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While encouraging developments on the vaccine front herald brighter days ahead in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, the new normal that follows won’t be a carbon copy of the former status quo. COVID-19 has reshaped how we work, play, learn, shop and convene — as well as how we look after our own health and wellness.
Beyond the ravaging effects of the coronavirus itself, millions of Americans have also struggled with stress, loneliness and burnout over the past year, fueling unprecedented interest in the fast-growing consumer wellness sector. Once considered a niche market, well-being has gone mainstream in 2020, evolving into a complex ecosystem of converging product categories. Among the most recent examples is the launch of the Thrive Reset Zapp, a joint project of Thrive Global and Zoom designed to help users de-stress before, within and following Zoom meetings.
Like workplace flexibility and at-home fitness, many of these COVID-era trends will continue well beyond the pandemic itself. Currently pegged at $4.5 trillion, the global wellness economy is helping us reimagine how we socialize, relax, and enhance our own well-being. As the world looks toward a post-pandemic future, expect these three well-being trends to play a major role in how we navigate the new normal.
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1. Social wellness and the new water cooler break
Months of remote work and sheltering at home have meant fewer opportunities for the kinds of small but meaningful social interactions that once enriched our workdays. But a growing number of solutions are helping people virtually replicate the water-cooler conversations and meet-and-greets that haven’t been taking place in person, pointing to new possibilities for social engagement and camaraderie.
Take Wisdo, an app where users can share their personal stories, connect to people with shared interests and experiences, and engage in private conversations with fellow users. Keeepr, another app, aims to help people deepen connections with those they already know by sending reminders of important dates like birthdays and anniversaries, offering curated gift ideas and recommendations for experiences, and providing users with articles that offer helpful tips on strengthening relationships.
After the pandemic subsides and in-person socialization returns to some kind of new normal, people will have the opportunity to try out a number of other products and platforms designed to facilitate richer social interactions. L.A.-based startup Emerge, for example, mixes virtual reality and the physical world for a mixed-reality product where users can feel, interact and share XR content with their friends, advancing the company’s mission of creating “moments that make us feel closer together.”
For friends looking to avoid the hassle of organizing a group meetup, Moodoo is a unique app that facilitates spontaneous get-togethers among friends based on users’ moods and interests.
With research showing a strong connection between social interaction and our mental and physical well-being, it’s little wonder that the pandemic has been so trying for so many — but technology can be a powerful force for good in keeping us connected, even if it’s from our couches for the time being.
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2. The spa spirit at home
While we may be social animals, we also often feel the need to retreat, relax, rejuvenate and recharge away from others and from our daily routine. More and more consumer products are helping people re-create that experience from their own homes.
Looking to get fit? Try Supernatural, a VR-based fitness experience where users can exercise in vivid, scenic environments around the world — complete with unique coaching and music — all without having to buy a gym membership, let alone a plane ticket.
For those seeking greater emotional resilience, part of the answer may lie in gaming, which has exploded in popularity during the pandemic. Mightier, for instance, helps young people navigate their emotions through games and challenges designed to help players better understand their feelings, practice calming skills and collect rewards the calmer they are. The program, clinically tested and developed at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, features more than 20 games to choose from.
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3. 24/7 well-being
Many are looking to infuse well-being into the small moments of their daily lives, from work meetings to sleep and beyond.
For many adults seeking to take charge of their well-being at rest and during their waking hours, wearables have proven a game-changer. One such wearable — a bracelet developed by Embr Labs — uses thermal technology to reduce stress and social anxiety, improve sleep and regulate body temperature.
Empathic Technologies’ Doppel is a wearable that generates silent vibrations designed to either increase alertness (for example, for improving concentration during work) or to induce calm during moments of heightened anxiety or stress. In recent months, increased levels of anxiety and stress have thrown us off balance, but with the aid of wearables like this one, people are finding new ways of enhancing their sense of equilibrium.
Of course, a good night’s sleep is key to our ability to stay alert during the day, and while getting a good night’s rest is vital at any age, it’s especially important for children’s physical and mental development. To that end, the Moshi app helps kids fall asleep faster and stay asleep by listening to “ultra-relaxing, melodic” stories proven to ease youngsters’ journeys into dreamland.
As COVID-19 continues disrupting our day-to-day lives for at least several more months, maintaining our emotional and physical well-being will be a paramount priority. And while the pandemic has made it more difficult to rely on our usual sources of support, consumer products built with innovative technology are expanding what’s possible even in uniquely challenging circumstances. COVID-19 may have accelerated demand for these solutions, but the trends they reflect will still be influencing our lives when the pandemic is finally history.
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