As we approach the new year, it seems like everyone from “wellness gurus” to major corporations has suggestions on trends and things that have the potential to revolutionize your health. But this can leave people wondering, are these just fads? Is there actual proof that these work? Can I actually benefit from these activities? We understand that all of these trends can be overwhelming, so we’re sharing the facts behind some of the most common for 2022, including:
- Intuitive eating
- Adaptogenic herbs
- Forest bathing
- Sleep trackers
Follow along as we dive into the science behind these trends.
While intuitive eating has been around since the 1990s, the idea has recently picked up a lot of buzz online. Some people refer to intuitive eating as the “anti-diet” because one of the main ideas behind it is that you can eat whatever you want. This way of thinking relies on a few points, including:
- Body Acceptance. This involves showing your body gratitude for all of the things it helps you do, rather than punishing it for not looking a certain way.
- Eating when hungry. This plan focuses on learning about the difference between emotional and physical hunger and nourishing your body with food when you experience the latter.
- Choosing movement that feels good. The intuitive eating movement also embraces exercise, but the key is to choose ones that you enjoy doing and that focus on increasing your energy and mood rather than weight loss.
You may be wondering, if I can eat anything I want, is this way of thinking actually good for me? The research says yes. Studies have shown several benefits, including:
- Lower overall and LDL cholesterol than people following a traditional diet
- Increased levels of physical activity
- Decreased levels of disordered eating habits
- Increased body positivity
Also known as adaptogens, these herbs are supposed to help the body overcome stress. They’ve long been a part of Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, but they’ve started gaining mainstream popularity in the past year. Some common adaptogens you may have heard of include reishi, holy basil, and ashwagandha. Do they actually work, though, and, if they do, are they safe?
Studies on Siberian ginseng, a type of adaptogen, showed that taking it improved participants’ physical and mental performance during normal and particularly stressful conditions. Another study on ashwagandha demonstrated that participants who took two capsules a day for 60 days experienced a significant reduction in serum cortisol levels (a stress hormone) and self-reported stress.
Overall, adaptogens are generally considered safe, but there is little research on their long-term effects. Additionally, they can interact with other medications or supplements you take. Before adding any adaptogenic herbs to your diet, talk to your primary care physician about whether they may be right for you.
Forest bathing (shinrin-yoku)
Initially created in Japan in the 1980s, the act of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, involves being mentally present while in nature. Essentially, this means going into the outdoors, appreciating the beauty, and clearing your mind. You don’t actually have to go into a forest, though. Find a local park, visit a lake, or go on a hike to enjoy this practice.
Studies show that exposure to the sights and sounds of nature helped people perform tasks more accurately than those who experienced the sights and sounds of city life, like concrete and car horns. Other research demonstrates that exposure to the outdoors is often associated with increased happiness and a greater sense of purpose in life.
While any time spent outside is good, researchers recommend spending an average of two hours a week outdoors to gain the most benefits. Just don’t forget your sunscreen!
Wearable sleep trackers have been on the market for the past decade or so, but recently, there’s been a renewed interest in healthy sleeping habits. These wearable devices track your sleep patterns by measuring heart rate and movement, but are they accurate? One study found that while these devices were good at determining the duration of sleep, they weren’t particularly correct when it came to time spent in the different sleep stages (REM, deep sleep, etc.).
Researchers have noted other problems with sleep trackers you can buy in stores. First, they noticed that while these apps can tell you how long you slept, they don’t provide advice or meaningful actions you can take to improve the duration or quality of your sleep. Additionally, researchers have pointed out that trying to get the perfect night’s sleep (according to these apps) can lead to stress, which could further prevent quality sleep.
Our recommendation: Skip the fitness tracker and try to maintain a consistent sleep hygiene routine every night. If you still continue to feel tired, talk to your doctor about participating in a clinical sleep study to pinpoint the cause of this exhaustion.
The number one wellness trend of 2022? Consulting the experts.
There will always be new trends in the wellness industry, but one thing remains consistent over the years: the benefit of preventive care from a doctor. Regularly visiting with your St. Joseph and Texas A&M Health Network primary care physician can help them gain a deep understanding of your health and recommend activities and behaviors that have the potential to increase your mental and physical wellness. Schedule a virtual or in-person visit today.
Time | What Are Adaptogens and Why Are People Taking Them?
NCBI | Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity
APA | Nurtured by nature
Healthline | A Quick Guide to Intuitive Eating
Psychology Today | The Evidence for Intuitive Eating
The New York Times | The Sad Truth About Sleep-Tracking Devices and Apps
Oxford Academic | Performance of seven consumer sleep-tracking devices compared with polysomnography
NCBI | A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults