Experts identify future directions in wellness: from mushrooms emerging from underground to a new era of transformative wellness travel to the rise of the “wellness kitchen”
When 600+ wellness experts from 40+ nations gather to debate the future of wellness, a uniquely insightful and global view of trends unfolds. That’s what transpired at the recent Global Wellness Summit (GWS), which brought together leaders from the travel, spa, beauty, fitness, nutrition, technology, medical and architecture worlds. Today, the organization released their top wellness trends for 2018 (and beyond).
“No other trends report is based on the perspectives of so many wellness experts,” said Susie Ellis, GWS chairman & CEO. “And every one of this year’s trends pushes the health and wellness envelope in unexpected ways.”
1. Mushrooms Emerge from Underground
Whether “magic” or medicinal, shrooms’ superpowers come to light
The mysterious underground kingdom of mushrooms is actually the largest set of organisms on the planet – and in 2018 more people will explore the unique medicine they provide our brains and bodies. Thanks to a surge in rather mind-blowing medical evidence, demonstrating that they reset the brain and shake the “snow globe” on rigid neural patterns, mushrooms will emerge from the underground, and could prove “better than existing treatments” for anxiety, depression and addiction. And more, bigger medical studies are ahead, such as tech guru, Peter Thiel’s, Compass Pathways ($20 million!) 2018 European trial. And a new kind of wellness retreat (like Mycomeditations, Jamaica) will keep popping up.
The evidence also mounts that many mushrooms are magical for health: as stress and inflammation fighters. Playing a starring role in Asia’s centuries-old food-as-medicine philosophy, now the functional mushroom trend goes global. We’ll see mushrooms (especially “adaptogenic” varietals like reishi, cordyceps, chaga) get infused in everything imaginable: powders, lattes, cocoas, chocolate, broths, oils and teas. And with many mushrooms boasting unique skin-boosting powers, mushroom-infused products will keep invading the beauty aisles. Mushrooms…weird, far out? Anything but: this trend is driven by new medical evidence.
2. A New Era of Transformative Wellness Travel
Circuits, sagas and epic storylines
Wellness is, by nature, a journey – an ongoing physical and emotional quest. So why, at even amazing wellness/spa destinations, do classes, treatments and experiences get served up piecemeal? You have that massage, and wonder, what now, the room, the pool? You haven’t been wrapped up in a true wellness “narrative” so you could get…bored. “Transformational travel” is the 2018 buzzword, described as “…travel that challenges people on a deeply personal level, creating emotion through the powerful medium of storytelling…” And we predict more wellness destinations will use the power of wellness circuits and epic storylines to create a “necklace” of linked wellness experiences rather than the disconnected “beads” of programming, amenities, and itineraries.
A bold first: the opening of Six Senses Bhutan (May), a multi-chapter wellness circuit where people journey across five lodges, at each totally immersed in one of five key pillars of Bhutan’s “Gross National Happiness Index.” More destinations will cast you as the fearless heroine in a dramatic wellness saga: In Iceland’s The Red Mountain Resort concept spa-goers follow the intense, five-chapter emotional and sensory voyage of an ancient Icelandic hero. (More wellness experiences will deploy fantasy and wellness “avatars” – consider the craze for “training like a mermaid”.) 50-minute treatment? Spa experiences will be reimagined as active, long, nature-roaming journeys (a circuit of hiking, meditation, treatments, etc.), like the all-day Spa Safari at Nihi, Sumba Island. More performance, music and art (“story” immersion) will get served up with wellness: like soaking in hot springs while listening to a live concert (coming to Peninsula Hot Springs, AU). The “transformative travel” concept will surely get used to death, but in wellness travel it’s the very brand and promise. The future for wellness travel will be engaging people’s emotions as much as evidence-based healing.
3. Reframing the First 1,000 Days
Pre-conception & paternity enter the health equation
We all know that it takes a sperm and an ovum to create a baby. However, in our mom-centric world, we have not recognized that the health and lifestyle choices of both parents during the pre-conception period – including emotional wellness – can impact their child’s health for a lifetime. This new trend challenges us to look before the traditional 1,000 days of pregnancy and early childhood and puts sharp focus on the role of epigenetics, the study of how gene expression changes with environmental and lifestyle factors, and that can be inherited. It also examines the father’s role in creating a supportive and healthy environment during pregnancy and after birth.
As more research is released, expect to see new guidelines that that go far beyond “no smoking or alcohol during pregnancy.” And these recommendations will include dads as well as moms. In addition, wellness treatments and techniques, such as yoga, massage, and mindfulness, will be the first choice to treat babies and children of all ages suffering from injury, sleeplessness or pain. Driving the trend: Dr. Sergio Pecorelli, MD, PhD, University of Brescia Italy, and a global team of scientists.
4. The Wellness Kitchen
Kitchens catch up with healthy eating
For generations, kitchens have been places where we store dead food in dark cupboards – that would be consumed months, or even years, later. However, the old eating and lifestyle habits of the 1950s are history, and today more people want to eat living, healthy, organic food. The newly christened “Wellness Kitchen” will store and showcase fresh fruits and vegetables as opposed to processed foods, and new designs and technology will celebrate uncluttered, well-ventilated spaces that are as encouraging of socializing as they are of preparing healthy food.
Refrigerators will be reimagined to properly store and transparently display fresh fruits and vegetables, and kitchens will have space for gardens and sprouting. Noisy appliances will be a thing of the past. Composting delivery systems and particulate and oxygen sensors will be standard features. And there will be more emphasis on healthy building materials. Because just like the food it contains, the Wellness Kitchen doesn’t merely feed – it nourishes. Leading examples: Veronica Schreibeis, CEO and Founder, Vera Iconica Kitchen; International WELL Building Institute; Pratt Institute, Industrial Design Department.
5. Getting our “Clean Air Act” Together
Taking personal responsibility for the air we breathe
The toxins in the air that we breathe (both indoors and out) have become a catastrophic invisible killer, responsible for the premature deaths of 6.5 million people worldwide. Over 90% of the world’s population now breathe air that violates air quality guidelines: countries like China and India are smothered in toxic air, while the (energy efficient) airtight buildings in developed nations can prove just as deadly. As the gravity of this issue becomes clearer – and disagreements over standards get left on the table by governments – we will see individuals owning their own “clean air acts.”
This can mean filling our homes and offices with plants, donning chic air pollution masks, actively monitoring indoor air quality using new sensors and apps, investing in devices that purify the air around us (even within the confines of our cars), adopting the storm of new pollution-fighting beauty regimes, embracing more salt therapy and breathwork training, or choosing “lung-cleansing” travel destinations. Significantly, this trend will put more pressure on businesses and governments to take action against the ultra-fine particulates that are dirtying our air.
6. Extreme Wellness
Hacking our way to better brains, bodies and overall well-being
The power to become the best we can be has never been more attainable, and the pursuit of wellness has never been more extreme. Brain “hacks” are on the rise, and there is a surge in brain-optimizing nootropics and even private brain optimization clubs, like the soon-to-launch Field in New York City, which uses neuromodulation technology to create that “elite brain.” An age of hyper-personalized, deep-view health and wellness, thanks to tests combining DNA, epigenetic and microbiome testing (like Wellness FX), is on the horizon. In the name of physical and mental wellness, humans are re-wiring themselves to achieve the once impossible.
More people will train like an Olympic athlete, or tough out extreme “mind over matter” workshops, like the “Ice Man” Wim Hof’s training in Switzerland, deploying meditation and breathwork to brave extreme ice and learn to master our immune and autonomic nervous systems. (Note: ice is very hot, and icy and extreme hot/cold experiences are one of the top trends at wellness destinations.) The new luxury travel escapes challenge both body and mind: take Black Tomato’s “Get Lost” adventures, where the very brave are dropped into the wilderness to fend for themselves. The focus: building a better brain and hacking the body’s basic make-up through precision medicine and wellness – anything and everything seems suddenly possible. With a bit of grit – extreme wellness often borders on scary and downright uncomfortable – an open mind, and a little extra cash (this is not necessarily affordable wellness), get ready to build a better you in 2018. Because extreme challenges and experiences will bring a wealth of super powers to everyday, ordinary humans.
7. Wellness Meets Happiness
The conversation becomes more important
'Happiness,” “wellness,” “well-being” – the terms get used interchangeably, but distinctions are emerging: wellness connotes a state of overall health, while happiness is perceptual. Happiness has felt vague, but now there is hard science, with annual reports like The World Happiness Report first introduced at the UN, and Gallup-Sharecare Well-being Index, that take the global pulse on people’s happiness. And this science reveals crucial things. One, people overall aren’t happy: The UN report (155 countries surveyed) reveals a world with a mediocre 5/10 happiness score. Two, happiness is a far more expansive concept than wellness: physical health is one key measure (along with income, trust in government), but social connection plays an extraordinary role in human happiness. Another mounting body of science provides the other key “happiness” lesson: alarming research on how designed-for-addiction smartphones and social media are creating a depression, anxiety, suicide, addiction, and extreme body issues epidemic. The happiness science lessons are clear: the wellness world needs to put a greater focus on happiness generally – and on driving social connection and technology disconnection specifically.
With loneliness as big a killer as smoking, governments will take action, like the UK recently appointing a Minister of Loneliness. In the wellness space a massive trend is new co-working, co-living and social spaces laser-focused on building well communities in our age of digital isolation and remote work. The Assemblage (NYC), one of the new “third place” membership clubs, blends daily events/workshops and mindful exercise and an Ayurvedic restaurant “to transition from a society defined by separation into one of connectedness.” At the UK’s co-working and wellness space Mortimer House, each floor addresses one of Maslow’s (8) Hierarchy of Needs, from “love and belonging” to physical health. Co-working giant WeWork is on a global expansion tear with its work, wellness and community spaces designed for our gig economy, and are now launching other new community and wellness-focused concepts, like WeLive (co-living) and Rise by We (fitness/wellness centers).
2018 will be the watershed backlash year against big tech, with more Silicon Valley engineers speaking out – and more medical evidence coming to light – about the disastrous effects that 24/7 digital/social media connection has on our brains and happiness. Tech-fighting tech will appear, like Thrive Global’s coming tech detox app ThriveMode, which blocks texts and calls from everyone except your VIPs, alerts people you’re away from your phone, and lets you set boundaries on screen time, cutting you off when you binge. In wellness travel, off-the-grid and no WiFi destinations focused on contemplative community and nature will be the most sought after – like gorgeous Eremito’s (Italy) 50-hour silent experiences. And explicitly happiness-focused (or joy-for-joy’s sake) wellness approaches will rise. Like eating for “happiness,” with menus and diets packed with serotonin-boasting foods like tuna, salmon, nuts, seeds, bananas, green tea, dark chocolate, spinach, blueberries and blackberries. And “happy fitness” that returns exercise to childlike play, whether trampoline fitness classes (from Ireland’s Boogie Bounce to Hong Kong’s BounceLimit) or classes that feel like school recess, with everything from dodge ball to monkey bars. And yes…more laughter yoga and smile asana.
8. A New Feminist Wellness
From a surge in women-only, wellness-infused clubs and co-working spaces–to a storm of FemTech “solving” for women’s bodies
2017 was a year of attacks on, and fighting back, by women: The U.S. presidential administration threatening women’s rights, the 5 million-strong global Women’s March, Harvey Weinstein, MeToo, the exposure of the Silicon Valley boys club. #Resist and #thefutureisfemale became global movements, and “feminism” was rightly named the word of the year. With this new feminist wave, we’ve also seen a shift in the self-care concept: from more selfish (me) to more political (us). Of course, the reality is that the woman-dominated wellness world has been steadily solving for women’s bodies and lives for years, creating, in effect, a supplemental, woman-focused healthcare system. With this confluence of forces, we predict new intersections between women’s empowerment, feminism and wellness in 2018. The woman-empowering message in wellness will get more explicit and the parameters of what constitutes wellness for women will radically expand. By women, for women, wellness solutions will march strong.
We’ll see more women-only clubs, co-working spaces, and collectives: where women work, network, empower each other, unwind and learn – with much wellness on tap (From NYC’s The Wing to LA’s WMN Space). The FemTech wave will only rise, with a new army of women doctors, technologists and designers “solving” for women’s actual bodies and lives - whether apps putting fertility, contraception and hormone tracking in women’s hands (Natural Cycles, MOODY U) to “smart” clothing engineered for real women’s bodies (Universal Standard) to a raft of for-women sexual wellness products/platforms. Women of color will move the industry beyond #WellnessSoWhite, whether with for-them fitness and yoga classes to beauty brands rolling out cosmetic lines that reflect dozens of skin tones (Fenty Beauty).
More wellness travel will be squarely aimed at women’s empowerment: from more tough all-women’s adventure travel to more “painmoons,” wellness retreats providing women emotional healing after divorce, breakups, grief, anger, loss of sexual happiness, etc. There will also be new, more feminist beauty programs, that put a brain back in the beauty equation – like Six Senses soon-to-launch Holistic Anti-Aging clinics. This fourth wave of feminism is galvanizing this rush of for-women, by-women wellness. But no matter the future political climate, this trend comes down to one fact: the sheer growth in women’s spending power, because economists agree – the global economic future is female.