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10 Wellness Trends to Watch in 2017
While 2016 hailed wellness trends ranging from home sanctuaries to health-inspired vacations, as well as food superstars like turmeric root and avocado, 2017 beckons wellness trends that are cost-effective and awe-inspiring. Explore the newest and brightest trends in wellness, from forest bathing to moringa.
1. Forest Bathing
If you thought gallivanting aimlessly around a forest was only for fairies or festival-goers, think again. In the 1980s, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries created the term Shinrin-yoku, due to the growing popularity of “taking in the atmosphere of the forest” for health reasons. According to the Washington Post, forest bathing is the “process of soaking up the sights, smells and sounds of a natural setting to promote physiological and psychological health.” While spending time amongst trees is likely an ancient healing practice, forest bathing is blossoming into a proven and popular preventative medicine practice. A study published in Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine found that spending time in forest environments “promote[s] lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity and lower sympathetic nerve activity.” Forest bathing does not involve reaching a destination. Rather, it entails soaking in the vibrations and quietude of resilient, life-giving trees. Bathing suits optional (in some forests).
2. Intention Healing
You may have heard of the placebo effect: it is well known for its disruptive impact during clinical trials. Now, there is growing interest in the psychology and science behind the placebo effect, due to its “intention healing” potential. Placebo effect is the when you give a patient a fake treatment and the patient’s condition improves. According to WebMD, “research on the placebo effect has focused on the relationship of mind and body… If a person expects a pill to do something, then it’s possible that the body’s own chemistry can cause effects similar to what a medication might have caused.” Ted J. Kaptchuk of Harvard Medical School found that deception is not required for the placebo effect: even patients who know they are taking placebos experience symptomatic relief. Placebo pills, Kaptchuk states, “engage an ‘inner pharmacy’ of neurotransmitters.” Though research is lagging, with an inner pharmacy capable of concocting a personalized Rx, it may be possible for humans to activate a healing response with intention alone. Conversely, actively worrying about your health may increase your chances of illness. A 12-year study of more than 7,000 people found that subjects who suffered from anxiety focused on acquiring or preventing illnesses were about 70 percent more likely to develop heart disease than subjects who were less anxious. Healing with intention is growing in popularity as people question the “pop-a-pill,” band-aid remedies of Western medicine. For your ally is the Healing Force, and a powerful ally it is.
Smudging is used to clear negative energy from a person or place and invite in peace, harmony and fortune, usually through ceremony. Humans have used the smoke of medicinal plants, such as sage and palo santo, for centuries. Smudging is a trending search term and was even featured in Vogue as a tool for “spiritual hygiene.” While the ceremonial aspects of smudging tap into the psychology of positive intention setting, smoke from medicinal plants is also the focus of studies on drug delivery. A study across 50 countries and 5 continents found that the smoke from medicinal plants is used (via inhalation, localized direction or passively) for 1) pulmonary, dermatological, and neurological disorders, 2) repellent, 3) air purification, and 4) social purposes. According to the study, “the advantages of smoke-based remedies are rapid delivery to the brain, more efficient absorption by the body and lower costs of production.” Regarding wellness, our ancestors knew that where there was smoke there was fire.
Notorious for its entertainment value, the ancient practice of hypnotherapy is resurging as an effective tool for anxiety, fatigue, insomnia and pain. In an interview with STAT, David Spiegel states “hypnosis is a natural, yet altered state in which we access the subconscious mind. In hypnotherapy, we utilize this state to reprogram the mind for what we want to happen.” Speigel’s research at Stanford University School of Medicine found that, “distinct sections of the brain have altered activity and connectivity while someone is hypnotized.” During hypnosis, weakened connections in the region normally connected to self-consciousness may liberate patients to do or say things beyond their norm. Several studies have found hypnosis relieves pain and anxiety; it is an effective treatment tool for symptoms associated with severe chronic diseases and cancer. Hypnosis reached celebrity status in 2016 and grew in popularity as variations of traditional hypnotherapy emerge, such as past life regression hypnotherapy. Not everyone is susceptible to hypnotherapy but if you are, its flashy ways might have you singing, “biggie, biggie, biggie” – and change your life for the better.
5. Sensory Deprivation
Featured recently in the New York Times, Business Insider and Fast Company, sensory deprivation tanks (aka “float tanks) are the new high for the health conscious. Imagine climbing into a capsule-like bathtub, filled with warm saltwater, and closing the lid. The water contains approximately 1,000 pounds of magnesium sulfate, or Epsom salt, known to detoxify the body and reduce inflammation. Lacking light and sound, in today’s constant flow of sensory inundation, float tanks induce a deep state of relaxation. This state of relaxation, known as Theta mode, is connected to dreaming, creativity, ideation and cultivating calm. Epiphanies abound amongst those exiting float tank centers: hence, the increasing popularity of sensory deprivation tanks among the tech elite. With 172 centers worldwide, and over half of those opening in the last year, float tanks are the new quick fix for the monkey mind.
Hailed as a “nutritional Swiss Army Knife”, Moringa oleifera is a resilient tree with potent health benefits. Joint research efforts over the last decade found that “the tree’s leaves and pods have strong anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties, and may also contain enzymes that protect against cancer.” It reduces fatigue, boots immune function and aids digestion. There are 13 known species of Moringa across Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Africa. Its edible leaves are rich in protein, iron, amino acids, antioxidants, and Vitamins A, B and C. Vegetable oil may be derived from its seeds and the leftover seeds can be used to purify water. Moringa is now available at health food stores and the market is expected to grow. The plant is extremely resilient: it grows in harsh conditions, ranging from drought to mild frost, at an astounding rate of one foot per month. The nutrient-dense tree could help fight famine and malnutrition.So, what can’t this tree do? Try using Moringa in tea, smoothies or salad dressings.
7. Crystal Healing
Crystals are everywhere: makeup and drinking water are now infused with them, spa services incorporate them into foot baths and massages, and people are donning them for self-healing and self-expression purposes alike. In theory, each type of crystal or gemstone is associated with a set of spiritual characteristics and healing properties. For example, rose quartz is associated with the heart, compassion, comfort and is used to heal heartbreak. Crystals may be placed on the body during massage, Reiki or meditation; they also may be worn on the body as jewelry or featured in a space to reinforce an intention, such as increased creativity in your workspace. While crystal healing is not acknowledged by Western medicine, the concept of crystals as conduits of energetic healing dates centuries and likely stems from Chinese traditional medicine and Ayurveda. Ayurveda maps the body though the chakra systems and each chakra is associated with specific crystals and stones. Whether you are actually balancing your chakras or inducing a placebo effect, crystals are an effective tool for stress management. Don’t forget to cleanse and charge your crystals under the light of a full moon or in running water.
8. Sound Healing
Sound is a fast track to the heart. Have you ever heard a song or instrument solo that moved you to tears or resurrected distant memories? As it pertains to wellness, the power of sound is experiencing a new crescendo. Sound as therapy may help people relax and heal. According to an article by Observer, “sound can be used to rebalance the nervous system, boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, increase circulation, and balance the right and left sides of the brain, creating a state of calm…through the principles of entrainment and resonant frequency.” Brainwave entrainment refers to the brain’s tendency to synchronize its oscillation frequency with the vibration of external stimulus. Resonance is a “phenomenon in which a vibrating system or force drives another system to oscillate with greater amplitude at a specific referential frequency.” Usually calculated in Hertz, everything has a resonant frequency or “frequency footprint,” including humans, bacteria and even the Earth. Through the concepts of entrainment and resonant frequency, sound therapy intentionally soothes brainwaves into a slower rhythm or oscillation pattern, thus inducing a state of calm. Observer notes the efficacy of sound therapy is due, in part, to the fact that “we are resonating, pulsating, vibrating beings. Water is one of the best conductors of sound and we are 70 percent water.” Stress, trauma and illness can throw brainwaves and resonant frequencies out of natural sync. To restore this balance, sound healing sessions feature tuning forks, singing bowls, gongs and even just the human voice, which is found to be one of the most calming mechanisms of sound. Lullabies are approved for use at all ages.
9. Morning Rituals
Productivity throughout the day is not dependent on rising early. Rather, daily success may be determined by your morning rituals. A surefire way to turn an action into a ritual or habit is to condition yourself. According to Inside Science, habits “persists even after our initial motivation dissolves.” Eventually, a repeated stimulus-response scenario conditions a habit. For example, if you repeatedly drink tea and write a gratitude list, you eventually create a response (writing) to stimulus (tea) that becomes a ritual or habit. However, morning rituals and habits are potentially more potent because they pair an unconditioned response (i.e., waking up) with a conditioned response (writing). This concept is grounded in the psychology of “classical conditioning,” developed by Ivan Pavlov. You take something your body doesn’t need to learn and pair it with something you want it to learn and voila! You’ve mind-hacked yourself. One of the most effective morning rituals for success is writing out your day; other morning rituals include cultivating a morning yoga practice, making a gratitude list or communicating with your ancestors.
By now, mushrooms are probably a staple rather than a trend. Recently featured for their potential abilities to save the world and change your life, the scientific and medical communities are increasing investment in medicinal mushroom research. Johns Hopkins researchers found that hallucinogenic mushrooms reduced depression and anxiety in 80% of subjects with life-threatening cancer. Months afterwards, subjects reported high rates of symptom remission and increased well-being. Notably, subjects experienced “sustained benefits in existential distress and quality of life, as well as improved attitudes towards death.” Another study, featuring healthy volunteers, found “new, stronger activity across several regions of the brain that normally rarely or never engage in such cross-talk.” While not a cure-all, the benefits of psilocybin are deserving of continued research, especially for the potential to ease the distress of those facing life-threatening illnesses. Reishi mushrooms are the runner-up in the trendy fungi category. Considered sacred in Eastern medicine, reishi mushrooms contain the polysaccharides and triterpenes, which stimulate the immune system and lower cholesterol, respectively. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that subjects with cancer who used reishi mushrooms had higher natural killer cell activity and, when included in an anticancer treatment regime, subjects were 1.27 times more likely to respond to chemotherapy or radiotherapy. If you want to be the “fun guy” at your next social gathering, try bringing some reishi hot cocoa.
Caution: most, if not all, of these trends 1) are not panaceas and 2) still being researched for their efficacy and safety. Please use caution and consult a doctor when adding them to your wellness routine.
Psilocybin Mushroom Explorer
Embark on an adventure with Simon G. Powell to the world of magic mushrooms. Learn about their spiritual benefits and the growing scientific backing of their benefits.
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