As we look ahead to the wellness trends primed to influence and empower individuals in 2022, their mind-and-body benefits feel especially vital. This year saw COVID-19 vaccinations offering a sense of hope and a move toward looser restrictions. But amid the new Omicron wave, there’s still much uncertainty and enduring fear—and looking after our mental and physical well-being is still essential. From the ongoing reward of a good old-fashioned walk to the now more-accessible therapeutic benefits of psychedelics, a look at five wellness trends that are set to keep expanding in 2022.
Taking Revitalizing Walks
In 2020, it was all about the sanity walk. But the past year has seen the rise of many new strolling phenomena: There’s the “silly little walk,” which Vogue culture writer Emma Specter described as “a solo outdoor stroll taken with no real purpose, no direction or tacked-on errand; just a vague desire to be out among the living again after a year of isolation (or, more accurately, an understanding of just how crazy you’ll go if you spend one more second in your apartment).” On the other end of the spectrum? The “hot girl walk,” a TikTok trend started by TikToker Mia (the hashtag has nearly 50 million views) where you go on a walk and think about the things you’re grateful for, your goals and how you’re going to achieve them, and, of course, how hot you are.
“Walking is the most popular physical activity in the world, and one of the healthiest things we can do for our bodies,” says Apple’s senior director of fitness technologies Jay Blahnik, who helped introduce the Apple Fitness+ audio walking experience feature, which invites users to walk while immersing themselves in the narrative of an influential person, like country icon Dolly Parton or Uzo Aduba. “Even throughout this challenging period of time, one activity that has remained available to many is walking.” According to a Rockport survey, 53% of us are walking one to five miles more per day compared to pre-pandemic statistics—and we have every reason to keep it up.
Reimagining the Potential of Psychedelics
The world of psychedelic wellness continues to increase in size and scope. The U.S. is seeing a boom in once-underground hallucinogens such as ketamine, LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin being explored as treatments for mental health issues like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “The current model for treating problems like anxiety and depression just isn’t very good,” explains Frederick Streeter Barrett, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a faculty member at the university’s recently opened Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research. “Patients take pills every day, for years, and these medications not only have nasty side effects, they often don’t even work. But with psychedelics-assisted therapy, there’s the potential to truly alter someone’s life with just one or two sessions, because you’re getting at suffering at the source.” With it, there has also been a rise in psychedelic retreats and groups, such as the Ancestor Project (formerly known as the Sabina Project), a Black-founded collective offering psychedelic education and safe and inclusive ceremonies with the goal of healing the BIPOC communities that need it most. “There is a lot of fear and shame around the use of these medicines that have been categorized as drugs by the same system that created the War on Drugs, which has been used to oppress our communities for decades,” Charlotte James, cofounder of the Ancestor Project, told Vogue earlier this year. “The truth is, these medicines come from our traditions.” As the narrative around psychedelics shifts and they continue to re-emerge in the medical and mental health space, it’s important that treatment access is safe and culturally sensitive.
Embracing Next-Gen Wearables
The more technology there is, the more us humans are eager to explore how we can monitor our health and increase our longevity. And that’s where the next generation of wearable devices continues to disrupt and fuel better health habits through their data and insights. Building on its comprehensive set of health tools, the Apple Watch 7.0 series introduced a blood oxygen sensor, which can be an overall signifier of wellness and, in the time of COVID-19, is particularly useful given that low oxygen levels can be an early warning sign of the virus. Then there’s the latest model of the sleek Oura ring (a favorite of Expectful CEO Nathalie Walton), a sleep and activity tracker that offers key health metrics (body temperature, respiratory rate, heart rate variability, and sleep quality) to determine your personal “readiness score,” an optimal one meaning you’ve had enough quality sleep and your healthy activity-rest balance is in check. While in the past, wearables have been criticized for gamifying health and fitness, their future is looking much more holistic and focused on general wellness and balance.
Less Taboo, More Eco-Friendly Menstruation
For people who menstruate, navigating the ups and downs of the global pandemic has resulted in upended cycles and exacerbated symptoms. A silver lining of this is that we as individuals and a society are becoming more progressive when it comes to menstruation. This shifting perspective has come with the growth of female-led companies pioneering a new space for menstrual care, from newcomer Looni, a platform dedicated to helping individuals who suffer from menstrual cycle and endometriosis pain, to the Period Company, founded by stylist Karla Welch and creative director Sasha Markova, which is not only shedding light on the environmental impact of tampon and pad usage (producing about 200,000 tons of waste a year in the U.S. alone), but offering stylish and affordable period underwear with unique, leak-prevention technology as an alternative. And in the spirit of equitable access to period supplies, the company is dedicated to giving back, offering a community donation program and partnering with organizations like the Pad Project, a company dedicated to achieving menstrual equity. There’s a long way to go, but the next year is bound to be filled with more advancements in the menstruation space, from innovative, stigma-fighting offerings to much-needed eco-friendly strategies.
Mindful, Plant-Based Eating
Wherever you fall on the eating-style spectrum, there’s probably a buzzy new term for it. Two newer terms are flexitarianism (a combination of “flexible” and “vegetarian”) and reducetarian (committing to eating less meat and dairy and fewer eggs), and one thing they both have in common is: eating fewer animal products. This notion is more relevant than ever as a third of Americans and almost half of Europeans say they’re eating less meat than they did a year ago. As a result, the plant-based market is continuing to boom, and it’s becoming increasingly easy to find worthy alternatives to the animal products that used to be consumed more regularly. For those who still eat animal products, reducetarianism and whole food, plant-centric diets like the Nordic diet are emphasizing the importance of high-quality and sustainably sourced animal products, like river-caught salmon and pasture-raised eggs. Needless to say, this growing plant-forward mentality is not only better for our health, but our planet as well.
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