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Wellness trends that made headlines in 2023

From silent walking to the emergence of menopause retreats and ‘ashwagandha’ becoming a hot topic, here’s a wrap of 2023’s wellness trends

2023 was a year when walking trends went viral, more people switched to plant-based diets and sales for LED face masks saw a surge. (Pexels/Noelle Otto)

By Mahalakshmi Prabhakaran

LAST PUBLISHED 26.12.2023  |  08:00 AM IST

2023 was the year where the drug Ozempic dominated conversations and had you wondering if your favourite celebrity who’d suddenly lost tons of weight was on it. It was also the year where the long-winded whole-food, plant based diet became a byword for healthy eating and self-care took the form of spa treatments that went beyond getting a regular massage. Lounge looks back at the wellness trends that were conversation starters and piqued our curiosity enough to write about them. 

Also read: In 2024, shift your focus from weight loss to better fitness levels

Walking got a glow up
Can an activity that’s just about putting one foot in front of the other be made more interesting? 2023 showed that you could. This was the year that walking, the most basic form of movement, was given a creative spin by youngsters who probably weren’t satisfied with the original form. So, while Hot Girl Walk® continued to inspire, the year saw new trends emerging like weird walking, where the goal is to ‘go on a long walk until you find something weird or odd along your route’, and the ‘analogue walk’ where you take in the sounds and sights of your surroundings—minus any digital distractions, and document it using analogue tools like a journal or a film camera. The latest TikTok trend that’s got Gen Z fired up is the ‘silent walk’. Created by influencer Mady Maio, this viral trend involves going for a daily 30-minute walk and practising mindfulness by paying attention to what is happening in the moment.

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Potency of plant-based diets
If we collected a rupee every time someone mentioned the words ‘plant-based diet’, or the more mouthful, ‘whole food, plant-based diet’ (WFPB), we’d have had enough funds to grow our own garden of veggies. Jokes aside, this year saw a number of published scientific reports proving the benefits of a plant-based diet. A recent study by MedUni Vienna’s Center for Public Health, for instance, found that a healthy plant-based diet reduced the risk of diabetes by 24%. Unlike fad diets that require you to give up certain categories of foods, WFPB prescribes consuming unpolished grains, unrefined flours, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and all fibre-rich foods, rather than their extracted and polished versions. The benefits of this diet like low BP levels, better weight management and healthy levels of cholesterol levels are reasons why more people switched to it this year. The diet is also known to improve kidney and liver function which is why it’s recommended by nutritionists as a solution for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Self-care and Neuroplasticity
This year, taking self-care seriously meant going beyond the template of exercise, diet and rest and looking into the brain and tapping its ability to rewire itself, ‘plasticity’, to inculcate positive behavioural change. A term that was coined in 1948 by Jerry Konorski, a neuroscientist, neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and adapt due to experience, growth and reorganisation. It is the ability of the brain to form new connections and pathways and change how its circuits are wired. While this ability is critical to help patients with any form of brain trauma to bounce back, it can help most of us too in our attempts to create better habits and enhance mental resilience. Exercise, rest, solving puzzles and creating art are some practices that are known to enhance the brain’s neuroplasticity. While professionals in the mental health space continue to design programmes that tap into this aspect, 2023 can be called the year when Neuroplasticity arrived because it was the year that Danish Lundbeck Foundation’s prestigious The Brain Prize by was awarded to three scientists: Prof. Michael Greenberg, Prof. Christine Holt and Erin Schuman for their decades-long research into brain plasticity.

Also read: All you need to know about the celeb-approved IV drip therapy

The rise of menopause retreats
Was 2023 the year when women decided to prioritise themselves? Well, keeping hashtags like #lazygirljobs and #snailgirl aside, one wellness trend that seemed to come into its own this year was the rise of menopause retreats across the world, from Spain and England to Maldives. India is not far behind. A natural transition that occurs to women from their mid-40s to their 50s, menopause ushers in a number of bodily changes like hot flashes, mood swings and weight gain that can prove difficult to cope with. However, while earlier generations of women bore the phase silently, things are different today. Women experiencing perimenopause and menopause are putting themselves first, and one of the ways they are doing it is by signing up for menopause retreats that allow them to take a pause and handle the transition in their own way. In India, luxury spas from up in the Himalayas to the lush greens of Kerala are designing retreats that offer everything from highly-customised menus to hormonal rebalance programmes. With close to 1.1 billion women expected to hit menopause in 2025 as per a report by the North American Menopause Society, this is a trend that’s here to stay.

Light therapy for pain relief
Photobiomodulation (PBM) or light therapy saw an upshot this year. Yet again, this was a trend whose popularity was triggered by people looking for self-care solutions that were non-invasive and a safe alternative to medications. Considered to be effective for pain relief and skin issues like acne and psoriasis, light therapy involves exposing the skin to a lamp or laser for a short amount of time. Much like photosynthesis, the light is absorbed by mitochondria (or power generators) in the cells which is believed to aid cell repair and reduce inflammation. According to a recent study in the journal PLOS ONE, light therapy was found to be beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Research aside, the proof of this therapy’s popularity lay in the surge in demand that at-home devices like infrared lamps and LED face masks saw this year compared to previous years. 

‘Ashwagandha’ became a rage 
To quote an article by Dani Blum of the New York Times in April, 2023 was ‘the year ashwagandha went mainstream’. A flowering shrub that has been prescribed in Ayurveda for over1000 years, ashwagandha blew up on that fount of all trends these days—Tiktok in March this year for its stress-relieving abilities. The popularity of the herb however also brought greater focus on ‘adaptogens’. They are active ingredients found in plants and mushrooms which are believed to help the human body adapt to stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression and improve immunity. Besides ashwagandha, ginger, turmeric and lion’s mane are adaptogens that have entered the diets of health enthusiasts who are looking for optimal health solutions. While experts do advise caution, the increasing presence of adaptogenic beverages, teas, and powders in the market tells you that this wellness fad is in no hurry to fade away.

Also read: Add adaptogens to your diet with a pinch of caution

 

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