Science-backed wellness trends from the previous decade that will continue into the 2020s

For a variety of reasons, how we care for our bodies, minds, and health evolves over time. While some of these changes are forgotten (thank goodness for low-fat everything and shake weights), others gain attention because there is science behind them, and we are better off adopting them.

Here are a few wellness trends that became popular in the 2010s that experts predict will continue into the 2020s.

  1. Self-care as a Priority 

For decades, Americans (and those from other countries that struggle with overwork) have attempted to define success as never-ending busyness and personal achievement. That is why self-care — particularly well-informed self-care, which prioritizes activities and experiences that consistently contribute to overall happiness in life — is such a significant cultural trend. It’s not about pampering ourselves; it’s about devoting time to things like eating healthy, exercising, sleeping, and taking emotional breaks as needed. And it acknowledges that those things are just as important as our academic and professional success.

  1. Strength Training 

According to Todd Schroeder, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Clinical Physical Therapy at the University of Southern California, “it’s a trend that will definitely continue into the next decade because there is so much research demonstrating the benefits (from reduced risk of disease to reduced risk of injury to improved functioning later in life) linked to strength training.” “Strength training increases bone mass, which helps to slow the progression of osteoporosis as we age.” Furthermore, we all lose muscle mass as we age (sarcopenia), so building muscle through a strength training program is important to help maintain daily activities, which frequently decline with age.”

According to Schroeder, his team is currently investigating how strength training may be linked to improved cognitive function. “The results appear to be impressive.”

  1. Sleep

The decade of the 2010s is when society grew out of the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mindset. The increased attention from health and wellness media, as well as the influx of sleep trackers and another tech, can be cited as reasons for the shift. However, sleep medicine doctors point to a flood of research highlighting the numerous important ways that sleeping long enough and well enough is linked to better health.

According to Phyllis Zee, MD, Ph.D., a sleep medicine specialist at Northwestern Medicine, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that sleep quality and timing are critical for brain, immune, cardiovascular, and metabolic health. Sleep deprivation and irregular sleep and wake timing have been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, impaired immune function, and even Alzheimer’s disease. 

We now know that deep sleep (the stage of sleep you only reach if you get good, quality sleep) is critical for learning and memory because it is when the brain clears out “waste” that accumulates while we are awake. According to Zee, we now have a better understanding of how sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder, can increase the risk of dementia. We’ve also discovered that circadian rhythm genetic mechanisms exist in nearly all cells, which explains why to sleep and sleep timing have such broad effects on our health, says Zee. (The discovery of circadian clock genes earned the 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology.)

  1. Prioritizing your Mental Health

According to Simon-Thomas, the decade of the 2010s saw significant progress in recognizing the role of our mental and emotional health in overall well-being. “Society-wide challenges, such as extremely high stress among adolescents and the opioid crisis, have provided an opportunity to question the status quo,” she says. “Letting mental health emerge passively and often stigmatized is not working.”

Meditation and mindfulness were once considered too spiritual to be discussed in schools, according to Robin Stern, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. However, in the last decade, there has been a proliferation of mindfulness programs for students of all ages (from kindergarten to upward). “And now we have research that supports the link between our physical health and physical health behaviors and our mental health,” Stern adds.

  1. Enjoying more night-ins

In the last few years, a number of foreign wellness trends have entered the mainstream. According to Simon-Thomas, the Danish tradition of “hygge” has a valuable message. “It’s the notion that happiness is unrelated to being entertained or acquiring material goods,” she explains. She explains that it’s the people you’re with and the quality of time spent together that contribute to long-term happiness.

We’re biologically wired in such a way that the reward for whatever objects give us pleasure diminishes the more we’re exposed to them. Simon-Thomas explains that social pleasure works differently. The effect of being around others and enjoying each other’s company grows with time. Bottom line: This emphasis on creating warm, cozy shared experiences based on playful interactions and contentment is extremely beneficial.

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