The 10 wellness trends to know about in 2021
From VR meditation to self-hypnosis, here’s how we’ll be redefining the mind-body connection in 2021
It's fair to say health and wellness had a bit of a shake-up in 2020. Home workouts, walking, running and cycling replaced spin classes and gym sessions, while many people turned to yoga, meditation or journaling in search of a more holistic route to peace and balance.
Now, tech meets wellness to connect mind, body and soul. Think meditation in VR, hypnotherapy on your phone, and a whole lot more. Here's how we’ll be eating, exercising, healing and reconnecting in 2021.
1. Virtual reality
Online workouts became part of many people's daily routines in 2020. So where do we go from here? Well how about Amsterdam, New York or LA, for starters?
‘The joy of digital fitness is that you can take classes anywhere, any time – that’s what we’re calling fitness tourism,’ explains Kinsey Livingston, VP of Partnerships at ClassPass. ‘More than half of our members are taking classes in different cities, and even different countries. It’s also a great way to stay connected with friends and family, as you can sign up to take the same class, no matter where you are located.’
With VR tech becoming more accessible, you could even go on a meditation retreat without leaving your living room. Apps like Guided Meditation VR will guide you through hours of supported meditation in your choice of lush environment. Just grab a compatible VR headset and find your happy place.
2. Getting personal
With everything from medical consultations to fitness classes going virtual, it’s easier than ever to get wellness advice that's tailored to you. ‘If you’re looking for truly sustainable results, bespoke one-to-one or small group personal training is the way to go,’ says Callum Jackson, director of elite Chelsea gym FitSpace, which offers real-time online training for individuals and small groups of up to three people, along with yoga, Pilates and physio consultations.
But the buck doesn’t stop at fitness. International wellness destinations like Chiva-Som now offer a mind-boggling range of online wellness services, from one-on-one physio-led exercise classes designed to correct and improve posture, muscle function and movement patterns, to nutrition, naturopathy and fertility consultations. ‘While information on wellness is everywhere, this can often be intimidating and outright confusing for people looking to improve and maintain their health,’ explains naturopathic physician Dr Jason Culp, global head of research and development at Chiva-Som. In the individual setting, sessions are tailored to your personal priorities and wellness goals, enabling you to work with your own strengths and weaknesses and at your own pace.
3. Yoga nidra
In search of a restful night? With interest in restorative mind-body practices growing, and up to two thirds of us struggling with sleep problems, more people are beginning to seek answers in the ancient practice of yoga nidra. Suitable for beginners and experienced practitioners alike, yoga nidra is also known as yogic sleep – and yes, it does involve lying down with your eyes closed. Part guided meditation, part hypnotherapy, it's basically a nap with added benefits.
Yoga nidra aims to guide participants into a state of ‘conscious sleep’, inducing a state of total relaxation that allows the nervous system to unwind while the mind remains aware and alert. Practitioners suggest that a single 30-minute session can be as restorative as two hours of deep sleep.
Triyoga offers studio, live stream and online classes in yoga nidra, and you can find a number of free audio sessions online. If you're struggling to get a restful night's sleep, why not try Jennifer Piercy's 22-minute Yoga Nidra for Sleep?
4. Crunch break fitness
With more people working from home than ever before (and plenty of chic athleisure choices to take you from cat-cow to conference call) lunch breaks are fast becoming ‘crunch breaks’, with 20-minute HIIT sessions and quickie yoga classes replacing the traditional sandwich al desko.
‘The rise of the lunchtime workout has been one of the biggest fitness trends to emerge from the pandemic,’ explains ClassPass's Kinsey Livingston. 80% of professionals who took part in a recent ClassPass survey said fitness activities had been crucial in helping them to establish new healthy routines while working from home. With more employers beginning to recognise fitness as an essential component of employee wellness, the workday workout looks set to gain even more traction in 2021.
‘We’ve seen shorter 20-30 minute workouts rise in popularity, since they're so easy to fit into people's schedules,’ says Kinsey. If you fancy stepping things up a gear, take a look at our guides to building a capsule home gym kit and creating a mini gym at home.
5. Slow travel
Last year, limitations on other forms of exercise and entertainment saw people take to their bikes, pull on their walking boots and dust off their running shoes in their droves. For many, it was an unprecedented opportunity to reconnect with nature and look at their local area from a new perspective.
‘When walking or cycling, you are engaging all of your senses,’ explains Helen Moat, author of Slow Travel: The Peak District. 'You can feel the grass against your legs, taste wild raspberries in the wild, smell wood smoke, hear songbirds and see details that would be a passing blur if you were travelling by car.'
Science suggests that exercising outdoors can have greater benefits than hitting the gym. ‘Slow, human-powered travel combines the proven benefits of being outdoors in green spaces with fresh air and endorphins,’ explains Caroline Mills, author of Slow Travel: The Cotswolds.
Keep it local, advises Neil Matthews, co-author of Slow Travel: The Chilterns & the Thames Valley: ‘You'll find out a lot more about where you live that way. The Slow Ways project, which is working to create a network of walking routes connecting British villages, towns and cities, is a great example.'
6. Hypnotherapy (on your phone)
Promising to help with everything from sleep, stress and anxiety to confidence and imposter syndrome, hypnotherapy is undergoing a 2021 rebrand with science-based apps you can access anywhere, any time.
Hypnosis is a deep state of relaxation that we all naturally pass through many times a day. Hypnotherapy simply uses a set of relaxation techniques to guide you into a hypnotic state. ‘When you are in a deep-enough hypnotic state of relaxation, you can access your subconscious mind and bring about positive change,’ explains Kim Palmer, creator of hypnotherapy app Clementine. ‘It’s about equipping yourself with tools that can be used in any situation to make yourself feel better.’
While hypnotherapy will help you to cultivate a calmer, more mindful outlook, it doesn't matter if you zone in and out – it will still work. ‘If you’ve tried meditation and didn't like it, but still want that peaceful, zen-like way of living, hypnotherapy might be for you,’ says Kim.
7. Plant power
With a record 500,000 people signing up to take part in Veganuary this year, interest in plant-based eating and vegan living is at an all time high. Many Brits cut down on meat, dairy and eggs in response to health concerns and supermarket shortages last year, with half saying they would continue to purchase vegan meat and dairy alternatives.
If you haven't signed up for Veganuary, it's not too late to get started. Supermarkets, high-street coffee shops and restaurant menus are all packed with convenient, tasty vegan food options, while resources like the free VeGuide app are full of tips, advice and easy recipes to keep you on track. ‘The biggest challenge is deciding to give it a go!’ says Samantha Calvert, head of communications at The Vegan Society. ‘After a few weeks it will feel as natural as anything and you will start to experience amazing benefits.’
If you don’t want to go vegan overnight, try making small changes to your everyday meals, like swapping cow’s milk for oat milk on your cereal. Or why not challenge yourself to try a new plant-based recipe each week? ‘Treat your taste buds to new foods and new flavours. Leaving your food comfort zone will take you on a voyage of discovery,’ says Samantha.
8. Ayurvedic wellness
Better skin, more energy, less stress, improved focus: just some of the benefits associated with Ayurveda. Now supplements, skincare and Instagram influencers are getting in on the act. But what exactly is it?
‘Ayurveda is a holistic system of healing from ancient India, which aims to guide us toward a healthy, happy and long life,’ explains Ayurvedic practitioner Julie Bernier, founder of True Ayurveda. It touches on everything from diet to self-care, prescribing specific practices and ways of living which aim to keep mind and body in balance.
An easy tip to try today is simply switching your cold drinking water for warm or hot. ‘Warm water is considered a medicine, and its effects may surprise you,’ says Julie. ‘Many people find that by making this switch alone, they experience less bloating, gas and constipation, and have a healthier appetite. It’s especially important in the cooler months.’
Self-care is also crucial. ‘Self-care was written into the ancient Ayurvedic texts as daily and seasonal routines,' explains Julie. The Ritual of Ayurveda range by luxury beauty brand Rituals harnesses the soothing benefits of natural ingredients like Indian rose oil and sweet almond oil to help you find balance and harmony.
9. Energy healing
While energy healing isn’t new, experts expect our increasing appetite for restorative spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation to lead more people to explore the benefits for themselves. ‘Simply put, energy healing is a holistic practice that involves an intervention of conscious intent within the body's natural energy flow in order to reduce stress and anxiety, and promote vitality, health and wellbeing,’ explains Lynn Jackson, founder of The Bespoke Retreat Company.
You might hear this energy referred to as chi, prana or ki (as in Reiki). It can also be called the aura or light body. ‘Energy healing works directly with the electromagnetic field (EMF) that surrounds and interpenetrates the physical body,’ says Christabel Armsden of Field Dynamics. ‘A big change is occurring in our understanding of biolectric health. Research is being done everywhere from Harvard to the Royal Society that shows how intrinsic electricity is to biology, providing a new framework for understanding how biology might work with electricity and electromagnetic fields to play a vital role in our health.’
‘2020 has undoubtedly been the most difficult and traumatic year that many of us have ever experienced, and its legacy will be an increasing awareness that wellness is an inside job,’ says Lynn. ‘Healing retreats offer a holistic, whole-person solution, combining relaxation and enjoyment with physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment, regeneration and transformation.’
With more time to cook on our hands, we’re looking to maximise the bang we get for our nutritional buck. ‘When cooking at home, you have control over the ingredients you use, and can opt for healthier recipes and ingredients,' explains nutrition scientist Helena Gibson-Moore of the British Nutrition Foundation.
Which means we're topping up our (virtual) shopping baskets with nutraceuticals. Nutra-what? Simply put, nutraceuticals are the foods and food-based supplements we consume in an attempt to improve our health, from wholegrain bread to plant-based supplements. These have often been tweaked or fortified – think orange juice fortified with calcium.
As more research emerges on possible effects of the microbiome on our health, look out for new ingredients to add to your recipes, such as supplements and fermented foods like kefir. ‘Emerging research suggests that a healthy gut microbiome may be associated with a reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome and colorectal cancer, and may play a role in metabolism, immunity and behaviour,' explains Helena.