In 2020, our traditional wellness routines went out the window. Gyms closed down, frozen pizzas were the norm, and we sacrificed skincare for safety (maskne is a small price to pay for keeping yourself and others healthy). We worked at home, slept more often, laughed a little less, and worried a little more. “Health” changed to be more about avoiding a virus and less about toning up. Our wellness goals shifted from becoming better to just being OK. But after all, isn’t that what wellness should be about? Focusing only on the habits, routines, and practices that truly make us feel cared for: the things we don’t stop during tough times because they’re what we need most during tough times.
The wellness trends of the coming year come directly from the shifts that happened in the last. In 2021, wellness is about turning inward: making our homes healthier, our communities better, and our wellbeing more of a priority. Read on for nine major wellness trends you’re going to see everywhere in 2021, and maybe you’ll want to try a few for yourself.
1. Sexual Wellness as Self-Care
Sex is not just something Carrie and Samantha gossip about over brunch; it’s self-care. In 2021, sexual wellness will become less about a sexual act and more about sensuality that reminds us to focus on and care for our bodies. Expect to see a surge of products intended for both vaginal health and sensual pleasure, whether it’s a nourishing balm, hydrating wash, or non-toxic lube. Also, ménage-à-moi will become less of a dirty little secret (finally!), and instead, we’ll all see masturbation for what it is: a crucial mindfulness practice that helps us live our healthiest, happiest lives.
Try it for yourself: Make sensuality a part of your daily routine. Even basing decisions on the pleasure scale (Will a warm bath or steamy shower bring me more pleasure? Will it feel more pleasurable to do a fast cardio dance class or a slow yoga flow?) will help you tap into your sensuality. Make daily activities feel a little more sensual, whether it’s listening to a playlist or taking extra time to massage in body oil. Finally, take time to get to know what turns you on and practice self-pleasure, whatever that means to you.
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2. Fridge and Pantry Optimization
Matching pantry containers and organized produce drawers have been on-trend (and insanely satisfying) since The Home Edit became insta-famous. But with more awareness around food waste and food insecurity getting worse, the trendy organization hack is coming into 2021 more focused on maximizing the food you have, so you’re not throwing out precious produce like rotten bananas or wilted herbs.
Try it for yourself: Use containers to keep produce fresh and store newer produce in the back to remind you to eat older produce first. Keep herbs and greens in mason jars with water or herb keepers to sustain freshness, and if something’s about to go bad, add it to a sauce or stew, or freeze it to use later. Bonus tip: make use of the whole plant instead of throwing out stems or peels. Stems, flowers, peels, etc., can be sautéed for a delicious side dish or added to soups, smoothies, and sauces. As for the pantry, keep your go-to grains, pasta, dried beans, nuts, seeds, etc., in containers so you can buy in bulk to save money and reduce waste from packaging.
3. Social Media Fitness
With the rise of at-home workouts and the closure of fitness studios and gyms, trainers, influencers, and fitness brands took to their social media platform to share (totally free!) workouts with their followers. I guess not all heroes wear capes; some wear sports bras and sneakers. Between IGTV, Reels, and TikTok, millennials and zoomers alike depend on social media to fit in good workouts and avoid boredom with their exercise routine. While social media fitness provides an affordable way to try out new workouts, it’s not just about affordability. In 2021, you’ll see an uptick in “lunch break workouts” or workouts you can do in 20 minutes or less (even as quick as five minutes), rather than the 60-minute classes we’re used to. The short-form nature of social media pairs perfectly with quicker workouts.
Try it for yourself: If you’re new to the social media fitness world, check out accounts like Traci Copeland’s IGTV page for yoga flows and quick workouts, or Melissa Wood Health for targeted workouts like this four-minute arm series. Also, check out the social media pages of your favorite workout studios or brands (an Everygirl-favorite, Obé Fitness, offers a variety of workouts and fitness tips on their Instagram page). As you come across workouts you want to try, save them to a designated folder so when you have exactly 10 minutes to do that 10-minute workout, you’ll know where to find it.
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4. Air Purifiers
With all the extra time spent at home, it’s no surprise that we’ve gotten curious about how healthy our homes really are. You already know to wipe the counters, sweep the floors, and wash the sheets, but there’s one area of the home that’s often overlooked: the air. Air purifiers use filters and fans to remove harmful particles like dust, bacteria, allergens, smoke, and pollen, and then circulates the purified air back into the room. Since indoor air can contain up to five times more levels of certain pollutants than outdoor air, the expected growth of air purifier sales makes total sense. Even though the air purifier trend is rapidly growing, whether or not it’s actually effective is based on your space, concerns, and type of air purifier, so do your research ahead of time.
Try it out: Interested in trying out an air purifier for yourself? Make sure you put it in a smaller space like an enclosed room or smaller apartment, and try to identify which pollutants you’re most concerned about based on your home. If you don’t have room in your budget for a fancy machine, don’t worry. Certain indoor plants can make a noticeable difference, and even just opening the windows to get some fresh air can help.
5. Outdoor workouts
Necessity may have been why thousands of trendy fitness studios and gyms across the country offered outdoor classes in 2020, but the trend will continue long after restrictions are lifted. After months of being indoors 24/7, socializing over a screen, and endless Zoom meetings, we’re all craving a little more outdoor time. Plus, outdoor workouts just make sense (weather-permitting), since they offer a cost-effective solution for gyms and studios to appeal to (and have room for) more people. For example, Equinox, a massive fitness company, announced an outdoor club experience in NYC and Los Angeles (called Equinox+ In the Wild) as an added luxury appeal, rather than a pandemic solution. Expect other studios and gyms to follow suit.
Try it for yourself: Take a break from your online HIIT class and take a walk or run to get your body moving. If the weather’s warm enough, you can even bring your HIIT class or bodyweight circuits to a local park for a more refreshing, energizing workout. If you’re interested and it’s not too cold, be on the lookout for fitness studios near you that offer outdoor classes (just make sure to keep up with safety practices!).
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6. Tracking Stress
Forget about tracking steps; 2021 is all about tracking stress. That’s right: a gadget finally exists that will not only monitor just how much anxiety we feel going into that major work presentation, but also encourage us to do something about it. There are multiple ways different brands are claiming to track stress: some devices monitor blood and oxygen to sense shallow breathing, while others measure electrodermal activity on the skin (crazy, right!?). Multiple devices will also alert you to take deep breaths or an on-the-spot meditation if it senses your stress levels are high.
Try it for yourself: It might be time to trade in the step count or calorie-burn tracker for a smart(er) device that measures what matters most: how you feel. If you don’t have room in your budget for a brand new device, try it the old-fashioned way by stress journaling for a few days. Notice when you start feeling stress or anxiety, or if your heart rate speeds up and your body gets tense. Record for a few days to start noticing patterns, and work on your response in the situations where you feel the most stress.
7. Digital Mental Wellness
It’s often believed that technology can be harmful to mental health, thanks to the comparative and damaging nature of social media. But in 2021, technology can also be used for good. Mental health is no longer a secretive topic or limited to weekly therapy sessions (it’s about time). The mental wellness world has gone digital, thanks to a scary year when focusing on mental health was a necessity, but meeting in person was not possible. While having a therapist will always be a crucial part of wellness, many therapists are also on portals where you can text them in real-time. Likewise, online communities provide safe spaces to connect, meditate, and focus on your wellbeing. Even when the stay-at-home order is a distant memory, don’t expect digital mental wellness to go anywhere.
Try it for yourself: Take your mental wellness digital with a meditation app like Calm, Headspace, or Happy Not Perfect, and test out therapy apps and websites like Calmerry, BetterHelp, Talkspace, and Therapy for Black Girls to connect you to a therapist. Beyond a website or app, you can also join a digital community like black girls breathing, The Chronicon Community, or You Good, Sis?, which cultivates space, encourages conversations, and offers virtual events for your mental wellness.
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8. Light-Based Wellness
While sleep became a top priority in 2020 (and continues to be in 2021), the newest sleep trend is more about what’s happening during the hours you’re awake. More specifically, how to optimize and support your circadian rhythm (or internal clock). While we’ve known about the circadian rhythm for decades, it’s finally becoming mainstream as a tool to boost sleep, energy, and overall health. After all, the reason you might not sleep well at night could be because of the artificial light you’re letting into your evenings (looking at you, Netflix) and the sunlight you’re missing out on during the day (AKA if you’re inside all day without a lot of natural light).
Try it for yourself: The easiest and most simple thing you can do is get sunlight first thing in the morning: open up the blinds, get outside, or sit by your windowsill for direct sunlight. After the sun sets and it gets dark out, limit artificial lights by dimming fixtures or turning on one lamp and turning off overhead lights. Also, try blue light protectors on all screens to reduce blue light exposure after-hours. If you’re ready to really optimize, switch out lightbulbs for circadian-conscious alternatives (like bulbs that emulate wavelengths to mimic the sun).
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9. Community Care
Perhaps one of my favorite things to come out of 2020 is the realization that true self-care is crucial during hard times, but it looks more like connection than the face masks and green juices we originally thought. In other words, caring for a community and consistently enjoying fulfilling relationships are key pieces of self-care, also called “community care.” Beyond your personal relationships, there will also be an increasing awareness that helping other people can help you be happy and healthier, meaning it deserves a front-and-center spot in your self-care routine.
“Self-care is really important in tough times, but I think we often get the self-care wrong,” explained Laurie Santos, PhD, happiness expert and professor of Yale University’s popular “Science of Well-Being” course, to Well+Good. “We think it’s only about a nice bubble bath or a glass of wine, but the research shows that effective self-care often looks a lot more like community care.”
Try it for yourself: Aim to foster your relationships every day. Consistently work on the relationships that matter to you, whether it’s calling your mom, texting with a friend about a funny memory, or having dinner with your significant other at the table instead of in front of the TV. Also, consider how you can help other people, whether it’s getting more active in your community, volunteering your time and resources, or even checking in on a friend going through a hard time.