There’s been a palpable shift in our approach to life since the year 2020. Rigorous fitness programmes were dialled down, work was strictly carried out during work hours and sleep hygiene rose to importance. Now, we’ve learnt that a healthy lifestyle is more than a 9am cardio class, as experts across the UAE tell us.
But, what does it truly mean to be well? Circle back and check in with your mind and heart, as we often do with our body, to find the answer. “In its essence, wellness is waking up feeling happy, being able to flow along in life and being relatively carefree and confident about where you’re going. Ask yourself: How do I feel 90 per cent of the time?” said Marie Byrne, founder of Marie Wellness Clinic in Dubai and a positive psychology counsellor of 28 years.
Self-care is an ongoing homework for life, if the rapidly changing trends are anything to go by. Health coaches and beauty therapists clued us into the best wellness trends this year, from mindful eating to holistic facial massages. You might even find a thoughtful gift for a loved one in here.
Our listicle comes with recommended beauty tools, home gym units and more from Amazon, so make sure you’re a Prime member for next-day, free delivery.
1. Switching to low-intensity fitness
Slow down, burn calories at your own pace. We’re moving away from the traditional burpees and mountain climbers to moves that don’t leave you panting on the floor. Think of a meditative walk on the beach or a morning yoga session by the bed.
“High-intensity interval training (HIIT) was really popular at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It didn’t work out for many because HIIT includes rigorous exercises that are done one after the other and could be potentially dangerous,” said Alice Newman, a Dubai-based online health and wellness coach.
Newman spends 20 minutes stretching every morning with a timer. “It’s just good to be with your own body and move through some movements. Many people now prefer lower intensity exercises like yoga,” she said. To follow along, you don’t need much. A good quality yoga mat and yoga blocks for flexibility will do, adds Newman. Your own yoga brick will help you touch the ground without breaking a sweat or pulling a muscle, even correcting your form. Find our picks below:
Best Yoga Block: Manduka Cork Yoga Block
Best Budget Yoga Block: Syntus Yoga Block and Yoga Strap Set
2. Bodyweight training at home
Resorting to working out at home could mean expensive equipment for an in-house gym. Luckily, you might not even have to invest in a dumbbell rack. Siham Zaki, a fitness and wellness coach based out of the UAE and Egypt, has been seeing the Dubai crowd gravitate towards calisthenics or bodyweight training.
“Calisthenics does not involve any weight but your own. It’s a concept that believes your own body weight is sufficient for you to get gains and be fit. It usually involves bar work and flow movements,” said Zaki, who is a certified Les Mills BodyPump barbell instructor and a Grit strength coach.
Juliane Schultz, a calisthenics coach and trainer with Gravity Calisthenics Gym in Dubai, says the exercise was foreign to most three years ago, unlike today. "It translates into 'beautiful strength' from Greek. One of the reasons that calisthenics is so popular is that you can train anywhere, be it a handstand, pull-up or dips. We used to do this stuff in the playground as kids," said Schultz.
"Calisthenics teaches you so much more than just getting stronger - it works on your core strength, stabilises muscles since the whole body has to be working together, and improves your balance, too. You don't have to go to the gym to do reps - it's fun."
Hop on the trend with just you and a pull-up bar that can be wedged between the door frame. Dip bars apply to intermediate learners, where your feet should be off the ground, but make sure the unit is floor-mounted for safety, advises Schultz.
Best Pull-Up Bar: Ultimate 4 in 1 Doorway Trainer – Raised Height Pull Up Bar, Dips Bar & Power Ropes
Best Dip Bar: Amazon Basics Dip Fitness Bar
3. Mindful eating, one bite at a time
Some of the other everyday activities that we’re looking to slow down is eating. It’s to chew and be fully present in the moment, without the tempting distraction of our favourite TV show running in the background.
“We’re stepping away from the diet culture and are working on listening to our body’s hunger cues. It’s about focusing on the taste, smell and the texture of our food to increase enjoyment and add to the experience, rather than taking away from it,” Newman said.
According to Newman, the practice of mindful meals is taking the wellness community by storm. Ideally, it includes you, a plate full of food, and a timer to help you get into the rhythm. No phones are allowed. “Fitness watches usually have a mindfulness feature that helps with deep breaths – you can also use this to keep you in the moment as you eat. I’ve used Fitbit myself for deep breathing, but my clients also prefer the Apple Watch,” she added.
Our Fitbit Inspire 2 pick comes with a free one-year Premium trial that unlocks mindfulness sessions and has a Timer app for a stopwatch function. Browse more fitness trackers here.
Best Fitness Tracker with Mindfulness Feature: Fitbit Inspire 2
4. Holistic skincare with gua sha
In ancient China, the gua sha stone was traditionally used as a folk remedy for ‘scraping away’ body aches. Today, holistic beauty therapists, like Saniya Mustafayeva in Dubai, incorporate a gua sha facial massage into their patients’ wellness routine.
“A gua sha facial massage drains lymph nodes, increases blood circulation, reduces puffiness in the face and freshens up the skin,” said Mustafayeva, who works at the Holistic Healing Medical Centre, Dubai. “Whether it’s jade, obsidian or rose quartz, the type of stone is not important, as long as the form of the tool is easy to use for beginners, like the finger- or heart-shaped gua sha.”
She suggests adding a 10-minute massage to your morning routine. It all starts off with a clean face, washed using a gentle, plant-based cleanser, followed by a few drops of organic oil. Preferably, go for the prickly pear oil since it doesn’t irritate acne-prone skin, Mustafayeva adds. A holistic approach simply means keeping it all natural.
“Work on the neck, the jawline and then from there to the ear. After that we go around the eyes, forehead and down again, touching all the lymph nodes. If you massage the hairline, it even reduces headaches,” said Mustafayeva.
Best Finger-Shaped Gua Sha: Gua Sha Facial Tool Set by Esmee
Best Prickly Pear Oil: Prickly Pear Oil (Certified Organic) - Aknar
5. Journaling for a lighter mind
Penning down your racing thoughts is as much therapeutic as it’s effective. Once they’re down on paper, you’ll notice they’re no longer floating about in your head. Both Newman and Zaki have seen an uptick in journaling among the crowd, pegging the reason to how transformational it has been for some.
“Journaling is a very powerful tool for self-discovery, improving moods and building emotional awareness,” Newman explained. “I usually tell my clients to practise gratitude by jotting down something their body or a person allowed them to experience that day. They could also have a day-to-day check-in with how they’re feeling and their intentions… how they want their day to go.”
She recommends The Five Minute Journal for the interested beginner, a notebook that’s been creating buzz in online circles. Each undated page is divided into day and night routines with five reflective prompts and blank lines.
Best Journal: Intelligent Change: The 5 Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day
6. Sleep hygiene, above all
We’re also realising the value of a good night’s rest and its impact on our daily functioning. Without continuous, uninterrupted sleep, the body has little time to recover from the day’s physical and mental activity. Several factors play a part in depreciating your sleep quality, from alarms to screen time.
How many times have been jolted awake by your phone’s blaring alarm? With a pounding heart and a sleep-addled mind, you can already expect to go through the day unreasonably cranky. Wake up, instead, to a sunrise alarm clock, a simulation gadget Newman recommends to her clients.
“An alarm clock that can mimic sunlight is much better for your body than a loud sudden noise. It’s far more pleasant to gradually wake up to the light,” she said. The pseudo lamp can also extend daylight hours in your room, making you feel less moody with the release of serotonin in the brain, according to a 2019 study in the Switzerland-based Frontiers in Psychiatry journal.
Your pre-sleep routine matters, too. Zaki stresses the importance of respecting each space at home, including your bed, which should be clear of any electronics at all times.
“We’ve trained our minds to believe that chaos will help us fall asleep, but that’s not the case. Try to stay away from your phone, laptop and TV for an hour before bedtime. Sleep on a bedsheet that is pastel coloured, free of patterns and of good quality cotton because it’s easier on the eye and allows your body to relax better,” she said.
Open neutral tones like beige and off-white are good options. Zaki also adds that spraying the pillows and the room with lavender-scented mists can induce a calm state of mind. Check out our picks below for better sleep and find more options here.
Best Light Alarm: Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
Best Cotton Bedsheet: Pizuna 400 Thread Count Cotton Queen Size Bedsheet, Ivory
Best Lavender Room Mist: RITUALS The Ritual of Jing Pillow Mist, 50 ml
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