Wellness undoubtedly became a buzz word in 2018 and is only set to ramp up as the “new year, new me” resolutions kick in (New Year’s Day didn’t count because of the hangover, right?). Being ‘well’ is no longer simply about physical health, it is an overall sense of sustained physical, mental and social wellbeing.
Below are our top picks of recent innovations that have tapped into this lucrative wellness trend.
THE CHATTY CAFÉ SCHEME
This brilliantly simple initiative was conceived to tackle loneliness with just a piece of paper. With around one in twenty UK adults often being lonely, Costa Coffee trialled the ‘chatter and natter’ tables at 25 outlets nationwide. The premise is simple: having the ‘chatter and natter’ sign on your table indicates that you are happy to talk. It may be a remedy for loneliness, but it also has the potential to be an avenue of opportunity for striking up new friendships or even for a coffee shop ‘meet-cute’ (if you don’t know what that is, the real question is why didn’t you watch The Holiday over Christmas?) that is becoming ever more elusive in an online dating era.
HAPPINESS > GRADES?
The aim of the pioneering Riverbend School is to prioritise its student’s social and emotional intelligence in pursuit of them living a happy life. The students time will be split between projects that look for solutions to global issues (such as climate change), exploring areas that most interest them, expanding their wellbeing toolkit and developing their traditional academic knowledge.
Unfortunately, I must admit that I would be hesitant in placing my (non-existent) children within this style of school over a traditional one. The primary reason being that there is a lack of significant (if any) data on the long-term outcome, i.e. quality of life, job prospects or whether there is a lower prevalence of mental illness in the students beyond their school years.
Personally, I think the best option is to come up with a happy medium (excuse the pun) where there is far less pressure and focus on academic proficiency, currently measured in a way that favours some and not others i.e. exams. As it stands, we are literally making young people ill. Instead, I propose we shift the focus in schools, equipping young people to live a well-rounded life. Students should work hard to fulfil their potential but know that it is important to enjoy their life, look after themselves and preserve the planet.
NON-CONTAMINATING SQUEEZABLE BOTTLE
Until now, squeezable bottles – ideal for athletes who need one-handed, quick and easy hydration – have been made from plastic. A material which contaminates drinking water with plasticisers and softeners and worsens the taste.
Addressing this issue is the first of its kind – an innovative, squeezable, metal bottle. KEEGO has combined the benefits of a light, squeezable bottle with the purity and endurance of metal in the form of ‘elastic titanium’. Finally, the contamination-free, durable water bottle is here.
In July 2018, Morrisons and the National Autistic Society teamed up to launch the ‘Quieter Hour’ initiative for autistic shoppers who can find the noise of retail environments challenging. At 9am on Saturdays, Morrisons turns off the music, dims their lights and turns down the volume on check-out beeps for an hour to make it a more manageable experience for their shoppers with autism.
Arguably, the above is part of a larger movement towards ‘Post-Demographics’ (a term coined by Trend-Watching in one of their recent reports) whereby there is an increasing expectation that a brand’s products, services and spaces should be genuinely inclusive of everyone. Critically, this includes traditionally marginalised groups: whether it be due to a physical or mental medical condition, race, age, sexuality or gender.
THE EXPERIENCE ECONOMY AS TREATMENT
As a form of ‘reminiscence therapy’, Town Square has been developed as a 1950s-style town to transport patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s to a time where their strongest memories were formed. Each Town Square features 14 different shops, including a diner complete with a jukebox, a cinema and a pet store.
Until relatively recently, we have largely assumed that a healthy diet is a one-size-fits-all construct when in fact, it may be that the recipe to improve our health is spelt out in our DNA, varying significantly from one individual to another. This offers one explanation for why two people can follow the exact same diet plan, and yet experience dramatically different results. For example, in the Arctic, the Inuits eat a diet consisting almost completely of fatty fish and meat, and yet they have a relatively low prevalence of heart attacks. Why? Their genetic makeup means that the Inuit people break down fatty acids in a different way to the rest of the global population.
In response to the above findings, ‘nutrigenetics’ is being developed, in part to aid individuals in finding how they respond to different food groups and therefore how to best eat to achieve and maintain their optimal health. For instance, when looking at a solution for one epidemic in particular, obesity, research indicates that between 40-70% of variability between individuals in body mass index (BMI) is attributed to genetic factors. So far, five genes have been discovered that can impact how somebody processes food, for example ‘ApoE-e4’ influences how much reducing an individual’s intake of saturated fat will improve their cholesterol.
Unsurprisingly, with the future of health and diet looking like it will become a highly personalised one, several brands have cropped up offering gene testing and a personalised diet plan to attain optimal results (e.g. Evergreen Life and DNAFit). Staggeringly, one report predicts that by next year, the genomics market is expected to generate a staggering $50 billion worldwide.
THIS IS NOT JUST ANY REFRIGERATOR…
…the Samsung’s SmartHub 3.0 works as part of their ‘SmartThings ecosystem’, allowing users to control and communicate throughout their home without leaving the kitchen. The smart fridge aids food management by tracking expirations to reduce food waste, generating recipes (incorporating food preferences) from what you have stocked and enables users to check what is inside their fridge from the supermarket via the ‘View Inside App’. Other, non-food related features include functioning as a media hub, seeing who is at the front door, thermostat control, visual baby monitoring instead of just audio and reading out the weather. While I struggle to align with Samsung’s belief their fridge will play a part in ‘strengthening family connections’, it is undoubtedly a pretty smart fridge.
These are just our picks from a plethora of wellness innovations that have been developed in recent years, please do leave a comment with any that have caught your eye!