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Global wellness trends impacting 2020 and beyond

Updated: Feb 11


A new travel concept is the wellness sabbatical where days of work and wellness are blended. PHOTO: Image Collab

On 28 January, the Global Wellness Summit, a gathering that brings together leaders to positively shape the future of the $4.5 trillion global wellness economy, released its top 10 wellness trends for 2020 at a press conference in New York City. Beth McGroarty, director of research for the Global Wellness Institute, says the trends emerged from insights of 550 experts from 50 nations including top economists, doctors, academics, technologists and CEOs across all areas of wellness, who gathered at the 2019 summit in Singapore. Below are some predictions: Circadian health will be a focus There will be a new focus on circadian health optimization for sleep solutions and to boost brain or body systems controlled by the circadian clock. The basis of circadian science is that regular light and dark cycles including the blue light of day and the darkness at dusk are daily ‘time cues’ needed to reset our circadian clocks every day. Dr Steven Lockley, of Harvard, says circadian health optimization incorporating the type and timing of light will soon become more important than sleep. Solutions that realign our internal circadian clocks with each other and our internal clocks with the outside world will surge. Light and the timing of light and biology will become more important. More people will buy bulbs, bringing tunable, biodynamic, circadian lighting into their homes to automatically deliver bright blue light in the day and dimmer, warmer light at dusk. More people will also adopt a circadian diet of eating when it’s light, and stopping when it’s dark. In a few years, a blood, saliva or breath sample should pinpoint our precise circadian clock-state, and apps could then tell us when to take in light and dark, sleep and rise, and eat and exercise. J-Wellness to help you age better Japan, the first super-ageing nation, is innovating solutions to age better for the world’s longevity economy. It is developing ‘age-tech’ including social robots that provide emotional and physical support for older people and smart companionship. Recently, Japanese wellness approaches became global trends like ‘Ikigai’, the lifelong pursuit of finding your true purpose; the spiritual value of minimalism and auditing possessions; forest bathing, meditative movement through the forest; and Wabi-sabi, the philosophy of embracing imperfection and transience. J-Wellness will be embraced as a holistic culture of wellbeing. Purity is a cultural obsession in Japan and J-Beauty’s high-nature and high-science beauty approaches with the goal of skin so healthy and bright makeup isn’t needed, will rise. Japan’s forest bathing has exploded at wellness resorts worldwide, with forest spas to forest skating. It is also home to two-thirds of all hot spring destinations with new onsen resorts developing in Japan, China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. There are hundreds of Buddhist temples for tourists to experience and Shojin Ryori, the vegan temple food prepared by monks, a way of eating that’s all about contemplation, is increasing. Energy medicine becomes crucial Researchers are discovering the body is a biofield of electromagnetic frequencies and light waves that control physical and mental functioning and we are immersed in environmental electromagnetic fields that change human cells. Medical and wellness worlds will innovate tools to optimize human energy fields to prevent illness and boost health. Frequency therapies with electromagnetic, light and sound interventions will be crucial. In medicine, there will be new insights around bioelectricity, ‘organized lightning’ that our cells use to grow and communicate. Biophotonics will use light (lasers, lighted crystals) to positively impact tissues and organs. New optogenetic tools using light to excite neurons will map the brain’s connections and activate brain circuits. Electromagnetic pollution will be the new public health issue. Our hyper-networked world unleashes a storm of high-energy photons through our dwellings and bodies. Homes, schools and workplaces will be designed to maintain a healthy human energy field. Flipping lights off at night will also mean turning Wi-Fi off. At some wellness resorts and real estates, a flick of a button, already copper-lines your room so electricity and Wi-Fi are blocked or shielded cables in bedroom walls block exposure to electromagnetic fields. There will be energy-medicine evaluations, light therapies, altitude training, ozone and oxygen therapies, mitochondria-boosting diets, fasting, plant medicine and spiritual work to clear negative emotions. Wellness Sabbaticals change work and travel A new travel concept is the wellness sabbatical where days of work and wellness are blended. Work a few productive hours a day in great workspaces, but also schedule daily wellness experiences such as healthy food, movement, time in nature, sleep and human connection. This will repeat for a minimum of three weeks for lasting lifestyle changes and a true mental reset. Kamalaya in Thailand has unveiled a Wellbeing Sabbatical program, with a minimum 21-day stay, where daily healing experiences include personal mentoring, designed around guests’ work schedules. Vana in India has a 30-day wellness sabbatical, where great technology and workspaces mean having that conference call after an appointment with a Tibetan Healing doctor. Wellness resorts designed for one to two week stays will expand to 21 day, flexible work and wellness programs. Selina offers co-working/living and wellness at destinations from Portugal to Panama, where you work, hanging with the tribe, surf, do yoga and teaching wellness practitioners stay free. Gather in Israel, stay a month, work and experience the ‘wellness kibbutz’ lifestyle. Amble offers affordable, one-month nature sabbaticals at US National Parks. Why go home? Why have a home? This could shake up the future of travel, wellness and work. Wellness Music to help you heal There’s increased research identifying how music’s structural properties such as beat, key and chord progression impact the brain and biometrics, such as heart rate and sleep patterns, so music and soundscapes can be developed as medicine. The NIH has awarded $20 million to fund a Sound Health Initiative to uncover music’s brain mechanisms and new applications to treat everything from PTSD to autism. The music industry is pivoting to ‘wellness music’ and there’s an explosion of wellbeing playlists such as stress-reducing or sleep-focused. Audio-wellness festivals are rising with a big audience for ambient and ‘New Age’ music. Artists are incorporating wellness into concerts such as sound baths, meditation or aromatherapy. There is a surge in podcast-listening and vinyl listening bars. There is also a rise of generative music with apps that pull your biological, psychological and situational data to create a tailor-made-for-you, always-changing soundscape to improve your mental health any time you want. At a wellness music sanctuary, relax in an egg-pod where sensors gauge your biological and emotional states, and AI translates that data into a healing composition played through surrounding speakers. More wellness studios will have menus of sound healing whether Ayurvedic sound therapy massage or CBD sound journeys. ‘Deep listening’ in noise-protected nature will help recover your animal-alert and 360-degree hearing.

Information supplied by: Beth McGroarty, director of research for the Global Wellness Institute

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