Over the past year, the global pandemic has redefined what mental and physical wellness means to us. From the lockdown limits that inspired creativity and community through technology to the therapeutic breakthroughs that provided solace amid COVID-19 outbreak, an ongoing wave of civil unrest, and a tumultuous election cycle, the future of more accessible and inclusive tools of wellness is looking brighter for 2021. Here, seven emerging and expanding wellness movements primed to aid health and happiness in a new, challenging year.
Rest as Vital Self-Care
Amid the increased the urgency around the Black Lives Matter movement and the current chaos of the presidential transition, activists fighting for equality have been reminded that radical rest and self-care are essential tools for healing—a notion that was popularized by the Black Panther Party in the 1970s. As we collectively work toward social change, taking time to recharge (yes, even while staying at home) is essential, especially for the Black community, considering Black Americans have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic and are 10% more likely to experience serious psychological distress and socioeconomic disparities that contribute to worse mental-health outcomes. “Our bodies are really the arbiters of safety, and when we’re not safe in the world, being honored in our humanity, or if our basic human needs aren’t being met, then we start to break down—spiritually, emotionally, physically,” explains Latham Thomas, doula and founder of wellness platform Mama Glow. “The only pathway to move forward and stay strong is to be gentle with yourself and become acquainted with your vulnerabilities. For us to be able to do this work constantly and show up, we have to take care of ourselves, and how we do that is so hinged on us being able to have access and tools for self-care.” From The Nap Ministry, which promotes the liberating power of naps, to Rest for Resistance, a grassroots, trans-led organization uplifting LGBTQ+ individuals, namely trans and queer people of color, there are a host of individuals and organizations encouraging rest and recovery for those who need it most in building momentum for long-term change.
Mental Health Care Goes Digital
The grief and stress inflicted by the pandemic has been immeasurable. What’s fortunate is that many forms of counseling and therapy have been and will continue to be available from the safety of your home, from online therapy (with sites such as Frame and Talkspace) to virtual groups that provide safe and effective alternatives to in-person support. That being said, it’s important to note that even as the COVID-19 crisis has expanded the possibilities of telehealth, it’s also exposed the barriers that need to be addressed in the long run, such as payment parity. To that end, organizations such as Black Girls Breathing, an inclusive wellness platform that provides meditational breathwork classes, and the Loveland Foundation, which provides financial assistance to Black women and girls so that they can seek therapy, have sustained stronger communities than ever. “The overarching, overall objective is to connect, to be heard and be seen,” says meditation expert Light Watkins of utilizing social media as a resource and tool for connection. “The great thing about all of the different platforms that we have today is that there’s a tool that usually fits everyone who wants to be able to access their full potential in whatever way. We need our full mental faculties so that we can continue speaking, fighting, and protesting authentically.”
At-Home Fitness Gets Elevated
When stay-at-home orders were put in place, many finely tuned fitness regimens were brought to a grinding halt. The irony? In lockdown, exercise became more essential than ever to keep the body healthy. A workout has the power to melt away physical tension while also offering a mental edge with the reduction of the body’s stress hormones, such as cortisol, and stimulation of the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Without access to gyms and health clubs, living rooms became workout studios. While streaming workouts were already on the rise, offerings have surged, with many trainers and fitness studios making a pivot to virtual. Among a breadth of offerings are The Class by Taryn Toomey, with her team of instructors livestreaming from their Tribeca studio seven days a week; New York trampoline-cardio studio The Ness transitioning to digital with small space–friendly rebounding sessions; and fitness experts like Alicia Keys’s longtime trainer Jeanette Jenkins offering a slew of IGTV home workout routines. At the same time, there are futuristic home systems, such as Peloton, Mirror, and the just-launched Apple Fitness+ service, which offers 200-plus workouts, from mat-based HIIT and yoga to large equipment–dependent cycling and treadmill workouts. These online offerings are reshaping the working-out-from-home landscape, and they show staying power—even after the world opens back up.
The Healing Potential of Sexual Pleasure
Whether you’re single, attached, or it’s complicated, lockdown almost certainly influenced your sexual desires and behaviors. At the beginning of the pandemic, New York State released its official guide for safer sex practices during the pandemic, which encouraged masturbation—and many other states and countries followed suit. As luck would have it, in the months that followed, sexual wellness brands (as well as the celebrities throwing their weight behind them) continued to push the sex-positive conversation forward across the gender and sexuality spectrums. “Consensual sex and intimate pleasure is self-care for all bodies,” Dakota Johnson, who announced her new role as investor and co-creative director of Maude in November, told Vogue. “Every human should have access to quality sexual products regardless of their gender, adult age, or sexuality.” When later that month, Cara Delevingne announced that she’s joined sexual wellness and tech company Lora DiCarlo as co-owner and creative adviser, it prompted the question: Are celebrity-endorsed sex toys the new celebrity fragrance? All signs point to yes, and—in the spirit of embracing one’s sexuality, taking ownership of pleasure, and reaping a multitude of health benefits (from reducing anxiety to improving sleep)—we’re here for it.
Vaginal Care Gets Its Due
Throughout history, most feminine care products have been made by—you guessed it!—men. But over the past decade there have been major strides to counter this, with a number of female-founded brands shaking up the status quo. The past year saw the introduction of game-changing breakthroughs such as Juno Bio’s at-home vaginal microbiome kit for women who want to monitor their general wellness or who struggle with recurring infections and hope to get to the root cause. There was also the increased support for Black women–founded feminine care brands like feminine care company The Honey Pot and postpartum self-care brand Coddle. “Black women understand each other, and knowing that a product is coming from me—someone that knows and can talk about the experiences we all have in common—makes us a trusted source as we take more ownership of our self-care,” says Ruth Gordon-Martin, founder and CEO of Coddle. 2021 is primed to meet even more of this need, from the forthcoming launch of LaMaria, a new vaginal health care line from L.A.-based ob-gyn Manuela Maria Vazquez, to Looni, a new womxn’s health brand offering medically formulated, botanically derived solutions to menstrual pain and endometriosis symptoms founded by Chelsea Leyland, a DJ and leading medical cannabis and epilepsy activist, and Tatiana Steel, a former investment banker, following their roller-coaster journeys with their menstrual cycles.
CBD Isn’t Going Anywhere
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, was already a booming industry, but amid the pandemic, brands have charted record spikes in sales. Considering the purported benefits of CBD, which include treating anxiety and offsetting stress, it’s no surprise. And the offerings are only getting better and more individualized, even if you have to cut through noise to get there. On the skin-care front, 2020 saw the introduction of brands like LOUM Beauty of Calm, a New York–based, clean beauty start-up that partnered with psychodermatologist Francisco Tausk to target the effects of stress on the skin (how timely!) with a priming moisturizer infused with organic, broad-spectrum CBD—which has been shown to decrease excess sebum production—to minimize breakouts.
Edibles have received a delicious refresh with Rose Los Angeles and Gossamer dropping CBD-infused Turkish delights—laced with watermelon, tomato, and sencha green tea—developed by chef Tara Thomas. And as the nonalcoholic beverage market grows, you can sip it, too. British brand Trip, which saw a 420% increase in sales since social distancing began, has seen a flood of interest around their fizzy CBD-infused tonics, also spiked with soothing chamomile, energizing ginseng, and healthy brain function–supporting L-theanine. There’s also just-launched newcomer Aplós, which serves up a sleek bubbly, citrus-led liquor alternative enhanced with sustainable, organically grown broad-spectrum hemp. “Since coronavirus hit we’re under way more stress, so CBD has become so much more relevant,” Olivia Ferdi, cofounder of Trip, told British Vogue. “Anxiety has shape-shifted, and the way we look after ourselves—our self-care rituals—have come into question. Plant-based, preventative remedies—taking as good care of yourself as is possible to fend off illness—have become the new approach to our health.”
The Rise of Hormonal Health-Minded Offerings
“Hormones are like music played in a beautiful but sometimes discordant symphony,” explains New York City-based holistic ob-gyn Eden Fromberg, D.O., of humans’ most sensitive chemical messenger. “When hormones play too loud or soft, too fast or slow, and don’t coordinate with the others, the sound produced may be jarring to the system.” Hormones control many of the body’s crucial functions (mood! health! behavior!) and in our modern world, we have to work even harder to keep things in balance due to extreme stress and exposure to endocrine disruptors. Over the last few years, beauty has seen an influx of skin-care lines tailored to hormonal cycles, from Pause Well-Aging, which is tailor-made for women going through menopause with innovative products such as its cooling Hot Flash mist and Fascia Stimulating tool, to new line Dr. Zenovia Skincare, which addresses hormonal imbalances that cause issues such as adult acne and premature aging. There has also been an influx of supplements and tinctures designed to naturally balance hormones: Premama’s Birth Control cleanse is designed to regulate hormone levels by helping the body’s natural processes eliminate with PMS-relieving chasteberry, liver function-aiding vitamin C + E, soothing magnesium, and iodine (which can help the body produce more thyroid hormones). Elix harnesses ancient herbal medicine practices and clinically backed science to create bespoke herbal treatments for hormonal health.