20 years ago, the concept of going to an ayahuasca retreat to help addiction would have seemed unconventional—and completely bizarre to a mainstream audience. In 2022, it’s not out of left field to have a friend or two who have attended one. (I have several!)
Wellness once brought to mind fringe practices, inspired by indigenous or eastern spiritual rituals, opposite to the clinical practices of American healthcare.
Many mental health practices are largely rooted in ancient spiritual traditions but have been adapted by the wellness movement. As marketers, we saw this movement’s growth and added these once-taboo practices into our definition of health.
Now, I’ve seen these same practices catapult into the mainstream—helping grow the $4.4 trillion health and wellness industry into what it is today!
Health vs. Wellness
Though used interchangeably, health and wellness have different meanings. Health is the objective, and wellness is the state of being as we work to achieve it.
Perceiving wellness as a state of being dips into hippy territory—which explains why the word ‘wellness’ itself has for so long had an esoteric connotation.
Health and Wellness marketers eventually packaged wellness with healthcare—presenting the concepts in tandem, and forever linking them in the consumer’s mind.
Wellness enters the mainstream
Since the beginning of globalization and the internet’s hold on our lives, foreign wellness practices like meditation, reiki, healing crystals continued to seem quacky to most—yet still managed to gain a cult following.
Wellness practices derived from other cultures have been on our radar in the West since the New Age movement in the 70s—back when yoga was all the rage amongst hippies in the U.S.
Until recently, even secular wellness practices like therapy were still stigmatized. But what was once considered faux-pas is now the new normal, trendy even.
The health and wellness industry has brought practices from the counterculture into the mainstream.
Covid only sped this process up. I get into Covid’s Impact in more detail below, TL;DR: the pandemic made us all think about wellness more than ever and opened our minds to trying new things.
A note on psychedelics
Psychedelics in the world of health and wellness have had a fascinating journey. I won’t get into too much detail, though. I wouldn’t want to spoil our upcoming article that gets into the nitty gritty of the trend.
But we can’t get into wellness trends without at least mentioning these ancient hallucinogens.
Psychedelics are a perfect example of something that’s still seen as taboo—yet has begun to start shifting into the mainstream. Reputable universities have seen promising mental health results from studies on psilocybin, ketamine, MDMA and LSD. And they keep researching!
Psychedelics may not be mainstream YET, but they’re well on their way.
We’ve seen that what once was taboo has become mainstream, but what has allowed these fringe practices to become a part of modern healthcare? Glad you asked.
Plant-based eating: Same practice, different reasons
Being aware of the plant-based industry matters when it comes to healthcare marketing—with “a third of Americans and almost half of Europeans [who] say they’re eating less meat than they did a year ago.”
Plant-based eating is by no means a new concept—but it’s certainly more widely accepted (and cooler!) than ever before. What was once a niche community (at least in the U.S.) is now a substantial segment of the Wellness Industry—with the plant-based protein market projected to reach 17.4 billion USD by 2027.
Even the surge in vegetarianism (or plant-based eating) has its roots in spirituality. The hindu religion encourages it, as those who follow it believe that animals have souls and receive compassion.
The Hindu idea that “showing care for what you eat can save your body and mind” may mirror some Westerner’s reasons for plant-based eating. BUT the practice itself, the recipes, and the concept have become much easier to digest as globalized cuisines are more and more common.
Being vegetarian isn’t taboo in the same way psychedelics are. But it’s definitely a good example of a wellness practice that is far more common now than it was at any other point in my lifetime. You can even get a vegan whopper now, for crying out loud!
20 years ago, I knew zero vegetarians in Miami. Now, I can easily name 5 off the top of my head—and Hispanic ones. A vegetarian Hispanic? Not something that existed 10 years ago.
In the 2010s, the cloud of shame surrounding therapy began to dissipate—as it slowly became more acceptable.
In 2022, with Covid’s impact and the rise of telehealth, seeking therapy has become more commonplace than ever—even in communities where it still remains heavily stigmatized. It’s also more accessible than it’s ever been. And accessibility goes a long way for normalization.
Consumers are talking about mental health more than ever and are more comfortable seeking therapy than a few years ago. Mental health had a rebrand, and now seeking help is recognized as a strength—rather than a weakness.
An intersection of science, spirituality, and mental health
Globalization has its downfalls, but it’s also led to new avenues of research inspired by practices brought to us by other cultures—and that’s something I can get behind.
Psychotherapy as we know it is a Western invention—but many evidence-based therapeutic practices have their origins in various religious customs.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Zen Buddhism
In the 70s after her own experience with mental illness, Marsha Lindehan developed Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). This “well-researched skills-based treatment to help suicidal and drug-dependent individuals who live with borderline personality disorder and other related disorders” is now the gold-standard for behavioral therapy. (And rightfully so!)
Though perfected through years of scientific research entailing much trial & error, Lindehan emphasized that “her belief in God and her study of Zen Buddhism guided her to the philosophy of acceptance and influenced her recovery.”
“The spread of secular forms of meditation and yoga,” for instance, “has created many controversies in Christian and Muslim religious communities around the world.” There’s also been understandable criticism about commodifying Buddhist spiritual practices.
On the other hand, the mainstream acceptance of these wellness concepts has made us collectively more accepting of both secular & spiritual interventions for mental health in the West.
Anyone who hesitates with religion now has evidence-based research for wellness practices derived from indigenous or Eastern spiritualities.
We may have never considered adopting these practices had we not come in contact with other cultures and been inspired by what worked for them.
You’d expect a global pandemic to impact most of the population’s wellness habits—but what’s different between what we expected and what actually occurred?
A few effects of the pandemic could have been easily predicted. For instance:
53% of us are walking one to five miles more per day compared to pre-pandemic statistics
Every market we researched reported a substantial increase in the prioritization of wellness over the past 2-3 years.
We had a looming virus that especially affected those with cardiovascular deficiencies. And a pandemic with more downtime than ever. So, it makes sense that we all started walking a bit more.
But Covid’s most notable impact was in regard to mental health. During the pandemic, “reports of mental distress increased globally,” with “more than half of consumers [saying] they want to prioritize mindfulness more.” (Mckinsey)
We may have expected to see an increase in mental health interest, but nothing on the scale of what we witnessed across the globe.
Many people expressed experiencing mental health issues for the first time, but it’s possible that when the world stood still, they had a moment to evaluate their mental health overall. So, the health and wellness industry accommodated, and Telehealth answered the call!
Telehealth therapy softwares have streamlined their services to serve the growing market of consumers who have opened up to the idea of therapy. And like I mentioned in “Minority Mental Health: Get To Know The Facts,” health and wellness marketers are finally noticing the importance of understanding their multicultural audiences.
By educating new audiences about mental illness, we continue to break the barriers around mental health in communities where it’s stigmatized the most.
An Overarching View of Wellness in 2022
Before, wellness encompassed practices considered foreign to many—too different from the habits of most Americans to successfully enter the mainstream. But today, wellness means more than it ever has.
Evidence-based research has given credibility to ancient rituals. And Health and Wellness marketing stories packaged wellness and healthcare as one industry—uniting the concepts in our collective minds.
The same science-minded friend who hates crystals might come to yoga, and the baptist parent might participate in secular family therapy.
Mental healthcare is a prime example in adapting cultural practices to the mainstream—exploring new avenues of research based on ancient wellness concepts, and embracing cultural wisdoms
As we see in the McKinsey Report, consumers view wellness more holistically than ever before. Sleep, mindfulness, nutrition, appearance—and most importantly, health—all fall under the realm of wellness.
If you’re looking to market a wellness service that once seemed ‘quacky,’ 2022 is the perfect time. Shoot us an email, and we can identify your audience’s needs & preferences to help you help them.