7 Wellness Trends That Will Be Big in 2021
Nina Zorfass, IIN Content Editor
Health and wellness are at the forefront of many people’s minds right now.
In a year of uncertainty, we're focusing more on what’s important to us, namely our health and the health of our loved ones. But we at IIN know that health is so much more than just the absence of disease. Real health – holistic health – happens when you zoom out and refocus on the entire picture, taking into account all the areas of your life that impact your well-being, such as your diet, physical activity, career, relationships, home environment, and spiritual practice.
Many of us are itching to leave 2020 behind, but we have so much to learn and reflect upon, including what we want to take with us into the new year. How we took care of ourselves, how we stood up for human rights, and how we contributed to the greater good of our communities are all things to remember and resolve to do even better in 2021.
Seven wellness trends that will be big in 2021:
1. Expect a resurgence of the sober-curious movement.
Drinking alcohol is ingrained in many cultures, creating community and connection when you gather with friends at a bar or party, during holidays, and at other social activities. In 2020, we saw a rise in alcohol consumption, as much as a 16% increase in adults in the United States, due to the stress and anxiety of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The sober-curious movement isn’t new, but 2021 may be the year of its resurgence.
Ruby Warrington, the author who coined the term sober curious, encourages everyone to get inquisitive about their drinking habits, exploring what it would be like to live a life with little to no alcohol. It also means “being more intentional about how, when, and why you drink.”
Abstaining from alcohol, even for a short period, such as 30 days in “Dry January,” has many health benefits, including reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and liver disease. Cutting out alcohol from your regular routine can also improve focus and energy and increase feelings of self-efficacy.
With a growing demand to create a social life that doesn’t revolve around alcohol, there are now many alternatives available, from kombucha to alcohol-free beer, as well as recipes for delicious mocktails you can make at home for a solo self-care night or a socially distant Zoom call with friends! Removing alcohol from your routine will likely lead to a need to find alternative habits and routines that bring you joy and promote health, such as taking up painting or enrolling in an online class, and may even have you experimenting with being sober-curious well beyond January.
If you discover that you’re struggling with cutting alcohol out of your routine and are negatively impacted by your alcohol consumption, find a local Alcoholics Anonymous group to get support (in person or virtually).
2. Sleep will be at the top of our to-do lists.
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Sleep is the key to great health, so it’s no surprise that it has emerged as its own industry within the wellness industry, and will only continue to grow as a health focus in 2021.
Not getting enough quality and quantity of sleep were issues well before the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted our ability to sleep well. The sleep industry has exploded to include anything and everything that can possibly improve sleep health, such as supplements, wearable devices, luxurious bedding, organic mattresses, blue light glasses, white noise machines, meditation and breathwork apps, and so much more.
We’ve also seen a shift in how people are thinking about taking care of their health through sleep, rest, and self-care. While the act of sleep seemingly requires all of the latest products and gadgets, the reliance on products to practice self-care has transformed into the realization that self-care is really about slowing down. This includes prioritizing sleep and rest as part of one’s self-care regimen. This has also given rise to “sleepfluencers” – yep, you heard that right – who are highlighting the importance and benefits of rest.
The need to prioritize quality sleep may have been amplified during the pandemic, but has established long-lasting roots in everyday life. We know that in order to show up as the best versions of ourselves – to fight for equal rights, advocate for our health, create more inclusive and safe communities – we must rest and rejuvenate.
What’s next in the frontier of sleep? Perhaps a resurgence in hypnotherapy, personalized sleep coaching, or even an overhaul to the design of our homes to promote great sleep.
3. Our homes (and communities) are getting major upgrades to support well-being, from architecture to technology.
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In 2020, we had plenty of time to notice how our home environments made us feel, physically and emotionally, and we realized that we desire environments that not only make us feel good but foster productivity and serve multiple purposes.
Did your lack of storage make you feel anxious? Perhaps you took the opportunity to invest in furniture that doubled as storage. Did working on the couch make your back and neck ache? You may have had to rearrange furniture to transform your living room into a proper office with an ergonomic setup. Did the air feel stale after a full day inside? Perhaps you brought in more plants to purify the air, boost your mood, and decrease anxiety.
This trend of creating flexible, multifunctional spaces that also make us feel great is here to stay and will become even more popular in 2021. Architects are increasingly hearing the need for homes to mimic the flex spaces of an office, requests for bringing the outdoors in, from a sunroom that acts as a greenhouse to a dedicated home gym (more on that in the next trend!), and appeals for more storage, including pantries that are able to hold more than 30 days of food and paper products.
There’s also a desire to keep the home protected from the outside world, with designated entry areas to remove potentially contaminated items, an increased use of no-touch technology, and even a smart closet to disinfect clothes! When it comes to our local communities, making them friendlier for bikes and pedestrians, rethinking population density, and creating healthier buildings from the ground up will be key to promote the health of citizens and improve local infrastructure and economies.
4. At-home fitness is here to stay.
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The home fitness industry exploded in 2020, and for good reason. With gyms closed for the majority of the year, we had to figure out how to keep up with our fitness routines from home. Those who were devout members of gyms and boutique studios experienced a loss of community, comradery, and accountability. Fitness companies as well as personal trainers felt this loss of community deeply, too.
They got creative, hosting socially distanced classes outside when weather permitted and building higher-tech platforms that fostered virtual engagement. For example, Mindbody, the platform that powers many brick-and-mortar gyms, created their own video conferencing tool that allowed these kinds of gyms to facilitate virtual and livestreamed classes with a platform customers were already familiar with.
While at-home fitness equipment and routines were around long before the pandemic, the trend of working out at home has accelerated and will continue to grow long after gyms reopen. People have realized that getting in a workout without needing to commute is much simpler – in fact, people are working out more frequently during the week, and even trying new classes because they aren’t as self-conscious as they might be in front of others at the gym. At-home fitness routines are also perfect for those who can’t take extended periods of time to get their workouts in, allowing them the flexibility of doing micro-sessions during the day, such as 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at lunch.
At-home gyms were once an indication of wealth and luxury, but they’re bound to become more popular in 2021, and not just for those who always had the means to do so. Some people have been able to save money during social distancing because they are spending less of their disposable income on eating out, entertainment, and travel, giving them opportunities to reprioritize their personal investments in their health.
5. Virtual healthcare will continue to be the new normal, and it’s more personalized than ever.
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Before the pandemic, you likely didn't hesitate to walk into an urgent care or doctor’s office if you felt sick. Now, in order to keep healthcare workers safe and healthy – as well as reduce your potential risk of exposure – almost every doctor requires prescreening to make an in-person appointment, or will require a video appointment to assess whether an in-person appointment is warranted.
The use of telehealth services have been on the rise, and will only continue to rise in 2021. The importance of telehealth and telemedicine cannot be understated, especially when it comes to preventive care. Ensuring that those who are at risk of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, as well as those experiencing mental health issues, get the quality care they need virtually is incredibly important. The accessibility of telehealth, such as video chatting with a doctor or texting with a therapist, is a huge step forward in a field that usually moves very slowly to make such changes.
The pandemic didn't just change the way we view healthcare – it also transformed the way many think about their personal health, inspiring us to engage in preventive health practices that we thought we were “too busy” for before. With health on people’s minds as well as enduring well beyond the pandemic, many people have sought the personalized help of nutritionists, dietitians, acupuncturists, therapists, and Health Coaches, all of whom can provide a customized experience, helping people reach their health goals with one-on-one care.
6. We want to become even more conscious consumers.
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Awareness around living a more sustainable lifestyle, combatting climate change, reducing waste, and generally being a more conscious and responsible consumer is only going to increase as we head into 2021 and beyond.
The global food supply chain was greatly impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic, which made many of us rethink our contribution to this system, how we can better support our local economies, and contribute to reduced carbon emissions and food and packaging waste. In the United States alone, food waste creates the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as 37 million cars!
Composting is one way to help reduce these emissions as well as reduce food waste, and is part of the larger equation to ensure more equitable distribution of food. Many were able to continue composting during the pandemic, even in New York City, and many took up the practice as they realized how much of their total waste was food and compostable items!
We’re also looking at food from a different perspective, as we continue to stock our pantries and freezers with non-perishables that also promote our health and the health of the environment. In their annual food trends report, Whole Foods shares that upcycled foods, which are foods that utilize “neglected and underused parts of an ingredient as a path to reducing food waste,” will become even more popular in 2021.
In addition to maximizing food ingredients to reduce waste, frozen foods are gaining popularity for their nutritional value as well as their reduced impact on the environment, making them a staple ingredient in our homes in 2021. With a lower carbon footprint than fresh produce, frozen produce is a great alternative, especially because produce makes up the majority of food waste. According to a consumer survey conducted in early 2020, more than 50% of respondents said they preferred frozen foods over fresh because they last longer and help reduce trips to the store (reducing COVID-19 exposure), and nearly 30% said they were buying frozen foods because they were cooking more at home.
We’re also continuing to ditch the plastic and opt for alternatives, such as containers made from plant sugars, and supporting local businesses, from farmers to artisans, to decrease our footprint even further. Overall, consumers are turning their awareness into real action as they create healthier local and global communities for generations to come.
7. Our communities are becoming more equitable and inclusive.
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One can’t look forward into 2021 without recognizing the racial and social justice movements of 2020 that sparked difficult but necessary conversations and ignited change in our communities.
The Black Lives Matter Movement was founded in 2013 but gained global attention in 2020 as protests against systemic racism started after the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. After months of pandemic lockdown, these protests were not just a reckoning with the realities of racial injustice, but also an outpouring of grief and renewed awareness of the economic, political, social, and health disparities Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) experience that were exacerbated by COVID-19.
In the months that followed, conversations were had about allyship, standing up for marginalized groups you are not a part of; anti-racism, the active work of dismantling your own beliefs around race and privilege as well as fighting to defeat systemic racism; and diversity, inclusion, and equity, terms that reflect the ways in which race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, ability, religion, class, and body size impact how an individual is treated.
In health and wellness communities, these conversations were long overdue. “Wellness” has become synonymous with privilege, and with practices and beliefs that are not only considered luxurious and unattainable, but often appropriated from BIPOC cultures without due credit. IIN is committed to learning how to be better and do better to create a more inclusive wellness community that is defined by the incredible transformative work of our Health Coaches around the globe.
Creating more equitable and inclusive communities will not happen overnight – it is a journey that requires an ongoing, conscious effort from every individual in order to create true well-being in our communities. As part of this work, our hope is that Health Coaches deeply understand the responsibility they have to stand up for injustice whenever they see it, advocate for equitable access to healthcare, and move into 2021 with a renewed sense of purpose.