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Melisse Gelula: COVID-19 has helped wellness lose its stigma

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The Global Wellness Institute’s (GWI) latest Q&A with experts on wellness in the age of COVID-19 saw VP of research and forecasting, Beth McGroarty, talk with entrepreneur Melisse Gelula, who previously co-founded wellness media company, Well+Good, and now helps advise and scale mission-driven wellness companies, from tech to beauty and more.

A GWI board member, Gelula spoke about how COVID-19 has reshaped the concept of wellness, which wellness markets will grow fastest and what successful wellness brands of the future will look like.

Spa Business has rounded up key points from the interview before the GWI unveils the full version.

COVID-19’s effect on wellness

“Pre-COVID-19, wellness was increasingly associated with very consumer-y trends,” began Gelula, “the US$17 organic salads, US$60 collagen supplements, and the US$150 leggings. It was increasingly seen as being a very elitist and privileged industry.”

She believes that when the pandemic hit, people desperately needed things in their everyday lives to help fortify health, sanity, communities, and homes.

In her opinion, this helped wellness lose some of its stigma, as people began rushing to proven, beneficial wellness practices that cost little or nothing, such as meditation or getting out in nature and walking.

Gelula illustrated this with data from Pinterest collected between February and May 2020, which recorded an upsurge in searches around mental wellness concepts, with meditation up 44 per cent, gratitude up 60 per cent and positivity up 42 per cent.

She explained that this was due to the pandemic causing people to adopt self-care and wellbeing practices as a coping strategy for the new normal.

What wellness categories will grow fast and matter most in future? Gelula advises a number of wellness start-ups and has experience in how investment and marketing are changing. Using this insight, she proposes that mental health and wellness will be the biggest future need and opportunity.

With US depression rates tripling during the pandemic, she highlighted that the US is in the middle of a widespread mental health crisis and that it's crucial mental wellness tools are made affordable and widely accessible, not a luxury.

“Mental health is simply the most bewildering, overlooked area in healthcare. There’s so much to say, to rethink, and to invent around mental health and wellness – I believe it's the most important space in wellness.”

She predicts that digital could be the most affordable and effective way to democratically provide mental health support, with numerous social media brands already kicking off initiatives, such as Snapchat, which has launched mental wellness tools and content and partnered with Headspace to deliver meditation and mindfulness.

“It’s interesting and telling that even social media platforms are now grabbing the mental wellness wheel,” she told McGroarty, “as these moves are helping them reach the loneliest, most depressed and anxious generation: the young.”

Gelula anticipates that well known mainstream companies will soon follow suit and roll out new products that make mental health/wellness more accessible in the next six months.

Success in the new wellness market

Looking ahead, Gelula feels that due to COVID-19 the brands that solve real problems will succeed.

“The future of the wellness market is a new kind of problem-solving: More solutions-minded wellness businesses that can reach far more people,” she explained, “we’ll see the arrival of more companies and products that are really essential services – whether in mental wellness, in work solutions, in healthy food."

In her opinion, the market is in the midst of a transitional moment with the potential for more companies to move from a narrow profit-focused model to a human-focused model in business.

“Companies that can roll with this will be the ones consumers believe in and buy from and that employees commit to. It means showing empathy and really relating to the needs and pain-points of your customers (and employees).

“It’s a 'get real' moment, and all of a sudden, there is more discussion, innovation and investment in what were once stigmatised categories.

“For instance, in the healthcare tech space, I’m working with a brand focusing on unmet maternal health needs (and the high maternal death rate in the US, especially for women of colour) by connecting women 24/7 via text to nurses, midwives and doulas, and which also has a miscarriage community for women to talk about this painful topic openly.”

In addition, Gelula feels success will also rely on wellness companies making sure their experiences and brands are highly inclusive, whether for people of colour, ageing people or LGBTQ consumers.

“It’s unacceptable not to take a stance on diversity now,” she said, “those seen as failing on this will increasingly receive blowback. People – especially young generations – are savvy and get turned off by tone-deafness or lack of real acknowledgement of Black Lives Matter by companies.”

To read the whole interview and understand why Gelula believes workplace wellness is now the make or break point of all businesses, visit the GWI website later this week.

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The Global Wellness Institute’s (GWI) latest Q&A with experts on wellness in the age of COVID-19 saw VP of research and forecasting, Beth McGroarty, talk with entrepreneur Melisse Gelula, who previously co-founded wellness media company, Well+Good, and now helps advise and scale mission- driven wellness companies, from tech to beauty and more.