There’s been a noticeable shift in wellness from the punishing detox, purge and purify mindset to a more nurturing and calm vibe as intentions turn inwards towards improving mental and not just physical well-being. Overall, we are looking to Mother Nature and plant-based antidotes. News of the myriad potential health benefits of CBD (short for cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis) is everywhere.
While it has its naysayers, a 2017 World Health Organisation report found that CBD could provide relief for a variety of conditions including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, cancer and diabetic complications, as well as general pain, anxiety and depression. One recent study has also linked it to weight loss. It’s getting whisked into creams, oils, tinctures and edibles such as sweets, even infused into pillowcases. Spas, including Rudding Park in Harrogate, Bulgari Hotel and Cloud Twelve in London, and Soho House’s UK Cowshed spas, are incorporating it into their treatments, too.
Nature-immersion getaways are also flourishing. According to the Global Wellness Summit, this could be due to the wave of global urbanisation and a whopping 55 per cent of the world’s population now living in cities with little to no nature. Progressive doctors around the world are writing “nature prescriptions” (also being referred to as “ecotherapy”). Even the NHS in Scotland is on board to help treat a range of afflictions, including high blood pressure, anxiety and depression, and educating patients on the health benefits of being outdoors.
In the five-star realm, nature hits include a massage in the heart of the forest at hotel Domaine des Etangs in Charente, amid 2,500 acres of protected nature, forests, grassland and ponds. Take things to the next level in Switzerland at The Spa at Grand Hotel Kronenhof, located in the idyllic Engadine village of Pontresina. Do yoga in a field of mountain goats, bathe in whey at an Alpine dairy (deeply moisturising, apparently), hike in silence through forest glades at the crack of dawn and plunge into ice-cold glacier pools for some natural cryotherapy. It also does sylvotherapy, or trendy forest bathing (shinrin-yoku, which began in Japan in the Eighties): a guided walk into the valley tasting herbs, smelling pine, listening to the roar of the river and feeling fresh grass underfoot.
Les Fermes de Marie in the pristine Alpine setting of Megève also offers a summer forest bathing retreat with world-renowned therapeutic breathing expert Jean-Marie Defossez. Trek up the alpage to a converted shepherd’s hut with him, learning specific breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques along the way. Then feast on a dinner of Savoyard dishes cooked over a fire with views of the sun setting over the Aravis mountains.
Breathing app searches online are on the up. Good breathing has a proven positive effect on heart rate, stress levels and improving cognitive function and anxiety. At the fabulous, nature-rich Nihi Sumba in Indonesia you can do a workshop with a professional freediver who shares insights into breathing your way through stressful situations, while at medispa SHA in Spain, you can take a seat at an oxygen bar. You could also head to Portugal’s Six Senses Douro Valley where, among the rolling hills you can learn the ancient art of pranayama – syncing breath with movement. Closer to home we have Alan Dolan, founder of Breathguru. As well as retreats in Lanzarote and one-to-ones at the Urban Retreat day spa in London, among others, Dolan also does Skype sessions. His Conscious Breathing technique teaches you to master the simple but powerful action of breathing. Advocates, of which I am one, say his work is life-changing, teaching you quite literally how to breathe easy.