” here: http://edl.mn/Wellness_Trends. This post is part of our ongoing content series that focuses on each of the ten trends.

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