Affordable Wellness

Writer Catherine Nicol | March 11, 2019

Meditation and yoga, organic veggies, superfoods and supplements, skincare, facials and massages, gym memberships, energy healing, retreats overseas…Every day more health trends, trips, accessories, podcasts and related media within the US$4.2 trillion global wellness industry put pressure on us to invest in new ways to stay healthy, young and happy.

But what is the alternative? In 2017 America’s medical costs reached US$3.5 trillion, that’s US$10,224 per capita, while the average among comparable nations is US$5,280. Suddenly a bit of preventative spending doesn’t look so bad. “Nurturing yourself is not selfish – it’s essential to your survival and your well-being,” says life coach Renée Peterson Trudeau.


First thing in the morning, do you automatically reach for your phone? Ignore Facebook, instead open MindBliss, Headspace or Calm. “Meditation is a vital way to purify and quiet the mind, thus rejuvenating the body,” says Deepak Chopra. Gently morph from sleep to awake via 10 to 15 minutes of free guided meditation and mindfulness.

Hankering for a yoga class but no studio membership? Try online yoga class Fiji McAlpine’s Rise & Shine on free website for 35 minutes of stretching, and a bit of sweating  to start your day.

Bring in breathing exercises via Iceman Wim Hoff’s free app The Wim Hoff Method, Breathe+ or Breathe Deep, and if you need a prompt to remind yourself to practise gratitude there’s Gratitude! and Live Happy. Apps, websites, YouTube and podcasts – a world of free wellness just a Wi-Fi connection and click away.


Jim Rohn, renowned motivational speaker, says it best, “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” Other than the investment in workout gear, there’s plenty of free fitness online. Find something you love, mix your exercise with nature, boost your mood and resilience.

In Hong Kong, the Morning Trail is great with a friend for motivation, or solo for introspection. It’s just over six km and around 32 minutes of steep uphill boot march and 15 or so jogging back downhill through some of Hong Kong Island’s most accessible and calming nature.

Many cities offer al fresco workout parks, free Lululemon yoga and running classes or access to running tracks. Look for a MeetUp in your chosen sport, or stream from Sweaty Betty, or find numerous globally known instructors on the BeFit YouTube channel.


In the developed world most eat more quantity and less quality. Switch these around and your spending will likely decrease while energy, mental clarity and well-being increase. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” writes Michael Pollan in his book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.

Regimes designed for weight loss often focus on intermittent fasting and veggies over meat, fish and dairy. Eating healthily may be painful to begin with as sugar and carb cravings kick in, but long-term your body, and the planet, will love it – not to mention your wallet. When eating socially, choosing healthy if everyone else indulges is tough. Of course, sharing meals with friends offers nutrition for the soul as much as the body.


In transient cities, such as Hong Kong, friends come and go, sometimes too quickly and often. It’s important to find your ‘tribe’ and build connections as for those who live far from actual family, friends become your local family.

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions,” says the Dalai Lama. Getting involved with the community adds purpose and belonging. Dog sit for a friend, spend time with the elderly, participate in a beach clean-up or volunteer for a charity.


“Healthy skin is a reflection of overall wellness,” says pharmacist Dr Howard Murad. But you don’t have to splurge to nourish your skin. Follow blogger Caroline Hirons and you’ll find her recommending products from high-street brand like The Ordinary. Skincare can be homemade too, from toothpaste, body and face scrubs, to masks and moisturisers.

Outsourcing pampering to a spa is always a treat, but it doesn’t cost much to add a weekly candlelit bath with soothing music, DIY mani-pedis and facemasks, and regular use of a foam roller on tight muscles in lieu of a massage.


How do you insource a holiday detox, fitness or yoga retreat? A staycation within your hometown in an affordable airbnb or trip to stay with a friend can help avoid airfare and hotel costs respectively, while still offering the perspective that comes from travel with minimal outgoings.

Hong Kong’s Vipassana Meditation Centre’s 10-day meditation course is absolutely free (or donation only), and if you can find a free retreat in Hong Kong, you can probably find one anywhere. Otherwise ashrams in India, temple retreats in Thailand, silent retreats in Buddhist centres across Southeast Asia are affordable once you’re there.

Unplugging from your regular life,  your phone and especially social media gives space and time for re-examining priorities, reminding yourself what makes you happy and identifying what needs to be changed.


“If you think the pursuit of good health is expensive and time consuming, try illness,” says Lee Swanson on blog At the end of the day, how much, in dollars or effort, is your wellness worth? Perhaps you don’t find out until your health begins to fail you, or was it you who failed your health?