Wellness is at a crucial moment. The long pandemic made it dramatically more important to people, but the many traumas of 2020 have accelerated frustration with an industry too focused on elitist, hyper-trendy, evidence-free solutions. A few themes emerge in this forecast. Wellness is poised to take a bigger seat at “the healthcare table.” It will become more inclusive and affordable, more evidence-based, tackle tougher human pain-points, and be more soulful. And it will rewrite vast markets: from the entertainment industries to travel to architecture.
9 WELLNESS TRENDS FOR 2021
1. Hollywood and the Entertainment Industries Jump into Wellness
Wellness will become a much bigger, more meaningful programming focus in the TV and music industries. Wellness content and platforms will occupy more real estate at smart TVs and TV sites—with programming designed to actively transform you. Music created for stress, sleep, focus, a better workout, or just trippy bliss will keep exploding—from a wave of wellness music apps to generative music technology, taking sound-as-precision-medicine to radical places. Celebrities are now all over wellness, not just as spokespeople but as company founders and mega-investors. Wellness purists may roll their eyes, but more wellness experiences at Big Media platforms is a story of unprecedented reach and affordability.
2. The Future of Immune Health: Stop Boosting, Start Balancing
People were bombarded with “immune-boosting” supplements, foods and therapies in 2020. Problem is, the idea that you can “boost” your immunity is unscientific nonsense; “boosting” is precisely the wrong approach; and none of the pop-it, guzzle-it, IV-drip-it “immune-boosting” supplements and superfoods (that the wellness industry had led with) can change the complex immune system much. The future: evidence-backed approaches that lead to immuno-stabilization, immuno-balance. In 2021, metabolic health, a healthy microbiome, and personalized nutrition become far more crucial—and we’ll see experimentation with “positive stress” experiences and intermittent fasting for immune resilience.
Recent studies reveal the powerful connection between the built environment and our wellbeing, and a new “wellness architecture” has been born. But design that taps into our spirituality has gotten short shrift. Attention will now be paid to creating everyday spaces that can incite sacred and numinous moments that elevate our consciousness in a mindless, consumerist society. We will see more experimentation with creating special “thin places” that dissolve the veil between ordinary places and the sacred realm, new interest in ancient traditions such as Vastu architecture and sacred geometry, more “nudge architecture,” and the rise of the “spiritual home.”
Breathwork used to sit on the woo-woo side of wellness, but mounting medical research is putting data behind something we’ve known for centuries: how we breathe has a profound impact on our physical and mental health. This trend explores the people, the techniques, the places, and the new technologies pushing the practical magic of breathwork into exciting—and important—new directions. More practitioners will bring breathwork to ever-larger audiences and push it into fascinating new territories. Cool breathwork parties and festivals—and innovative breath-tech—will surge. This drug-free medicine costs nothing—and with so many techniques, there is something for everyone.
5. The Self-Care Renaissance (Where wellness and healthcare converge)
Three hundred years after the first Medical Renaissance (1400–1700), we’re entering a
new one. One where two complementary yet often competing entities—healthcare and wellness—will converge. Wellness will increasingly lean into science—while healthcare will borrow from the wellness playbook—transforming a once sterile, strictly curative industry into a more holistic, lifestyle-oriented, and even pleasurable one. In this new era, hospitals will take inspiration from five-star resorts, yoga studios might measure improved telomere length, and prescriptions will be coupled with hyper-personalized guides to optimal health.
6. Adding Color to Wellness
The protests last summer made diversity and inclusivity a hot topic in the wellness industry. But this trend (a personal and professional reflection by a Black woman researcher within the wellness industry) argues that to generate any real change, the wellness industry must address the false but pervasive narrative that wellness is only for affluent white people. It explores how the industry can add color to wellness by valuing Black consumers and wellness professionals and describes the (often painful) ways that Black people actually experience wellness offerings and spaces. If mainstream wellness companies overwhelmingly ignore Black consumers’ needs, the future belongs to companies that don’t.
7. Resetting Events with Wellness (You may never sit on a banquet chair again)
In March 2020, the pandemic brought in-person events to an abrupt halt. But there is a silver lining: a new trend that will forever change meetings was born, with wellness at the core. The future is more hybrid events (an in-person and virtual mix), but it’s also about rethinking (from every angle) how any event can be healthier and safer while still engaging—from embedding new technologies (whether air purification or Far-UVC lighting) that mitigates infection risk to turning banquet seating into personal “wellness stations” and creating equally “social” and “distanced” dance parties. In 2021 and beyond, creativity is driving connection—and how we gather will take on new meaning.
8. Money Out Loud (Financial wellness is finding its voice)
Money has topped the “do-not-discuss” list forever—alongside sex and politics. But it’s 2021, and a culture craving authenticity is breaking the money taboo—transforming finance from a hush-hush, one-size-fits-all industry to one that’s more human, empathetic, and, dare we say, fun. This growing financial wellness movement is moving money talk far beyond the bank: Financial therapists are tackling the intersection between money and mental health, and financial literacy courses are simplifying complicated finance “bro jargon.” The future: the end of financial systems designed to profit from our failure, and the dawn of financial wellness awakening.
9. 2021: The Year of the Travel Reset
The pandemic acted as a near-complete brake on travel in 2020, giving suppliers and consumers time to think about how to reboot travel for the better. In 2021, all travel could become wellness travel, as manic getaways are replaced by slower, closer, more mindful experiences and with tentative travelers demanding that health and safety be front-and-center. More travel will become regenerative (leaving a place better off than you found it), overtourism will be challenged, undertourism corrected, and people will crave nature immersion and purpose-driven experiences.
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