Experts from the Global Wellness Summit have identified eight future directions in wellness in a new report called “Eight Wellness Trends for 2018.”

The report is based on the insight of the more than 600 delegates from more than 40 countries who attended the Global Wellness Summit in October, as well as the perspectives of economists, medical and wellness professionals, academics, and leaders across all sectors of the wellness industry.

“No other trends report is based on the perspectives of so many wellness experts,” said Susie Ellis, GWS chair CEO. “And every one of this year’s trends pushes the health and wellness envelope in unexpected ways.”

So what directions will savvy spas and wellness brands take this year? Here are the highlights:


1. Mushrooms Emerge from Underground
It looks like we’re going to see a lot more mushrooms in wellness this year as the latest research on this super/magical food is finding its way to the mainstream. From more magic mushroom research, microdosing and retreats to a profusion of superpower mushrooms infused in foods, drinks and beauty products — mushrooms, whether magical or medicinal, are being used for wellness.

A current raft of studies show psilocybin’s (aka magic mushrooms) positive impact on alcohol and nicotine addiction, OCD, depression, anxiety, and as powerful treatment for those facing end of life. Research also shows that psilocybin can reset the brain by knocking down old brain patterns and jump-starting new ones by acting on the serotonin 2A receptor.  This breakthrough potential has lead to pushing mushrooms to the forefront in a few ways: a legalization movement for magic mushrooms,  “microdosing” which involves taking psilocybin in very small amounts (maybe 1/10th of a dose) every few days over several months, mushroom retreats where a psychedelic “trip” happens within a wellness trip,  and the infusion of more mushroom-medicine into foods, health and beauty products.

2. A New Era of Transformative Travel

More wellness destinations are creating new concepts that cast the traveler-pilgrim in an immersive story or defining narrative: A multi-chapter wellness journey…an emotional, even theatrical, saga of transformation: a true circuit or “necklace” of linked experiences rather than the disconnected “beads” of traditional programming, amenities and itineraries.

In 2018, we will see the first multi-property – and story-based – wellness circuit with the launch of Six Senses Bhutan. Part of the new transformational wellness travel trend is destinations casting guests as the hero of story-based wellness quests.  At Iceland’s The Red Mountain Resort concept – a spa experience as pure saga and fantasy – guests can experience the emotional and sensory voyage of an ancient Icelandic hero. Spa/wellness experiences
are even being re-imagined as full-day circuits or safaris. Spas have long adopted the language of the “journey” but with little actual journeying; now concepts are appearing befitting the term. Travel experts now argue that “transformational travel” is the evolutionary wave, which doesn’t discard the focus on authentic experiences, but takes it to a deeper emotional level.

3. Reframing the First 1,000 Days

In 2018, we’ll see pre-conception and paternity enter the health equation. “The first 1,000 days” traditionally refers to 270 days of pregnancy, plus the first two years of a child’s life (730 days). However, this trend report also looks at the health and lifestyle of the mother and the father during the six months (180 days) before they conceive a baby. It all adds up to 1,180 days– and a new way of looking at the factors that determine our future health.  The world is finally recognizing how lifestyle choices can help or harm the genomes and health of an individual for his or her lifetime.

For decades, medical researchers have studied how a mother’s lifestyle, however, the impact of the parents’ lifestyle on a baby’s long-term health and intellectual development during the pre-conception period has received far less attention.  Research is telling us that it’s time to acknowledge that it takes two people to make a baby, and the health of the sperm when conception occurs, as well as the father’s lifestyle during the pregnancy and beyond, is as important as the mother’s ovum and lifestyle. Research on the first 1,000 days is moving from a narrower, “What-should-mom-eat?” focus to a serious look at how both parents will influence a child’s health–before conception, in pregnancy and in childhood– for a lifetime.

4. The Wellness Kitchen

The Wellness Kitchen is a new trend poised to transform the most popular room in our home into a better reflection of ourselves.  This new kind of kitchen will store and showcase fresh fruits and vegetables as opposed to processed foods, and new designs and technology will celebrate uncluttered, well-ventilated spaces that are as encouraging of socializing as they are of preparing healthy food.

Refrigerators will be re-imagined to properly store and transparently display fresh fruits and vegetables, and kitchens will have space for gardens and sprouting. Noisy appliances will be a thing of the past. Composting delivery systems and particulate and oxygen sensors will be standard features. And there will be more emphasis on healthy building materials. Instead of serving as a relic of the past, our kitchens will use advancements in technology and design to foster a healthier lifestyle for our bodies, our minds, and our planet. Because just like the food it contains, the Wellness Kitchen doesn’t merely feed – it nourishes.

5. Getting our “Clean Air Act” Together

The toxins in the air that we breathe (both indoors and out) have become a catastrophic invisible killer, responsible for the premature deaths of 6.5 million people worldwide. Over 90% of the world’s population now breathe air that violates air quality guidelines.

As the gravity of this issue becomes clearer – and disagreements over standards get left on the table by governments – we will see individuals owning their own “clean air acts.” This can mean filling our homes and offices with plants, donning chic air pollution masks, actively monitoring indoor air quality using new sensors and apps, investing in devices that purify the air around us (even within the confines of our cars), adopting the storm of new pollution-fighting beauty regimes, embracing more salt therapy and breathwork training, or choosing “lung-cleansing” travel destinations. Significantly, this trend will put more pressure on businesses and governments to take action against the ultra-fine particulates that are dirtying our air.

The tools to not only fight air pollution – but also to play a part in reducing it – are already readily available. And,
given the gravity of the situation, there’s no better time than the present to start taking back your clean air!

6. Extreme Wellness

The power to become the best we can be has never been more attainable, and the pursuit of wellness has never been more extreme.  Extreme challenges, treatments and experiences are redefining human limits and giving us new ways to take control of our health and wellness – and opening up a wealth of “super” powers to everyday,  ordinary humans.

In the name of physical and mental wellness, humans are re-wiring themselves to achieve the once impossible. More people will train like an Olympic athlete, or tough out extreme “mind over matter” workshops, like the “Ice Man” Wim Hof’s training in Switzerland, deploying meditation and breathwork to brave extreme ice and learn to master our immune and autonomic nervous systems. Extreme hot/cold experiences are one of the top trends today at wellness destinations. The new luxury travel escapes challenge both body and mind by focusing on building a better brain and hacking the body’s basic make-up through precision medicine and wellness.

With a bit of grit, an open mind and a little extra cash,  anything and everything seems suddenly possible with extreme wellness.

7. Wellness Meets Happiness

The conversations around wellness and happiness will become increasingly significant in 2018 as advances in happiness science make strong contributions to the global health, wellness and well-being conversation.  The world’s perception of happiness is a pursuit that no longer has frivolous connotations. Governments, businesses and individuals are examining the opportunities to measure what health, happiness, wellness and well-being mean.

Today we see a developing trend that happiness is more closely linked with well-being, and wellness more closely linked with overall health. In the past, the concept of happiness was considered vague and a matter of luck and birth. However, the new rigorous science of happiness shows that happiness – like wellness – is something we can choose, and more and more people will be using wellness modalities as a route to their personal happiness.

Much like the mental health industry, which for many years focused on human failings and pathology, the wellness industry will embrace neuroscience to understand the mechanisms of happiness, hope, empathy, resilience and joy.

8. A New Feminist Wellness

2017 felt like a relentless series of attacks on, and fighting back, by women. A positive, if unintended, result of the endlessly negative, anti-woman political climate has been the rise of a new feminism. And as 2018 kicks off, the atmosphere feels more steady resolve than reactive.

A new wave of feminism – a new more political concept of self-care (less me, more us), a growing realization that governments and medicine aren’t hurrying to “solve” for women’s bodies and lives – means that as we move into 2018, there are powerful new intersections between women’s empowerment, feminism and wellness. In a nutshell, a new feminist wellness is rising, and it makes sense, as the wellness world has been quietly “solving for women” for years.

And the women’s empowerment-meets-wellness trend takes so many crucial forms. We’re seeing a surge in new women-only clubs, co-working spaces, and collectives, designed for women to meet, network, support each other and each others’ businesses, and learn and be politically active together–served up with much wellness. We’re seeing a new brigade of women doctors, technologists and designers spotting unaddressed issues for women’s bodies and lives and creating an explosion of new “FemTech” to fix them.

More wellness travel will be squarely aimed at women’s empowerment: whether safe extreme adventure travel for the solo woman, more retreats for women to heal emotionally (like post-divorce/break-up retreats) or those that help women get their sexual wellness back or are inventing much more women-empowering beauty programs.

Read the full GWS report here.

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