It’s a lifestyle that has expanded from the occasional yoga class or green juice to organic pillows, infrared saunas, silent spas, adult coloring books, meditation gurus and beauty remedies inspired by kale or kombucha. From food trends to retail, wellness has gone mainstream.
What exactly is wellness? The Cut calls it, “making a conscious effort to attain health in both body and mind, to strive for unity and balance.” It’s about eating clean, sleeping well, moving freely, breathing deeply and thinking positively. And that lofty pursuit makes it one of the world’s fastest-growing markets. In fact, The Global Wellness Institute estimates that between 2013 and 2015 the global wellness industry grew by 10.6 percent—to $3.72 trillion—during a time when the worldwide economy typically contracted about 3.6 percent. Looking ahead, the market is expected to grow an additional 17 percent by 2021, according to Euromonitor.
“People are getting away from the ‘old luxury’ concept of extravagance and exclusivity; instead they focus today more on self-transformation, wellness and experience,” says Anna Szubrycht, owner of Chic Being, a boutique luxury brand consultancy. “In general, we try to eat healthier, exercise more and balance time between work and family—people strive to be best version of themselves.”
Not just for the 'wellthy'
Once seen as a pursuit of the elite—those who don’t blink an eye at dropping $100 for yoga pants or $40 for a one-hour spin class—wellness is now being democratized. And it couldn’t come at a better time, given that worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980 and heart disease and stroke are the world’s biggest killers (both according to the World Health Organization).
There’s also a financial upside to spending on yourself. Consumers who put extravagances on a credit card with cash back can save themselves money in the long run.
“It’s the growth of the global middle class that’s most fueling growth for the vast $3.7 trillion wellness market (according to the Global Wellness Institute’s new research on the seemingly unstoppable expansion for the healthy food, beauty, fitness, alternative medicine, spa, etc., markets),” a 2017 Global Wellness Summit report states.
Wellness has received considerable attention, in part due to both fans and critics of Gwyneth Paltrow’s pricey wellness company Goop, and pop culture moments such as the recent novel “Fitness Junkies,” described as “a hilarious send-up of the health and wellness industry.” In reality, Szubrycht calls wellness a “new luxury,” but one at an accessible price. “It’s more inquisitive than exclusive. It’s not a community where you need to drive a certain car. It’s more concentrated around the concept of how you see yourself, rather than how others see you,” she explains. Enter an influx of free yoga in the park, meditation apps, nutrition blogs, DIY face masks and other wellness-oriented items that anyone can access.
At retail, consider items like organic beauty brands priced similarly to major department store brands, or athleisure wear as readily available in big-box discount chains as it is at the pricey boutique.
The wellness Rx
Wellness is not exclusively a pursuit of twentysomethings who gather for gluten-free avocado toast; all ages are getting into the beauty-from-the-inside mindset, especially those concerned with anti-aging. And the resulting attitudes are positive: According to a MetLife study, the majority of Gen Xers rate their health as good to excellent. Common wellness activities include exercise and practicing good eating habits.
In an age of increasing financial stress and uncertainty over health care coverage, taking a few minutes to blend a superfood smoothie, practice deep breathing or slather on some all-natural almond oil can help alleviate some of the feelings of anxiety. “[In the past] the majority of my clients would only talk about the number on the scale,” says Brooke Alpert, MS, RD, CDN, founder of the private nutrition counseling practice B Nutritious in New York and author of the upcoming book “The Diet Detox.”
In the last five years, people have approached Alpert with a desire to feel better, she notes. “They want to live to be around for their grandchildren,” Alpert says.
People think of wellness as preventive medicine, according to Alpert. “They’re starting to look at how taking care of themselves now will pay off tenfold when they’re older," she says.
Now, even more than that perfectly tailored little black dress or classic handbag, wellness is an investment that pays the ultimate dividends: improved health and well-being. Think of factoring in a gym membership, farmers market produce or the occasional vitamin D-filled beach vacation into the family budget a worthy necessity rather than a temporary drain.