TREND: Wellness Meets Happiness

Unplugging is the New Cool

A life that feels like a barrage of emails, texts and always-on work—the constant reminders that everyone else is succeeding and having a great time via social media—our faces glued to screens as we ignore the present world and the people we’re physically right next to…We don’t need all the new research to explain to us the toxic impact the digital world has unleashed on our happiness and mental health.

We have been unable to disconnect, but the tide is beginning to turn. As economist Thierry Malleret has argued, while people will not become rabid technophobes, 2018 is the year that they will begin to grasp how constant tech connection is making them unwell, unhappy and unproductive—and it will be the year that “reclaiming our peace of mind and focus will actually become cool.”

So we will see…

More restaurants, cafes, spas, gyms and stores becoming digital-free zones. For instance, popular US restaurant chain Le Pain Quotidien recently rewarded customers with free dessert if they “sealed their phone in a box for a whole meal.”

A new wave of technology and apps helping us (ironically) spend less time on our smartphones and screens. The Moment app helps families manage their screen time, while the Off the Grid app goes further, allowing you to block your phone for as long as you wish, and if you can’t resist the urge to check it before the unplugged session ends, you get charged $1. Arianna Huffington’s company Thrive Global (with Samsung) has a tech detox app called ThriveMode where you set healthy limits on email, texts and screen time and get cut off when you binge.

In wellness travel, more no Wi-Fi destinations focused on contemplation, human community and peaceful nature. We will see more travel offerings that are explicitly about cutting digital connections, such as Mandarin Oriental spas’ Digital Wellness experience with silenced phones and no electronic interruptions, and more “wellness monasteries” focused on silence and nature, such as Eremito, set in a natural preserve in Umbria with no Wi-Fi/phone signals; silent, candlelit group dinners; and 50-hour silent retreats. Quiet, disconnection and off-the-grid deep nature is the new luxury.

Forecasting The Future

The backlash against Big Tech has just begun, with more Silicon Valley engineers speaking out—and more scientific evidence coming to light—about the disastrous effects that constant digital and social media connection has on our brains and happiness. We’re at the moment with tech addiction somewhat analogous to where the smoking issue was decades ago: an initial reluctance to believe the negative health impact that ultimately gets overwhelmed by the sheer evidence.

The wellness world—whether new concepts in travel or technology—needs to (and increasingly will) focus on driving more social connection and more tech disconnection to help people make both a life philosophy. (A sure sign that the happiness-tech equation is becoming more crucial: The World Happiness Report will measure the impact of technology on global happiness for the first time in 2019.)

This is an excerpt from the TRENDIUM, a bi-weekly communication exploring the wellness trends identified in the 2018 Global Wellness Trends Report.
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