In 2022, self-care is more important than ever. Pandemic living has taxed both our physical and mental well-being. The support charity Mind found that a third of adults and young people have reported a significant decline in their mental health since March 2020.
To get back to life as we knew it before COVID-19, there are some helpful lifestyle changes that we can make to positively impact both our physical and mental health. We’ve all watched plenty of fad health trends come and go, from charcoal toothpaste and detox diets, all the way up to that time we tried to juice every solid food item we consumed. However, some are better than others, and we’ve done the research to figure out which are best.
So, without further ado, here are four of our favourite wellness trends to get on board with this year.
Good digestion is vital for well-being. We have a supply of bacteria in our gastrointestinal system that keeps everything regulated, and when this small ecosystem inside of us falls out of balance, our health can spiral. This can cause digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and some cancers.
Even the mildest of these illnesses can result in cramping, bloating and discomfort that will quickly impact your mood. Recently, research has suggested that our digestive system is inextricably linked to our mental state — the brain communicates with the brain via a system known as the gut-brain axis — and in some animal studies, stress to the balance of the gut has invoked depression and anxiety-like symptoms. Essentially, we’re learning more and more that a healthy gut is important for the mind and body alike.
To maintain gut health, you should drink plenty of water and eat fresh whole foods. But beyond these general guidelines, adding probiotics to your diet could help. These are live bacteria cultures commonly found in yoghurt and some food supplements that may help to restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut. Notably, drinkable supplement shots have gained popularity in recent years — health food providers have produced ranges of yoghurt, kombucha and fermented milk shots containing live bacteria cultures to help support the gut microbiome.
2. Mindful Drinking
For better or worse, drinking is a popular pastime embedded in the world's social fabric. However, regular alcohol consumption does your body no favours: Healthline reports that persistent drinking can lead to immune suppression, memory problems, and increased feelings of anxiety.
If going tea-total isn’t a commitment you’re currently willing to make, a good first step is to practise mindful drinking, or being ‘sober curious’. This is the act of keeping on top of how much you’re consuming, as well as considering your motive for pouring the glass — by simply asking yourself, non-judgmentally: why do I want this drink? Will it lead to positive outcomes?
By monitoring your intentions, you can be mindful of your drinking. Early evidence suggests that mindfulness regimens can help to significantly reduce alcohol consumption, which is likely to be much more accessible for many of us than stopping it altogether. Fortunately, rising demand for non-alcoholic drinks has brought a range of booze-free dupes of favourite tipples to the market, making the odd soft drink swap-out all the more appealing.
3. Garden Therapy
Conventional talking therapies are commonly prescribed to help with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. However, complementary and alternative medicines have similarly been shown to improve well-being. For example, garden therapy involves getting outside to nature and cultivating flowers, trees and herbs to fulfil treatment goals.
Gardening for health charity Thrive was founded on the premise that gardens can be restorative and bring about positive changes for those in ill health. The charity’s research has found that 80% of individuals participating in table-top gardening sessions reported improvements in mental health, and a further 93% claimed improved confidence and motivation. Of course, if you’re feeling particularly stressed or down, it’s always best to consult with your GP as the first point of contact — but getting into good everyday wellness habits can help give you a cheap and easy daily boost.
4. Sleep hygiene
Nearly one in five adults aren’t getting enough sleep, with the recommended seven to nine hours of rest per night. This is hardly surprising, given the ongoing pressures of modern life; what with the stress of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, a decent night’s kip might seem like a distant memory for many. It’s a cause for concern, then, that sleep is a vital component of physical and mental wellness, linked to a range of health outcomes for our immune system, heart, cognition and mood. Thankfully, you can take several steps to improve your sleep hygiene — the habits and environmental factors that affect your sleep.
Technology can be both a help and a hindrance. On a positive note, innovative new devices like sleep-training smart clocks can help you fix your sleep routine using light, sound, and breathing exercises. Wearable technology can also help you to track habits and identify the activities that most influence your sleep quality.On the flip side, it’s no secret that staying up late with your eyes on a phone, laptop or TV will keep you awake, because the blue light emitted from these devices suppresses melatonin release, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy. Therefore, you can improve sleep hygiene by investing in sleep aid devices and avoiding screens, to get into a regular routine that promotes your wellness.
This article was written by Charlotte Giver and originally appeared on Your Coffee Break.