Move over mung beans, step aside pump. 2021's wellbeing trends are about finding personal balance rather than following fads. But you don't know what you don't know, right? So we've gathered this year's top ideas for health and wellness to incorporate into your existing lifestyle - or, if you're starting from scratch, provide a not-too-overwhelming beginner's guide to the important stuff.
As the name suggests, a flexitarian diet isn't as restrictive as say, vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian diets – it's more a mix of each. While not an entirely new trend, it's been going gangbusters recently, mostly due to the ever-increasing move to veganism, questions over animal welfare and the environmental impacts of a high-meat diet.
Flexitarians enjoy a mainly plant-based diet but occasionally incorporate meat, meat products and fish, so there's greater freedom over what's in the bowl or plate, while reducing the carbon footprint. The food industry has really come to the party over the past couple of years with wider plant-based selections and recipes.
If there's one learning from last year's lockdown, it's the importance of relationships and connections. Physical separation, isolation and loneliness can really play havoc with mental wellbeing. But for a hit of companionship and support, texting and typing just won't cut it.
An American Psychological Association study find we're actually better off picking up the phone or setting up a video call to hear another persons' voice. It's the intimacy a human voice creates that helps us gain stronger social connections, leading to happiness and wellbeing. It's a good reminder to call someone you know who will benefit from hearing another friendly voice.
Technology gives us the chance to personalise our fitness plans and allows us to measure and track progress – weekly, daily, hourly... With more wellbeing apps, online fitness coaches, personal trainers, and gyms offering at-home workouts than you can shake a spirulina smoothie at, there are few excuses for avoiding a workout programme.
Exercises that fit into our daily activities will also be big in 2021, as well as the shorter, high intensity interval training (HIIT) that promotes weights and circuits that can be completed well under 60 minutes, or in as little as 10. There's also growing emphasis on recovery training to let your body rest and repair.
Connecting with nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and improve sleep, especially if you've done some physical activity like walking or gardening. Research in hospitals, offices and schools has even found that a single pot plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety. No wonder the humble houseplant bloomed last year. In a more socially distanced world, getting away from it all, whether in your own garden or the greater outdoors, is the perfect way to reset and restore - as well as getting the kids off their screens.
Although we'll likely be confined to our own shores in 2021, we've all realised there's a lot to see and do around Aotearoa. According to the Global Wellness Summit, we'll be focussing on downtime - slowing down, reducing stress and seizing the opportunity to disconnect, taking timeouts from media and digital devices. Sustainable travel will meet regenerative; think: minimising our environmental and social impact. Slow travel sees us taking our time to do and appreciate things; we'll turn to human-powered travel - cycling, walking, hiking, paddling in our own backyard.
Spending more time at home means creating your own wellness refuge. Broaden your mind from the comfort of the couch with virtual classes, podcasts and Kindle; de-clutter your headspace with an organisational planner or de-stress by turning the spare room into a mini-sanctuary; whatever works for you. Daily exercise in your home gym (aka living room) or garden will also boost your mood and reduce stress and anxiety as well as keep you fit. For ultimate indulgence turn off the screen and spend time cooking a healthy meal from scratch in your kitchen. Yes, these self-care suggestions may sound small, but the hardest part will be finding time - so learn to say 'no' (politely) to others and 'yes' to you, and your wellbeing.
'Switch off your monkey brain'
"One of the things I've learned is when I try to slow the thoughts in my brain, I just ruminate on things. So now I disengage by active relaxing."
Former All Black, now mental health advocate Sir John Kirwan is an active relaxer – a technique he uses to switch off what he calls his overactive "monkey brain".
Meditation is good for some people, but for others looking to switch off a bit this summer, active relaxing may be a better strategy.
"I've found that active relaxing is the best way for me to disengage because it's actually engaging the mind with an activity, so I can switch off my other thoughts.
"It's like unplugging the computer and plugging it back in. I do this by including four or five things in my day that help me disengage," he says.
His favourite daily activities for active relaxing include drinking coffee, reading, swimming, surfing and cooking.
"When I have my coffee, I don't look at my phone or do anything else in that moment, I just enjoy the coffee.
"I then plan a meal or make sure I've got something to read, especially before I go to sleep. They're great things for me to do every day.
JK says his "nirvana" is swimming, which makes him focus on his breathing while being active.
"Surfing is also a favourite. The perfect day for me would be to start the morning with a good surf.
"Active relaxing is how I switch off my mind, rather than trying to slow an overactive mind," he says.
JK's 5 tips for active relaxing:
· Find something simple you enjoy
· Be in that moment with only that one activity
· Don't use your phone while doing it
· Be conscious of which activities help you disengage your mind the most
· Find four or five of these simple activities to do every day