A quick look at the wellness trends for 2020 reveals a welcomed theme — as a society, we’re starting to respect and celebrate natural physiological and emotional needs that we’ve both resisted and demonized over the past few decades, if not the past century.
What’s a diet anyway? It’s really just a socially accepted form of mild starvation.
Setting an alarm? It might seem like the structured, disciplined thing to do, but waking up unnaturally rips you out of REM sleep, potentially dysregulating your mood and compromising your cognition throughout the day.
Drinking yourself to oblivion? It may be normalized in American culture — especially for college freshmen — but any amount of intoxication is just a sign that you’re poisoning your liver.
We agree that listening to our bodies and minds is one of the best ways to lead our best lives, so here’s a list of the 2020 wellness trends that help us do just that.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) may have been all the rage in 2019, and it certainly has its benefits, but as we move into 2020, we’re starting to champion more mellow workouts.
Fitness activities that are restorative focus on bodily recovery rather than intensity. The term can refer to time spent in rest after a high-intensity interval, or a series of alignment exercises (such as yoga and pilates), or simply stretching.
Rising in popularity both online and in gyms are mobility and flexibility workouts. These focus on both stretching the muscles and working the joints so they stay lubricated, which is essential if you want to stay agile.
So restorative fitness isn’t just about staying in shape and avoiding injury now — it can help you have a higher quality of life down the line.
Most Americans don’t grow up drinking wine at the dinner table with their parents as kids often do in other countries. Instead, we often learn to drink (ahem, binge) in college. As a result, our society has a weird relationship with alcohol, one that often swings between total abstinence and over-indulgence.
Given symptoms of intoxication, including a mild buzz, are just signs that we’re poisoning ourselves, a saner way to drink is to slow down and allow our bodies to process the alcohol.
(We understand that it’s a liability for some folks to drink even a drop of alcohol, be it due to Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) or any other form of physical allergy.)
Slowing down might be a buzz-killer, but it’s certainly better for our bodies — in 2018, the Lancet published a groundbreaking study that challenged popular beliefs that alcohol provides some sort of health benefit. Instead, researchers found that drinking even small amounts can increase cancer risks.
Now, people without clinical drinking problems like Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) are cutting back on booze or giving it up altogether.
Mocktails are becoming a thing, and sober bars are hitting the nighttime scene. Also emerging are new online communities that help people cut back on drinking.
So staying sober — even if you drink a bit — is officially cool.
It sounds insane, but it must be said: We need to sleep. We simply cannot function well without it. Plus it makes us look amazing. Waking up at the crack of dawn, unless you’ve knocked out at 9 pm, often means sacrificing important REM time, which regenerates the brain, keeping you alert, positive, and even protecting against cognitive decline.
As we offboard from hustle culture, which was celebrated by young startup founders throughout the 2010s, we’re admitting to ourselves that burning the midnight candle isn’t something to boast about.
According to stats gathered by MindBody, a global wellness platform that connects users to fitness, beauty, and integrative wellness services, Americans are exhausted.
Sixty percent say they’re often tired at work, and 71 percent report a desire to have nap pods at the office.
Whether it’s hitting a nap bar, training yourself to wake up without an alarm clock, or fighting for later school start times, we’re finally starting to wake up (no pun intended) to the fact, as a society, we need to change our relationship to sleep.
We look forward to catching up on some shut-eye this year.
From keto to paleo to the elimination diet, it seems you can’t have a meal with a few friends without hearing about what food fad they’ve surrendered to or how much gluten or dairy they’re avoiding.
That’s not to say there isn’t any nutritional value in these trends, or “clean eating,” but obsessively monitoring what you eat and when you eat it can lead to unsustainable feelings of physical and mental deprivation, which can ultimately backfire and lead to all-out binging on unhealthy foods.
Right now, we’re seeing an uptick in an eating disorder called Orthorexia, which is an obsession with healthy eating. Thankfully, something called intuitive eating is starting to enter the mainstream lexicon.
It really just boils down to eating what your body wants when it wants it, and stopping when you’re full.
Craving a chocolate bar? Go for it. Eat until your body nudges you to stop eating, which is probably after just a few bites. If you’ve ever had more than a sane dose of chocolate (been there), you know that your body usually signals you to stop after just a few bites. Otherwise, you’ll start feeling sick.
The hardest part of intuitive eating is avoiding mindless snacking or eating to stuff uncomfortable feelings, which isn’t all that easy to do. But if you can slowly train yourself to avoid this kind of eating, you’ll probably find your weight staying pretty stable.
Add some exercise into the mix and you might even lose a pound or two — research suggests that people who eat intuitively have lower BMIs and greater psychological health.
Like emotional wellness, experiential wellness can take many forms, from incorporating wellness activities into your travel, such as meditation and healing retreats, to relaxing at the nearest spa all day.
2019 saw a rise in wellness cruises and wellness festivals, and they are predicted to grow in popularity throughout 2020.
And if sticking to a budget is one of your resolves for 2020, don’t fear — there are plenty of experiential wellness activities that won’t break your bank account, such as a community sound bath, outdoor meditation, or a trip to the nearest healing hot springs.
You can even find some meditation retreats that are donation-only, like the Pa Pae Meditation retreat I attended outside Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Of the people surveyed by MindBody, many people indicated that they are ready to invest more in their emotional health — from 3.4 hours a week to 3.6 hours. Emotional wellness can mean different things to different people, of course, so nourishing it can take many forms.
In addition to signing up with a therapist or visiting a psychiatrist for severe mental health problems (thankfully, the stigma surrounding mental illness is starting to vanish), you can attend breath workshops, sound baths, guided meditations, or just use a meditation app like Headspace, Calm, or Insight Timer.
There are also platforms like Better Help that can connect you with licensed therapists online.
Another trend taking off is something called shadow work, which involves confronting, accepting, and integrating your “dark side” into your overall personality. The concept of a shadow self was coined by Carl Jung, and reconciling with it is now all the rage.
As with the aforementioned wellness trends, shadow work encourages us to embrace our humanness instead of running scared from it.
A big part of emotional wellness involves taking the pressure off of ourselves to be perfect.
This trend might seem to deviate from our theme of listening to our bodies, but it really falls right in line with the concept. Our skin is an organ, and smearing a bunch of toxins into it, be it talc or phthalates or parabens, is just as harmful to our bodies as burdening our livers with too much ethanol.
The good news is there is a wealth of resources out there to help you go clean, and even products at Target that have axed some of the biggest offenders from the ingredients list.
So gifting yourself a few clean beauty products as you ring in the new decade is well worth a little splurge.
Tracy Chabala’s personal essays and journalism have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, VICE, Motherboard, Salon, and other publications. She holds an MFA in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California. Twitter: @TracyAChabala
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