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The wellness industry can help combat loneliness, says Aromatherapy Associates CEO Tracey Woodward

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Stress and increasing isolation will change the face of the spa and wellness industry, says Tracey Woodward, CEO of skincare brand Aromatherapy Associates.

Woodward addressed an audience of more than 170 delegates at Spatec Europe this morning, as she delivered the keynote address.

Touching on both her own personal story and her experience working for Aveda and Marks & Spencer, Woodward said that the spa industry has the power to change an increasingly technologically-dependent and stressed world.

“Spa will become more and more essential to healthful living,” she said, but also needs to move away from talking about anti-ageing and move towards looking at both internal and external beauty and wellness.

“Consumers are looking for products that nurture, and that embrace how you feel physically and mentally,” she continued. “That is what we (as an industry) will become as time moves forward, and that’s what we have to get our heads around.”

Woodward detailed her success as brand advisor to Marks & Spencer, where she consulted on the redesign and development of its beauty department. Part of the success, she said, was due to the fact that lonely women would come to the store for a consultation in order to speak with someone and make a connection.

“Beauty treatments and massage can help with isolation and loneliness,” said Woodward.

She also suggested implementing more face-to-face time in our own work environments in a world that increasingly relies on technology, and to make time for actual phone conversations rather than email or texts.

“People are getting more and more stress by not being able to engage directly,” she said. “I’m not saying you have to go out and hug every single employee, but the power of touch is a wonderful thing.”

The session included an interactive 20-second hug session to prove her point.

Woodward said massage is predicted to grow by 23 per cent between 2012 and 2022, and we have a duty to make that even greater to do our part to combat loneliness and stress.

“Lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and it’s worse than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical activity,” she said.

She also suggested that increasing loneliness and social isolation will change the way the industry operates.

“Massage will be a social event in the future,” she said.

She said the spa industry has the power to nurture emotional intelligence, and also pointed to studies where massage was shown to reduce depression and increase serotonin. Sometimes, however, it’s the simple things that can affect change.

“A kind word has the power to change everybody’s day,” said Woodward. “A smile, or the power of touch is so important.”

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Stress and increasing isolation will change the face of the spa and wellness industry, says Tracey Woodward, CEO of skincare brand Aromatherapy Associates.
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