Healthcare will shift to lifecare
Mind over matter
Today, more than ever, it’s not so much about what you buy as what you do. It’s about looking for something more. It’s about getting healthy, getting organized, and living life to the full. It’s the experience economy, and it’s changing how we think about healthcare.
To help us find moments of peace in our ever more stressful lives, the mindfulness movement is coming of age. More and more of us crave the tranquility of a mindful state, in which we’re open to thoughts and feelings, and make no judgments – good or bad. We’re living in the moment and awakening to experience.
As meditation has come front of mind, it’s become a billion-dollar industry. Mindfulness meditation is now a staple of employee development in Fortune 500 companies like Goldman Sachs, Google, Apple, and Nike. And it’s reckoned that over 40 percent of companies will have offered mindfulness training in 2017.
But the benefits of the wellness drive are open to all. It’s thought 20 million people have tried meditation. Insight Timer is the number-one rated meditation app on the Android and iOS stores, helping two million meditators drop what they’re doing and breathe. And that’s before the mind-expanding possibilities of augmented and virtual reality meditation have truly been tapped.
There are a host of companies and startups in the business of making us feel better. Bespoke subscription services will deliver vitamins, mineral supplements, and other wellness and personal care products right to your front door. And apps like Mindstrong are even using machine learning algorithms to detect mental health problems from the language we use on social media and the way we interact with our smartphones.
All this tells us something important. For mindful Millennials and others, healthcare is about more than a visit to the family physician. It’s about total life care – for mind, body, and soul.
Mind, body and soul
Our understanding of the delicate interplay of mind, body, and spirit is so much greater than it once was. And it’s helping us find clinical applications for wellness treatments like mindfulness. It’s being used to reduce the risk of relapse for sufferers of depression, for instance. And in the UK, calls have been made for the training of meditation teachers for schools and prisons.
There is good reason for this kind of thinking. Recent research has found, for example, that middle-school students who used the Muse meditation headset – a high-tech headband which guides meditation based on real-time brain activity – saw a drastic improvement in focus and behavior.
Getting into the right state of mind for mindfulness isn’t always easy. And technology is stepping in to help. Sway, for example, is a beautifully designed app which gamifies the process of chilling out. Users gradually increase their meditative capabilities by successfully passing a series of progressively longer sessions.
Of course, few things affect our sense of well-being as much as the quality of our sleep. And here, technology is also helping us live better lives. Companies like ResMed and EmFit are thinking beyond standard wearables, with sleep sensors that work with mattresses, or by logging sound and movement, to help users find and fix the root causes of poor sleep.
Loneliness, too, can be incredibly detrimental to our health. Former US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, has even called it an epidemic, and launched a campaign to create greater awareness of its effects. His belief is that the workplace is the key to solving the crisis and improving the emotional well-being of the population.
These kinds of forward-thinking integrative models, blending physical and mental well-being, are proving one thing above all: that the ‘whole’ truly is greater than the sum of its parts.
East meets west. Some call that fusion
Hippie is hip. Unconventional interventions and ancient remedies are set for a massive global revival. And this time, it’s all about bringing everything together in multi-sensory mash-ups of modern and complementary medical treatments.
Manhattan-based Woom is offering yoga experiences that also make use of sound healing, wrap-around digital visualizations, and aromatherapy. It’s a form of immersive fitness, where the whole body, mind included, gets a total workout.
Likewise, ChromaYoga’s London classes use color-changing lighting – chromatherapy – together with stimulating soundscapes and bespoke natural scents to help induce a meditative state among students. And drop-in acupuncture clinics are combining Eastern medicine with sound therapy to manage pain and disease.
More controversial therapies are also coming back in from the cold. Now decriminalized or legal in 28 US states, and with a slim majority of Americans in favor of greater legalization, medical marijuana is firing up a billion-dollar green rush. Cannabis supplements can be used to combat anxiety, pain, and malaise, as well as improving skin conditions and helping with pre-menstrual syndrome.
It’s all part of what is now a multi-billion-dollar industry. Americans already spend $30 billion a year on complementary health approaches. And the global market for alternative and complementary treatments is set to grow to just under $200 billion by 2025, as demand skyrockets in developing regions.