GWS? wellness trends: Sleep, sabbaticals, science


 GWS’ wellness trends: Sleep, sabbaticals, science

By HOTELS Editors on 1/30/2020

From sleeping differently to J-wellness, fertility to smarter aging, the Global Wellness Summit (GWS) has released its top 10 trends for 2020 in the US$4.5 trillion global wellness industry (here is the full report).

GWS compiled the trends based on insights from 550 experts including economists, doctors and business executives from 50 countries at its recent summit. Here’s the list, summarized:

Photo: Six Senses

Circadian health

We predict a major shift in wellness: less focus on solutions targeting sleep/fatigue and a new focus on circadian health optimization, not only so we can sleep but to boost the brain/body systems controlled by the circadian clock. Light — and the timing of light and biology — will become far more important, from circadian lighting to circadian diets to apps that use timed light doses to crush jet lag. We’ll see more people adopting a circadian diet: eating when it’s light, stopping when it’s dark.

Aging rebranded

Baby boomers redefined aging, and now the market is finally catching up to them. Unlike previous generations, today’s 55-plus are active, vivacious, and far more engaged in exciting endeavors. They are now the fastest-growing gym membership group and show the highest rate of frequent attendance. That’s because they have the time and money to do so.

Older populations have more medical concerns, but now these issues are treated sensitively and with the same aspirational design and marketing afforded to young demographics.


Japan is the longevity nation: It has more centenarians per capita than any country on Earth. It’s a result of Japan’s unique culture of wellness, which unites ancient healing traditions with ingenious people-focused tech/design and innovative social policy. In the last few years, various Japanese wellness approaches became global trends: “Ikigai,” the lifelong pursuit of finding your true purpose; the spiritual value of minimalism and auditing our possessions (made viral by Marie Kondo); forest bathing (Shinrin-Yoku), meditative movement through the forest; and Wabi-sabi, the philosophy of embracing imperfection and transience. “J-Wellness” will increasingly be embraced as a holistic culture of wellbeing—from its innovations for our ageing world to the breakthroughs in J-Beauty to a reverence for nature and meditative ritual as preventative healthcare.

Mental wellness and technology

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

As such, both the public and private sectors increasingly look to advance solutions at scale. Silicon Valley, for example, released an impressive array of digital solutions to ensure more individuals receive discreet and flexible care. Mental health tech will move into the mainstream as cultural norms continue to shift.

Energy medicine

The future is the medical AND wellness worlds innovating new tools and technologies to optimize human energy fields to prevent illness and boost health. Frequency therapies are crucial here: electromagnetic, light and sound interventions.

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. “Energy futures” in health and wellness: a very strong “buy.”

Organized religion jumps in

More and more, faith is incorporating the latest wellness trends, signifying a shift away from viewing bodywork as vanity. Groups also expand audiences through wellness apps and platforms. While the bulk of this trend depends on independent churches and start-ups, we’ll start to see megachurches, national religious organizations, and more influential leaders further embrace this trend. Many institutions now start to see health and wellness initiatives as a crucial part of tending to parishioners’ wellbeing.

The wellness sabbatical

More people desperately need a profound wellness break, but they need to keep working. Shaming them for not taking vacations—or not totally unplugging when they do—feels naïve.

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.). And repeat, hopefully for a minimum of three weeks, that sweet spot to jumpstart lasting lifestyle changes and for a true mental reset.

Fertility boom

Fertility is no longer a taboo topic hushed about in doctor’s offices. The last few years saw incredible progress in this space on multiple fronts. Fertility has reached a crisis point across the globe. There are multiple reasons at play, but the most dominant one is that women of childbearing age delay having children, and male sperm quality begins to decline at age 35.

The landscape is filled with apps, period trackers, platforms, and wearables that not only increase one’s chances of conceiving but even attempt to make it, well, enjoyable.

Wellness music

There’s 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 evidence-based music and soundscapes can be developed as precision medicine. The trend is also being fueled by our exhaustion with visual culture and screens: More of us are retreating into music and sound, as evidenced by everything from the surge in podcast-listening to the rise of hip “vinyl listening bars.”

The science behind the industry

The industry has been ripe for more rigorous reckoning—whether through media criticism, internal company policing, new vetting and evidence platforms, or government regulation. And the time has come. Wellness watchdogs will rise, trying to re-establish some distinctions between legitimate wellness approaches and practitioners and charlatans who give wellness a bad name. People want help separating wheat from chaff, and more resources will help them do it.

We’ll see more online call-out platforms. vetting and certification sites. More companies will self-police. Most people wouldn’t want the government regulating yoga or meditation, but we predict more governments will become bigger watchdogs of supplements and falsehood-in-wellness- marketing.

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