The Rise of Spiritual Wellness in Popular Culture

Health and Wellness | 06/10/2021 | Written by Olivia Peek

What gives life meaning and purpose? The answer to this question will vary greatly depending on the individual, and will even change a number of times over just one person’s lifetime. Such personal reflection is defined as spiritual wellness and is a term generally understood as being connected to something greater than yourself.

Our understanding of spiritual wellness has evolved over time. Moving away from a historical foundation rooted in organised religion, and specifically, a belief in God, towards more individual meditative practices derived largely from Indian spirituality and religions such as Buddhism. 

This rise has developed alongside our more nuanced understanding of health and wellness as an entity. Originally interpreted as something strongly linked to physical health: that being the absence or presence of disease. Now, understood as multidimensional, encompassing physical – yes – but also social, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual wellness.

Spirituality and us

In popular culture, it’s safe to say our interest in spiritual wellness has snowballed. In 2020 this was visible in the 180% increase in music, meditation and therapy app downloads. We’ve also seen a sustained preference from 2020 to 2021 towards apps like Calm and Headspace, platforms built to support at-home mindfulness practices. Nature has become a big wellness focus point as well, with streams of Spotify’s playlist Music for Plants having increased by nearly 1,400% over the past year.

A similar picture emerges from the patterns in how we’ve been using Google. For example, searches for spiritual wellness buzzwords such as ‘affirmations’, ‘journaling’ and ‘self-help books have been gradually rising over the last few years and peaked in January 2021 – as we were all making our way through the third UK lockdown. Related terms all show a definitive upwards trend in recent times with ‘manifestations’ showing a significant 124% increase in Google searches over the last two years.

Spiritual wellness has been around for a long time, so why the sudden surge?

A number of factors are responsible for our changing attitudes. For a start, as a society, we’ve become more health-conscious full stop. This preceded the coronavirus with the introduction of measures such as the traffic light system in 2013, change4life in 2009, and Jamie Oliver’s school dinner campaign from 2005. Over this period, education around mental health, nutrition, plant-based diets, and inclusive sports participation have all been on the rise.

The pandemic magnified this, and coping mechanisms for the unprecedented saw spiritual wellness enter our everyday routines. Some of us took this up in the form of online yoga classes to ease anxious minds. Some of us began connecting virtually with others through volunteering and allyship. And, as social media and search trends spread like wildfire, we shared our literature recommendations, which included self-help books such as ‘The Secret’.

In fact, searches for ‘the secret book’ peaked in January 2021 at around 27,000, which was an 83% increase from January 2020. This controversial 2006 self-help book authored by Rhonada Byrne is based heavily on the belief of the law of attraction – a branch of the New Thought spiritual movement – and claims that positive thoughts and more specifically a 3-step process of ask, believe and receive, can directly change a person’s reality.

But what do the experts have to say? 

Putting ‘The Secret’ aside; a growing body of research maintains that spirituality can play an important role in wellness, particularly in relation to your mental health. Researchers have looked into the role of spirituality and mindfulness in caring for chronic diseases and cancer. As an illustration, a review of studies published in 2015 in the journal, Cancer Management and Research, found ‘accumulating evidence’ suggesting that mindfulness-based interventions can help lower psychological distress, sleep disturbance, and fatigue, as well as promote a better quality of life in people with cancer. 

Spiritual wellness, researchers have found, can even help to improve the function of your immune system. This was documented in a small study published in 2012 in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, which found that an 8-week programme of mediation modified gene expression in immune cells to be less inflammatory. 

So, what does this mean for the health and wellness industry?

We’re already seeing a shift in attitudes within the industry to cater for our widened understanding of health and wellness as well as for spiritual wellness. In particular, perhaps the antithesis of spirituality – technology – is one clear area that has been utilised in great measures to cater for consumers’ new interests.

Apps such as Calm, Headspace, Yoga Studio, and Balance have been created and marketed to aid meditation, mindfulness and relaxation techniques, all areas strongly linked to spiritual wellness, creating accessible programmes to incorporate into your everyday life. But the more traditional-style fitness products have taken note and adjusted too. Like Results Wellness Lifestyle, just one example of a fitness programme that offers mindset courses alongside the usual food recipes and fitness classes. 

Clearly people now, more than ever, want to grow and contribute to society in a meaningful way. The pandemic has made us more introspective, aware of our own state of being, as well as more outward-looking, considering the bigger picture i.e. the wider purpose and meaning of life. As a result, the importance of spiritual wellness is becoming more well-recognised, as it begins to seep into all aspects of our lives from the gym to the family home to the workplace.

At Curated Digital, we’re looking forward to continuing investigating the new areas of growth in the health and wellness space.

If you’re interested in learning more, get in touch with our team today – we’d love to hear from you.

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