However, as we approach the start of a new year, we’re looking forward to learning more about all the new health and wellness trends which will be helping us get through 2022.
According to analysis of search data by Bupa Health Clinics, the next year will see us turn our attention towards practices including mindful exercise and mood tracking.
To find out more about how these trends will manifest – and the other health and wellness trends we can expect to pop up in 2022 – we spoke to Bupa’s associate clinical director Dr Elizabeth Rogers. Here’s what she had to say.
Improving gut health
With a recent 83% surge in Google searches for ‘gut health’, Dr Rogers predicts we’re going to be turning our attention towards our stomachs next year.
“Prioritising your gut health is increasingly popular,” she explains. “Gut health can refer both to your digestive system also known as your gastrointestinal (GI) tract – and the balance of bacteria in your gut. Your gut digests food, houses a range of bacteria, absorbs energy and nutrients, and gets rid of waste products.”
She continues: “Your diet is one of the biggest influences on our gut health, so it’s important to eat a variety of foods, including wholefoods, fruit, and vegetables. Processed foods are often high in additives and preservatives, and these can disrupt the healthy bacteria in your gut.”
Being more eco-friendly
In response to rising levels of climate and eco-anxiety, Dr Rogers predicts that more and more of us will be paying attention to our lifestyles in order to relieve feelings of unease.
If you’re feeling anxious, she says: “You aren’t alone in your feelings – millions of people across the world will be feeling the same as you. Taking notice of your feelings and turning those into positive actions can support your wellbeing, but also make a difference for the planet.”
Dr Rogers continues: “To make sure your eco-friendly habits stick, start by making one or two small changes to live greener, and build them up over time. For example, choose local, seasonal foods where possible, and reduce food waste by planning meals in advance.”
Incorporating mindfulness into your exercise routine
The terms ‘mindful moving’, ‘mindful exercise’ and ‘mindful running’ have all seen a surge on Google this year – and it’s a trend Dr Rogers predicts will grow as we move into 2022.
“Research shows that combining mindfulness with exercise has lots of benefits, including lowering your risk of depression, and giving your endurance a boost,” she says of the trend. “Regular exercise can also boost your mood, relieve stress and reduce anxiety. This is because of ‘feel good’ chemicals such as serotonin that are released into the body whilst exercising.”
She continues: “A great example of combining mindfulness and exercise is through mindful running, where you’re mentally connected with your movements and avoid any distractions. Try to notice the feeling of your body moving and the different smells and noises around you.”
Tracking stress levels
The combination of the pandemic and working from home has taken its toll on our stress levels, leaving many people feeling burnt out. To counteract this, Dr Rogers predicts, more of us will be keeping an eye on our stress in the new year.
There are plenty of ways to get started, she says. “Some fitness and stress trackers worn on your wrist are now able to track your cortisol levels, but there are other options Try taking note of any physical or mental stress symptoms, including pain or tension in your body, digestive problems such as nausea or constipation, and an increased heart rate. Emotional signs to look for include irritability, anger, feeling overwhelmed and racing thoughts.”
Taking regular steps to ease your stress levels will help you to keep on top of things, Dr Rogers adds. “Relaxation techniques – like breathing exercises or mindfulness – can ease any stress or worry you’re feeling. Practice these techniques when you’re feeling relaxed to start with and find out what works best for you.
“Whilst you may not feel like it, daily exercise releases feel-good chemicals in your brain. Exercising outdoors has plenty of benefits too, including boosting your mood and improving your self-esteem.”
Using a mood diary
You’ve heard about tracking your water intake, step count and active minutes, but what about mood tracking? According to Dr Rogers, the simple act of using a journal to track your emotions is going to be big in 2022.
“After a turbulent year that’s placed great pressure on our mental health, mood journaling is becoming more and more popular,” Dr Rogers explains. “Keeping a mood journal, or emotion journal, can be a useful way to get to the root of lingering negative feelings (and increase positive ones).
“This allows you to recognise negative emotions and take action to help these feelings, whether it’s opening up to a friend, loved one or mental professional. Writing down your feelings has been shown to reduce your feelings of anxiety and depression, too”.
Looking after your immune system
With the pandemic still looming large – especially since the arrival of the new Omicron variant – looking after our natural defences will remain an important part of our health and wellness in 2022, Dr Rogers says.
“We’re still navigating our way out of the global coronavirus pandemic, so looking after yourself has never been more important,” she explains. “A strong immune system isn’t something you develop overnight but instead boosting your health and fitness in the weeks leading up to a much-anticipated event can make a huge difference.”
Dr Rogers continues: “Start the new year right by boosting your immune system by eating a more varied diet, sleeping well, getting your daily dose of vitamin D (add a supplement during the winter months), and practicing regular handwashing.”
Alongside mindful exercise, Dr Rogers predicts we’ll be taking a more mindful approach to alcohol consumption, too.
“A new concept that has captured the attention of people looking for a healthier relationship with alcohol is ‘mindful drinking’ – being aware of why you’re drinking and how much alcohol you’re having,” she explains. “After a surge of searches on Google in 2021, it’s expected to increase even more in the new year.
“Mindful drinking often leads to healthier relationship with alcohol and less consumption. It’s a simple trend to adopt – to practice mindful drinking, pause before each new drink and ask yourself why you’re drinking. From asking how it feels to drink this alcohol to if you feel good, all these simple techniques can improve your relationship with alcohol”.