2019's wellness trends are less about 'stuff' and more about owning self-care

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By Nicole Spector

It wouldn’t be a New Year if there weren’t a trove of wellness trends in the annual forecast, and 2019 is no exception.

In researching some of the hottest trends, I noted a unifying theme: taking mindful ownership of self-care. Whether it’s exercising at home, optimizing sleep or even the quest for better skin, these trends reflect an awareness of the importance of putting in the time to get the benefits.

With growing interest in at-home workouts, fitness doesn’t have to cost much. Sleeping is free, and in looking at our round up of 2019 diet trends, eating well doesn’t have to be expensive — but it does take some effort.

Generally, we’re seeing less of a spotlight on acquiring stuff as healthy lifestyle choices take center stage.

Getting woke about sleep health

In its new report, Pinterest 100: The top trends for 2019, Pinterest highlighted “sleep optimization” as a growing search term, up by 116 percent.

“We most definitely are in a sleep crisis,” says Terry Cralle, a registered nurse and sleep clinician who co-authored the book, “Sleeping Your Way to the Top: How to Get the Sleep You Need to Succeed.”

“The trend from here on out (thanks to the research) will be to value it, prioritize it, maximize and optimize it. We will likely look for more and better ways to optimize sleep quality by way of better sleep surfaces (mattresses, pillows and bedding), better soundproofing, natural lighting, better pajamas, better schedules, and more respect for our need for sleep,” says Cralle.

Last summer, NBC News BETTER compiled a round-up of some of the best smart products to help you get a good night’s sleep. Another trendy, non-tech product to add to your list is a weighted blanket, which, though pricey, may help when it comes to stress. A nightly de-stressing routine to wipe out anxiety is also highly useful. And remember, sleep also benefits your appearance, which brings us to our next trend…

Oct. 5, 201802:15

Natural skincare ingredients

2019’s star skincare ingredient, plant extract bakuchiol (with searches surging by 275 percent on Pinterest) reflects our growing interest in natural alternatives, and just might disrupt the longstanding retinoids category.

“Retinoids have been a long time staple of skincare,” says Dr. Susan Bard, a dermatologist practicing in New York City. “They promote skin turnover and stimulate collagen productions thereby diminishing fine lines, pigmentation and improving texture and tone; however, retinoids can be irritating to some and that’s where bakuchiol comes in handy. It touts similar benefits to retinoids but is much less harsh and better tolerated. That said, those with sensitive skin should still test spot any new products prior to incorporating them into their regimens.”

Some of Dr. Bard’s favorite products containing bakuchiol include ISDIN Melatonik and the Ole Henriksen Transform Plus Retin-Alt line of products.

Goodbye gym, hello at-home fitness

The phrase “home workouts” brings to mind sad makeshift gyms in basements with rusty gear. But that’s an outdated image. Thanks to technology and a heightened interest in work/life balance and convenience, home workouts are back with a bang.

“In 2019 the home workout is set to be one of the year’s biggest fitness trends,” Tony Carvajal, a certified CrossFit trainer. “People are more motivated and inclined to get their workout in no matter how much time they do or don’t have. You can most likely credit this home gym and workout trend to more professionals working from home.”

Search for resistance band workouts are up by 1913 percent on Pinterest.

“Bands are the versatile, go-anywhere accessory for customized resistance training — from mobility work and pull-up assistance to banded squats and bench presses,” explains Carvajal. “Resistance bands come in multiple resistance levels, usually light, medium or heavy. You can further adjust the amount of resistance during exercise just by giving more or less slack on the band, as well as by combining multiple resistance bands to increase the challenge.”

Not only is a set of fitness bands affordable (this well-reviewed 11-piece set by Tribe goes for $20 on Amazon), they’re potentially very effective.

“For most people [training with bands] will be one of the hardest workouts they do,” says Howard Waldstreicher, founder and owner of HalfHourPower and author of “Is Your Job Killing You?: Workouts that reverse the effects of corporate life”.

“I train all my athletes using resistance bands,” Waldstreicher says. “Just look at what it has accomplished for Tom Brady?”

Fitness apps like Aaptiv, which offers 2,500 audio-guided fitness classes and has 200,000 paying members are positioned to grow along with the desire for time-friendly at home-workouts.

“We expect to grow more than double by the end of 2019,” Ethan Agarwal, Aaptiv founder and CEO tells NBC News BETTER in an email.

Now all you need to do is put in the time to exercise without getting distracted.

Restorative exercise is for everyone

In 2018 we saw a number of restorative exercises gain interest, a movement that will only grow in the coming months.

“My clients and the general public seem more willing to accept recovery as an integral part of their fitness regimens, whereas five years ago people were eager to try extreme exercise trends left and right,” says Maggie Winzeler, a wellness coach, exercise physiologist and fitness expert. “Now there’s a growing wave of interest in restorative experience: float therapy (involving sensory deprivation while submerged in a pod), cryotherapy (i.e. cold therapy for soft-tissue ailments), grounding (a form of connecting with nature) and restorative yoga/stretching.”

Another form of exercise gaining traction is “conscious movement”, where you add slow motion, deep breathing and bring mindfulness to physical activity.

Embracing sober living

With holiday indulgences fresh in the rearview mirror, “Dry January” — a month with no alcohol consumption — has become a fad in recent years, but more people aren’t limiting their sobriety to a 31-day challenge; instead choosing to heavily moderate or ditch alcohol for the long haul.

Searches for sober living are up by 746 percent on Pinterest.

“Sobriety isn’t just for addicts and alcoholics anymore,” says Bianca L. Rodriguez, a psychotherapist who specializes in spiritual coaching and breath work. “Many of the clients I see in my private practice are opting out of consuming substances in a desire to be more healthy and present.”

Dr. Monisha Vasa, M.D, a psychiatrist and chair, resident at Physician Well Being Committee, UC Irvine Dept. of Family Medicine is also seeing an uptick in the choice to go sober — or at least heavily reduce alcohol intake.

“Many individuals notice harmful effects of alcohol on their physical and emotional wellness, even if they don’t struggle with binge drinking or addiction. Alcohol, even used socially or in moderation, can impair restorative sleep, so people may wake up feeling tired or unrested the morning after a couple of glasses of wine,” says Vasa.

Vasa says that some of her patients report that even a few drinks can make them feel more depressed or irritable. Add to that the fact that we often don’t make the best decisions after imbibing — making that early morning gym class or meditation session less likely to happen. “As a result, many people who are looking to optimize their health are choosing to significantly reduce their alcohol consumption, or even abstain altogether,” Vasa explains.

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