Circadian health and wellness sabbaticals are among 2020’s top wellness trends

Rancho La Puerta (Wellness Sabatical image courtesy of GWS and GWI)

True circadian health, mental wellness and technology, ageing rebranded, music wellness, and the wellness sabbatical are among the top 10 wellness trends for 2020, according to the Global Wellness Summit (GWS).


These are just some of the new directions that the organisation believes will have the most meaningful impact on the $4.5 trillion global wellness industry this year.


Other trends include J-wellness (i.e. Japan’s unique wellness culture); energy medicine gets serious; organised religion jumps into wellness; the fertility boom; and in wellness we trust: the science behind the industry.


The trends emerged from the insights of the 550 experts from 50 nations that gathered at the recent Summit, including top economists, doctors, academics, technologists and the CEOs of international corporations across all fields of wellness.


According to the GWS’ trends report, the focus is shifting from sleep to true circadian health. The report reads: “We’ve never been so sleep-obsessed. We pony up for sleep-tracking Oura rings, the latest, smartest mattresses, and meditative sleep headbands; crawl into nap pods; and travel far to bed down at sleep retreats. We gobble sleep tonics, CBD and even ‘sleep ice cream’. We’ve been hit by a storm of generic sleep products, driving a $432 billion ‘sleep economy’, and we’re still not sleeping. Why? Because most sleep solutions, and our modern lives, defy the basic facts of circadian biology.


“Humans evolved to be ultra-sensitive to the 24-hour cycle of the sun. The bedrock of circadian science is that regular light/dark cycles (the bright, blue light of day, darkness at dusk) are the daily ‘time cues’ needed to reset our circadian clocks every single day. Our magnificent, internal, light-timed circadian rhythms control almost every system in our bodies: from our sleep/wake cycles to our immune and metabolic systems.


“Of course, today, we humans have created the most radical disconnect between natural solar time and our social ‘clocks’. Modern life is a ‘lightmare’: We blast our brains after dusk with blue-enriched light from ever-brighter, addictive screens, while we’re deprived of the natural sunlight of the day, trapped at desks. The result: unprecedented circadian and sleep disruptions. No smart pillow or CBD can reset circadian rhythms: The only solutions have the TIMING of LIGHT at their centre.”


GWS predicts a major shift in wellness, with less focus on solutions targeting sleep/fatigue and a new focus on circadian health optimisation, not only so we can sleep but to boost the brain/body systems controlled by the circadian clock.


Circadian science is set to transform travel. Jet lag is being eliminated by the Timeshifter app. Input your itinerary(s), and Timeshifter gives you a personal schedule of when you must take/avoid bright light, sleep and not sleep, etc.


Circadian medicine is moving fast. In a few years, it’s likely that a single blood, saliva or breath sample will be able to pinpoint our precise circadian clock-state, and apps could then inform us when to take in light and dark, sleep and rise, and eat and exercise.


Ageing Rebranded: Positively Cool


Baby boomers redefined ageing, and now the market is finally catching up to them, according to the GWS report. It reads: “Unlike previous generations, today’s 55+ are anything but boring; they’re active, vivacious, and far more engaged in exciting endeavours. Today’s retirees start businesses, run marathons, and travel widely. Even perceptions about their physicality is are underestimated: They are now the fastest-growing gym membership group and show the highest rate of frequent attendance.”


Mental Wellness and Technology: Rethinking the Relationship


Awareness of the need to address mental health has grown significantly in the last few years. A broad category, this includes mental illness and neurological disorders but also new categories spanning anxiety, stress and despair. Issues such as climate change-induced anxiety and work-induced stress are commonplace. Last year, the World Health Organisation declared ‘burnout’ an official medical diagnosis.


Currently, the biggest barriers to treatment remain stigma, time, cost and availability.


Mental health tech will move into the mainstream as cultural norms continue to shift. Industry analysts predict the next year will see a big spike in the adoption of telehealth, both in the mental healthcare space as well as primary care.


Energy Medicine Gets Serious


More wellness destinations will go ‘high energy’: serving up even more ancient energy medicines, more cutting-edge energy technologies, and more blending of both ancient and modern solutions. Six Senses Resorts’ ‘Grow a New Body’ programme – dubbed ‘neo-shamanism’ – deploys many approaches to fix your energy body. On the modern side, energy-medicine evaluations with doctors, light therapies, altitude training, and ozone and oxygen therapies – while ancient shamanic approaches include mitochondria-boosting diets, fasting, plant medicine, and intensive spiritual work to clear negative emotions.


The GWS report reads: “Energy medicine is at a pivotal moment, with the medical world and ‘ancient wellness’ finding some common – at least in principle – theoretical ground. Common ground leads to new conversations and solutions.”


The Wellness Sabbatical


Enter a new travel concept: the wellness sabbatical, where days of work and wellness are intentionally blended, at destinations that actively, creatively make this possible. On a wellness sabbatical, you’re set up to work a few productive hours a day (great workspaces, technology), but you also schedule a lot of daily wellness experiences (healthy food, movement, time in nature, sleep, human connection, etc.).


Wellness Music


Music as an intentional therapy is being radically reinvented by new technologies and is emerging as one of the hottest trends in wellness. Thus ‘wellness music’ is being born, with a big uptick in scientific research identifying how music’s structural properties (such as beat, key, chord progression, etc.) specifically impact the brain and biometrics such as heart rate and sleep patterns, so that evidence-based music and soundscapes can be developed as precision medicine.


To see the full GWS 2020 trends report click here.

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