Last month as Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minster of New Zealand, took the world by surprise as she decided to resign and said, she “no longer had enough in the tank” to continue the job. This brought renewed focus to the global conversation on burnout. There are layers to understanding Ardern’s decision, one of them being a growing awareness of our need to pause, a significant shift from the hustle culture that capitalism greedily trapped us in.
Also read: How wellness breaks can help you heal your soul
This is reiterated by recent research by RoundGlass, a global holistic well-being company, that identified wellness trends for 2023. According to them, people are focusing on rest, turning to meditation for pain and physical ailments, and exploring the ‘emotional side of fitness’.
I asked a therapist and fitness coach to weigh in on some of the trends projected for this year.
Pause and reset: Rise of rest
In 2022, we witnessed the rise of ‘goblin mode’and a trade-off between work-is-life to more-time-off. According to the research by RoundGlass, people will continue navigating the benefits of rest and their relationship with it this year.
For instance, more people are investing in technology to sleep better, according to the study. Although studies have been documenting technology’s effect on our sleep, the increase in new sleep sheds lights on the an interconnected dependence created by a hunger for advancements. As awareness increases, it’s also important to understand that rest is different for everyone and is often based on access and environments.
“The goal is to strike a balance, however, it feels right for you. A generalisation of how much rest for everyone may not be accurate. Rest is one of the important factors in a gamut of things. Moreover, we need to consider that activity levels, life events, accessibility, and privilege and thereby, financial security is not linear. To be able to take small breaks in between works is as important as taking time off completely,” Natasha Vijay, a psychotherapist based in Bangalore.
Emotional side of fitness
This year more people are concerned about what fitness can do for their emotional and mental well-being than how workouts can make them look, the research says. There is a deep dive into the internal world of self-care and a loosening of threads of societal validations. With the economic stress taking a hike up the hill of uncertainties, more people are focusing on centring themselves, emotionally.
However, the understanding among trainers and fitness coaches about the connection between fitness and mental well-being is not new but advancements in health tech has helped people become increasingly aware of that. “People now wear fitness trackers and use tech that tells them about their body in a more timely and accessible manner so it could be one of the reasons why people who are not into body-building or necessarily focusing on how they look are working out regularly,” says Rohan Mathew, Director, Performance Coach, and Exercise Physiologist at Invictus Performance Lab.
Although it has become easier to talk about therapy and access it more freely, people are also using exercise as a way of helping them deal with mental health issues. “Many people turn to exercise as a way to help them to deal with anxiety, and depression. There has much research on it in the last 10 years,” Mathew adds.
Therapists often discuss working out with clients as a way to establish a basic routine that helps bring predictability into their lives while taking care of nutrition, movement, and sleep. “Workouts have become a grounding factor in the day for a lot of people. It’s also the part of the day they get to spend time with themselves or with a community with similar goals and bring in a sense of resonance. It doesn’t have to be at a traditional workout in gyms, any form of movement that helps them connect with their bodies is beneficial,” Vijay says.
Workouts also tend to help people cope with stress, and improve the quality of sleep.
Cryotherapy, cold-immersion therapy, and float tanks
Float tanks are contain water mixed with Epsom salt that makes it easy for the bodies to float in them and are thought to help people relax. Cryotherapy and cold-immersion therapies use cold temperatures to help lower inflammation and muscle aches.
“These technologies have been around for years but have become more mainstream now, a shift from perceiving them as more fringe therapies. There is evidence on benefits of some of these but it depends on how to use it. For instance, athletes use these to bring down inflammation in the body. Ice baths can help improve blood flow, which could be useful for many people. However, there isn’t much evidence for sensory deprivation tanks. It’s usually used more as a meditative approach,” Mathew explains.
Social media has a large part to play in accessing research around these treatment modalities, Vijay says. Although they have been around for a while, they have gained popularity in the last few years. “Bio-hacking is now a hot topic,” she says. Bio-hacking is a term that refers to do-it-yourself biology wherein people make changes to their diets, bodies, and lifestyle to improve their well-being and performance.
“Dr Andrew Hubersmans podcasts, Wim Hof’s breathing techniques being discussed widely have led to a lot of curiosity. These have helped people them feel more connected to their bodies in conjunction with talk therapy, personal reflective work, and mind-body awareness,” she says.
As Vijay points out, access to such treatments remains limited to the urban upper class in metropolitan cities.
Meditation for physical wellbeing
According to the research by RoundGlass, there is a shift in the perception of meditation from mental to physical wellbeing. "New research shows that meditation has moved from being an activity centred on improving focus and relaxation to helping people manage pain and with physical ailments as well,” says Dr David Vago, Lead, Research, RoundGlass.
Evidence of this connection comes from a study published in July 2022 that connected mindfulness meditation with the reduction of pain. One of the researchers, senior author Fadel Zeidan, PhD, associate professor of anesthesiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, said that people don’t have to be expert meditators “to experience these analgesic effects.” She explains, "This is a really important finding for the millions of people looking for a fast-acting and non-pharmacological treatment for pain."
The study showed that mindfulness meditation reduced the perception of pain by up to 33%.
Also read: What I learnt from my first full marathon
(With inputs from ANI)