Being healthy is not a passive or static state but a dynamic and conscious development of the whole self. Time and again, studies have linked wellness to intentions. However, the pandemic has led people to view wellness as more than medicine and physical activity. As a result, the global wellness economy is expected to grow by an average of 9.9 per cent per year, reaching nearly US$7.0 trillion by 2025. In fact, between 2020 and 2021 alone, the amount invested in innovative wellness technologies doubled to almost US$45 billion.
The sector is growing not only in terms of service providers but also seeing a trend where the responsibility for our health is transferring from doctors and care systems to ourselves as each of us has more technology at our disposal. These could be app sign-ups or online challenges. Going by the numbers, there are over 400,000 different wellness apps available on the App Store, but over 95 per cent of downloaded apps are deleted the same day because they don't contribute to a balanced wellness plan.
In recent decades, several biomedical researchers have highlighted the close relationship between immunological, physical, emotional and psychological states of consciousness, on the one hand, and chemical mediation processes, on the other, to show their psycho-chemical interdependence. This gave rise to the emerging medical discipline of PNEI (psycho-neuro-endocrine-immunology). This wellness concept aims to strengthen natural resistance to disease and emphasises that the immune system's role is not to defend the body against external factors but to preserve the human capacity to be healthy and fight inflammation and infection through holistic well-being.
Not surprisingly, there is a lot to unpack in the term 'holistic wellness'; it goes beyond supplements, exercise and medicine and becomes a lifestyle.
Khalid Nahhas, co-founder of The Bridge Wellness Hub, says, "In our research on building balanced wellness in the community, we have found that lifestyle makes all the difference. We have learned that in functional medicine, or what is now called lifestyle medicine or network medicine, everything is connected and affects our health. Whether it's something severe or light, it's always about lifestyle.
"By lifestyle, I mean how you sleep, how you breathe, how you control your stress, what you eat, how often you exercise, how you take care of your environment, how toxic the water is that you drink, how good the air is that you breathe in at home or work and so on. So it's this holistic awareness and holistic lifestyle that affects the quality of your well-being."
Among the most important parts of holistic wellness is a focus on health that goes beyond medicines and supplements to include medical devices and personal health trackers. Fitness is among the sub-sectors associated/ or most commonly confused with wellness. Today it is one of the most diversified sectors with a growing trend of offering at-home services.
Another important part of holistic wellness is getting better nutrition, as consumers want their food to not only taste good but also help them achieve their wellness goals. Studies have found that more than a third of consumers worldwide say they are "likely" or "definitely" to spend more on nutrition apps, diet programmes, juice cures and food subscriptions in the next year.
Mental health and better sleep have also been in the spotlight recently, with more than 50 per cent of consumers saying they want more products and services addressing the need for better sleep and focusing on mindfulness.
Post-pandemic people really thought about what was most important to them, and the answer, for many, was their well-being. This has fuelled the growth of the industry globally and in the UAE.
Interconnected wellness: Bridging people to a better life
Holistic wellness strategies have been recognised by many experts and world-renowned wellness experts such as Dr. Mark Hyman, Dean Ornish and Dr. Esselstyn, challenging us to rethink biology, health and the process of ageing. The Bridge Wellness Hub at Al Qana in Abu Dhabi is one of the leading integrative wellness hubs in the UAE, utilising scientific findings from large-scale research on holistic health principles that understand and emphasise the importance of stress management, nutritious diet, regular exercise, restful sleep, rest, fun and social interaction in our daily lives.
Nahhas adds: "Most diseases in modern society are somehow related to our lifestyle choices. The holistic wellness philosophy should show everyone that there is a positive approach to living better. Today's consumers value natural and clean products in various areas, such as skin care, multivitamins, subscription food and sleep aids. They also value personalisation more than ever and want to keep track of their improvements. Hence, wellness service providers who can connect one to the entire wellness ecosystem providing physical, mental, and soul rejuvenation, are winning. We at Bridge also fall into this category. Fitness is still part of The Bridge programme but is introduced in a more gentle and sustainable mode for the community to adopt at all levels."
Holistic wellness is here to stay, as most consumers do not want a single solution to help them with all facets of wellness, suggesting that targeted enhancements are a more effective approach. If the pandemic has taught us one thing, is that physical and mental health will remain a priority for millions of people worldwide for a long time to come.