To say wellness has gone through a seismic shift in 2020 is an understatement. As we collectively navigate a global pandemic, stay-at-home orders, widespread reckoning of racial injustice, and soaring rates of unemployment, everyone, on some level, has contemplated the notion of wellbeing. Doing so under dire circumstances, where our routines and safe havens have been upended by forces so seemingly out of control has at times, felt like an insurmountable challenge. But yet, we soldier on. Isn't that what true wellness is all about? Investing in the food we eat, how we stay active, even the air we breathe has helped us stay rooted in the present while envisioning a hopeful future. Looking ahead to 2021, whether you consider yourself a wellness enthusiast or are new to holistic ways of self-care, as you recalibrate and reset for the New Year, let our expert predictions help guide your journey.
Ahead, some of the most influential names in wellness offer predictions for what will be popular in 2021.
Redefining Digital Mental Wellness
Online communities aren’t new, but they are evolving and are addressing basic mental health needs for many people, and will continue to do so in 2021. Wilma Mae Basta and Danielle Jackson, the founders of DRK Beauty, an online community that provides mental health and wellness resources for women of color, explain over email that "Beyond a trend, we expect to see more forms of online mental health support in the coming months and years." The founders go on to say that no longer will the mental wellness of "women of color exist as a historical afterthought. We are now at an inflection point where our community needs to heal and thrive as a matter of urgency. For women of color, the added layer of racial and generational trauma, healthcare inequities, as well as the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on our communities, makes a holistic approach to self-care an absolute necessity."
Expect to see people playing a more active role in crafting their journey to functioning mental wellness, with digital communities offering guidance in the form of "informal sister circles amongst friends to online group healing sessions."
A paradigm shift in the path to mental wellness can take many forms, given the myriad uncertainty people are living with. "I do think the therapy model of 45 minutes a week isn't always actionable," says Amina AlTai, a holistic leadership and mindset coach who works with female leaders and entrepreneurs over Zoom sessions. We're not talking therapy here, but rather mindset coaching. AlTai concentrates her coaching efforts on providing vocational support, where she helps women navigate shades of imposter syndrome and perfection-striving, as well as helping them realize their ultimate career dreams through small but actionable pivots. With unemployment rates disproportionately affecting women this year, this type of support is crucial to wellness in 2021. "Our mindset, our relationship to endurance, our ability to take care of ourselves," she says, "are all fundamental elements of success. We need to talk about our relationship to ambition as much as we talk about the latest superfood."
In 2020, fitness moved online, a trend that will continue into 2021 and beyond. What exactly does that look like? There's no one-size fitness for all. So, it really depends on your preference. "Lots of fitness professionals are on TikTok," says fitness trainer and C4 athlete, Demi Bagby. "Train with people you engage with and keep your body feeling good," she says. You should be cautious, however, and look to those who are certified to ensure you're following correct form and avoiding injury.
Fast pace power workouts—AKA the lunchtime workout, or workouts you can do in under 10 minute—are also on trend. "A quick 10 to 15 minute full body HIIT is all you need to stay motivated and keep a consistent training routine," says Bagby. "Some days you just want to get in and get out, so a full body burn is the way to go."
Virtual training doesn't have to be quick and frenetic. It can also be slow and nourishing as you focus on aligning body and breath. "It's crucial to focus on the proper biomechanics of breath," explains veteran celebrity Pilates expert, Erika Bloom, adding that it's best to "let the movement follow breath. Also, it’s always better to move more slowly, modify down, or pause and reconnect to your form rather than to push and do things incorrectly or with unnecessary tension."
Bloom pivoted to sessions being 100% virtual in 2020 and launched a digital membership platform, The Membership. This subscription model offers live classes in addition to pre-recorded wellness content. "Our membership is focused on healing movement to truly support holistic health," she says. "Hopefully more and more practitioners move in this direction as self-care is so important during these times where we are all more static in our lives and stressed in our minds."
"Sleep Care" as Self-Care
"Sleep care is the new self-care," says head of beauty partnerships at Pinterest, Aya Kanai. "I think it’s especially popping now because of the state of the world and because people need rituals." People are also tuned into the connection between sleep and immune health, explains sleep expert, Mollie McGlocklin, founder of Sleep Is A Skill.
However, sleep care can be challenging in quarantine where McGlocklin says, "external parameters like consistent wake/sleep times have softened." The added freedom can end up being a hindrance. To this end, McGlocklin says sleep trackers will be popular in the coming year. "What gets measured gets managed. Plus, sleep trackers help define the parameters of restful sleep, including biometrics like heart rate and body temperature."
Another sleep hack to explode in 2021 is awareness of circadian rhythms where "consistency is king." McGlocklin advises people go to bed and wake up at the same time (within 30 minutes) even in quarantine to ensure a layered, restful slumber. "From a cognitive standpoint," she adds, "the thoughts we’re thinking can heat us up or cool us down. Shift away from activating charged thoughts at night to relaxing content to mull over." The idea is to make sure the body can focus on recovery during sleep in tune with our circadian rhythm.
Sleep care as self-care is even carrying over into skincare, with brands like The Route, co-founded by registered nurse, Nancy Pellegrino, developing complex formulas by combining the right ingredients delivered at the right time. "Each and every skin cell has its own circadian rhythm rules by the time of day or night. Your skin’s internal and external processes are vastly different during these times," she says. "Our waking hours, powered by the sunlight finds our skin in protective mode defending itself from harmful invaders (the environment), and at night, it goes into repair mode fixing the damage done and rejuvenating the skin to prepare for another 24 hours."
Food insecurity is the worst it's been in years, with one in eight Americans going hungry, according to Census Bureau survey data collected in November, 2020. This staggering statistic is a wake-up call to many of us when it comes to how we consume food. Serena Poon, CN, CHC, CHN a chef, nutritionist, reiki master, and founder of the method of Culinary Alchemy says, "Americans are starting to realize that we waste about 40% of our food." In order to be better food consumers, Poon advocates upcycling to reduce food waste at home. "Organize your refrigerator so that you eat vegetables that might go bad first," she says. She also likes to use the whole plant, whether that means using veggie peels to make crisps or saving apple cores for homemade apple cider vinegar or fruit tea.
Stems and plant parts can be sautéed with garlic or blended into pesto, slaw, broth, or vegan pâté. Fruit and veggie seeds can be roasted or planted in your garden. And "buy local to help decrease the chances of food being tossed because of issues with transport or because of physical flaws," she says.
Astaire is another culinary upcycler, who points out, "When you look at the history of many of our favorite dishes, they often came about from the leftovers of something else." For the year ahead, she urges people to keep food upcycling simple. "Fight food waste with fresh fruits and veggies is with my 3S method. When all else fails at the end of the week, throw it into a smoothie, stirfry or stew."
Smart Air Purifiers
One of the fastest growing wellness products on the market is the at-home air purifier, which we'll see evolve with smart connectivity technology in 2021 and beyond. Abe Malkin, MD, the Founder and Medical Director of Concierge MD LA, a home-based concierge medical practice says, "HEPA or medical grade filtration systems are the best," adding that air purifiers have been proven effective against influenza, measles, and even SARS. They can "extract airborne asbestos particles" and are useful in preventing seasonal allergies and asthma. "Air purifiers also have germicidal capabilities (including special filters) that help spread the germs from one room to another." A nifty quarantine companion, indeed.
Indoor air can be, he says, "up to two to five times dirtier than outdoor air," an unpleasant thought regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic. "By removing contaminants, trapping airborne particles, and slowing the rate of dust accumulation," air purifiers, Malkin contends, can help your home stay cleaner longer.
We're seeing some of the same technology carry over into humidifiers, like Canopy's anti-mold version, which launched in fall of 2020. Dendy Engelman, MD, an award-winning, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at The Shafer Clinic in New York City, points out that the right type of humidifier can be be a beacon of wellness. In addition to known skin-benefits, smart humidifiers can decrease the infectious potential of viruses. "In low humidity environments," she says, "the influenza virus is five times more infectious than in higher humid environments." By adding moisture to the environment, a humidifier also bolsters the mucous membrane "to protect our body from harmful pathogens around portals of entry, like our nose and mouth. If these areas become dry or cracked," she says, "then those can serve as paths of entry for bacteria and infection."
Engelman expects more people to plug in to create a healthier, germ-free home.
Celebrity hair stylist Ted Gibson didn't set out to create the salon of the future, but in early 2020, that's exactly what he did. Now, as we look ahead to 2021, Gibson is leading the way for safe salons, with his innovative technology-driven salon, STARRING By Ted Gibson. "The salon hasn't been updated in forever," he says, adding that he wants to give women a holistic experience, while keeping them safe.
What exactly is a safe salon? Gibson created STARRING, which is powered by Alexa and Amazon, to ensure the client has one point of contact during her visit: the stylist. No reception. No products to shop on the premises. "She sits in a semi-private cloud pod, spaced eight-and-a-half feet apart from other clouds," Gibson explains, noting his safe salon contains only five clouds. To enhance the experience, each cloud is outfitted with LED lights you can program to suit your mood. Inherent to his safe salon is the promise that stylists are trained to work on all types of hair textures, and "all beauty has influence" in his space. While Gibson plans to scale his safe salon operation, expect other industry professionals to follow suit.
As 2021 gets underway, expect to see a continued emphasis on preventative care. To help keep in-person doctor's visits to a minimum, telemedicine is taking off, especially in the field of dermatology. Acne, rosacea, wrinkles, skin rashes, psoriasis, and hyper-pigmentation are some of the skin treatments best addressed by teledermatology. The move online happened swiftly and seamlessly, with new platforms like Dermatica continuing to evolve online services in 2021.
Cosmetic dermatologist, Michele Green, MD says, "Teledermatology is best for skincare conditions that do not require any diagnostic testing. For a teledermatology visit to work, the patient would need great lighting, and if consultation involves the face, the patient will need to remove all makeup prior to the consultation." She adds that lesions and moles that are concerning and need to be biopsied still need to be evaluated in person. "As technology continues to improve, these conditions may possibly be better assessed through telemedicine."
Self-Pleasure as Self-Care
Somatic sex educator, certifed sexological bodyworker, and pelvic health practitioner, Kiana Reeves, Chief Brand Officer for sexual health and wellness brand Foria, says in 2021, expect to see attitudes open in the direction of self-pleasure as a form of stress relief and self-care. "In 2021, I hope we start seeing self-pleasure as not only a sexual act, but a sensual one that involves all of the senses, all of the body, and really as a tool to feed the body what it needs most, which is usually our care and attention and support in feeling good."
To help support that mission, the market is seeing a surge of sexual wellness products for vaginas. "It’s all about vaginal hydration," says Angelik Karapetian, founder of Mother’s Dose, a fully comprehensive, all-women’s line of natural CBD products. "Vaginal hydration," she says is "the key for a healthy, optimal lifestyle." She sees vaginal suppositories taking off in the months to come, calling them "preferable to lubricants to enhance sexual wellness."
Reeves adds that self-pleasure can help you step into flow and practice mindfulness in what has been a very disruptive year. Looking ahead, she hopes to see an expansion of self-pleasure as a tool to allow us to feel our emotions as we begin to process them. "The social movements we are part of begin to live in our nervous system," she says. "Sex offers us a way to move that energy through us. Through breath, sound, and movement, we can keep what is true and in the moment and have the opportunity to be there with it." In this way, pleasure is also a way to be true to ourselves. "If there is rage, let there be rage; if there are tears, let there be tears, and if there is hope, grief, joy, or anything else, we can let our bodies feel those experiences and allow them to speak to us."
Healthy Semi-Homemade Meals
Semi-homemade isn't exactly a new trend, but it's one we're going to see a lot of in the coming year, especially as we keep our pantries stocked with shelf-stable foods. Between stay-at-home orders and wizened budgets, people are looking for convenience in the kitchen without sacrificing health. Meal kits are a great option if you can afford them, but so are semi-homemade meals that use a blend of shelf-stable pantry staples and pre-packaged options. Chef Lynnette Astaire, the founder of Superfood School says, "One of the best ways to tap into semi-homemade and tackle one of the biggest pain points in the plant-based diet, is through protein."
She suggests tossing packaged plant-based protein (like the Impossible Burger) into a meal and calling it a day. "Although beans and things like wild rice are great sources, mixing that up with packaged plant-based protein options is a fun, tasty, and great way to support new healthy businesses." She does, however, encourage you to make informed choices when it comes to selecting a pre-packaged plant protein. "Although it's plant-based, it still should be minimally processed. Be sure to read your labels to check things like sodium, sugar and other hidden ingredients."
For many of us working from home, that means the kitchen is always open. People have endless opportunities to snack throughout the day, which is actually more tedious than it sounds. As such, conscious snaking will be on the rise, with folks craving brain food to stay energized and feel good throughout the day. Nutritionist, Lisa Richards, CNC, says conscious snack food should be "rich in antioxidants to improve brain health while also fulfilling your cravings." Leading the way in the brain food snack group is "dark chocolate, dried or fresh berries, and nuts to provide the body with free radical and toxin-fighting compounds."
2020 saw the launch of Frühling, a luxurious nut-forward superfood trail mix, created by former mindbodygreen editor, Mabel Nash Greenberg. With ingredients sought after by Michelin-star chefs, this conscious snack is not only brain food, its super smart. In determining the quantity of each ingredient (like rare Bronte pistachios and roasted cacao) Nash Greenberg took into account the recommended daily serving size of each vitamin and mineral. For 2021, she plans to launch even more brain-enhancing goodies. Of course, if these types of luxury snacks are out of your budget, creating your own mix is perfectly suitable.
PEA and Postbiotics
It goes without saying that immune support is at the fore of everyone's minds when it comes to supplements. But, what exactly does 2021 have in store? Traj Nibber, PhD, founder of the science-based supplement brand Advanced Orthomolecular Research says Palmitoylethanolamide or PEA will be big as "a protective means against colds, flu, and other viruses." In addition to long-standing studies that support its efficacy, Nibber points out that "PEA is an endocannabinoid-like molecule produced by the body that has more science behind it than CBD or THC."
He also touts the power of postbiotics. "Unlike probiotics, which have poor stability, postbiotics always meet label claims and do not require overages." Richards, who authored The Candida Diet says "postbiotics are essentially the waste product produced when probiotics feed on prebiotics." But, just because they are a by-product, doesn't make postbiotics less useful; in fact, just the opposite. When shopping for a good postbiotic, look for one that contains "a prebiotic and probiotic strain as well as postbiotic metabolites produced by at least Lactobacillus plantarum." They're found naturally in fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, kimchi, tempeh, and sauerkraut.
Fine Fragrance Hand Sanitizers
Award-winning perfumer, formulator, and the founder of Capsule Parfumerie, Linda Sivrican calls hand sanitizer a necessity these days, but points out many basic products are unpleasant to use, drying out the skin and smelling of running alcohol. Going into 2021, she wanted to create a "new kind of hand sanitizer that would care for our community, while feeling luxurious and addictive in a healthy way." Behold, the hybrid cologne sanitizer, a range of small batch, hand-blended, premium scents that double as germ-zapping sprays. Other fragrance brands, such as Michelle Pfeiffer's Henry Rose and Byredo, have followed suit.
For 2021, Sivrican plans to expand this category of fine fragrance sanitizers that utilize the power of plant essences. "Going into the New Year, we all need little moments throughout the day to care for ourselves. This product is sensible and effective, while also being super indulgent. As people seek out more pleasure, they will welcome paying a little more for utilitarian products that go beyond being just functional."
Going "Cali Sober"
“Cali Sober,” a trend that is rapidly rising, refers to people who don’t drink but do enjoy cannabis. But is weed a wellness practice? "When it comes to promoting one’s health and wellbeing, cannabis and alcohol react completely differently within the body," says Kiana Anvaripour, Chief Marketing Officer for Sweet Flower, a Los Angeles based cannabis boutique. "Heavy alcohol consumption is commonly known to cause inflammation, while cannabis is an anti-inflammatory at its core. Other health benefits from cannabis include a better night’s sleep, which has several advantages including healthy skin, the promotion of laughter and a sense of euphoria, and stimulating one’s immune system to fight off stress."
Look out for cannabis to have a flywheel effect in 2021. "With additional states going recreational and a growing population of customers realizing the health benefits of cannabis," says Anvaripour, "it has found itself at the epicenter of wellness." From scientifically controlled dosages to ensure a more consistent experience, to edibles that come in various forms, the cannabis industry is expanding to offer a plethora of wellness-centric options.
Distant Reiki Healing Sessions
Although reiki, a form of energy healing, is not a new wellness practice, expect to see an uptick in its practice in 2021. One of the bonuses of this modality in our current state of social distancing, says Poon, is that reiki masters are trained to send healing to clients wherever they are located. "Distant healing sessions are possible because energy is not confined to a specific space or time and can be sent anywhere." Pretty cool, huh?
Poon, who says reiki as preventative care can help "nip stress and inflammation in the bud by releasing blockages and toxins," is beneficial in supporting the body through a natural healing process. "In my virtual sessions, we usually connect through video chat to discuss concerns and focus areas and then we’ll hang up and let the healing begin," she says. "The client lies back, relaxes and can enjoy the same effects as someone who is receiving an in-person energy healing session." Distant reiki sessions can help people release fear and tension while also helping to rebalance stagnant energy—ideal when you're feeling stuck.
Astrology, tarot, crystals—expect to see enthusiasm for all things metaphysical in the coming months. Kanai says of the growing captivation, "All of us in the [editorial] industry have seen a big rise in popularity in the use of crystals and tarot cards. It was interesting to see that very clearly reflected in the Pinterest audience research as well."
As people reach towards metaphysical guidance in 2021, they're also looking inward as an opportunity to grow. Diana Zalucky, The Empress Advisor, a spiritual advisor, intuitive mentor, and host of The Healer Dealer Podcast explains, "In the past, people would have gone to an intuitive to tell them what to do, but we are seeing a shift where people want to learn how to connect for themselves."
In the search for clarity, it's natural to seek support in trusting your intuition, which is where a metaphysical guide comes in. "I’m here to help clients remember who they are outside of this human experience and align to their highest path. Collectively, we are building a new world and people are realizing they get to choose how they want to live in that world. This involves letting go of what they’ve been told they 'should' do, and instead, choosing to live their life from what their heart wants."