Capturing the New Wellness and Self-Care Movement in 2021


From insomnia to isolation, let’s explore how to appropriately capture self-care and wellness images in 2021’s new world.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2020, life as the world knew it became upended. How and where we worked, attending school and recreational classes in person, and unwinding from the work week on the weekends disappeared almost overnight. The new normal of living and working indoors came with its challenges, including the struggle to locate where the line between being “on” for the work day and being “off” once that day ended. Between rising cases of insomnia, increased isolation, and being ripped from the lives we once knew, the world was discovering that if there was ever a time to prioritize self-care—both physically and mentally—it was during a pandemic.

The days of polished, sellable self-care, however, have no place in this new reality. With the global toll the COVID-19 pandemic is taking on human lives, livelihoods, and the mental health of millions, expensive candles and luxury skincare aren’t the sole definitions of self-care anymore.

Now, self-care in 2021 is about rebuilding community, working through collective trauma, and prioritizing happiness. As a result, what the wellness movement, as a whole, now looks like has become more reflective of real life. While the visual of a carefree woman donning a face mask and sipping red wine in her bathtub still exists, the reality is that she must now do so alongside the father relaying his daily struggles to a therapist on his laptop. This is what the new self-care movement will look like for everyday people as the pandemic continues to play a role in our lives.

Self-care in 2021 is about rebuilding community, working through collective trauma, and prioritizing happiness. Image by insta_photos.

Documenting Real Life: What Self-Care Used to Look Like and How It’s Changed

When you hear the phrase “self-care,” what’s the first image that comes to mind? According to Google Images, it’s women meditating in their living rooms, wearing forest green face masks while dressed in fluffy robes, and staring longingly at the sky. For “wellness,” it’s simple yoga poses and juice shots. Even in Shutterstock’s photo library, searching for both phrases pulls up a combination of those results, and features a healthy dose of grinning people hugging themselves next to coffee cups. But, these aren’t without reason.

Self-care, in recent years, has become a glamorized photo shoot to showcase a carefree attitude to whoever sees you. Following the trends set by influencers and social media, unwinding after a difficult work week now means doing so in a gorgeous, Instagrammable fashion. It’s yoga, but without the sweat and in-name brand athleisure. It’s nourishing food, but from an organic meal delivery service—shot at just the right angle. It’s skincare from a high-profile beauty brand.

Photographing Self-Care
Self-care, in recent years, has become a glamorized photoshoot to showcase a carefree attitude to whoever sees you. Image by JLco Julia Amaral.

Now, there’s no harm in treating yourself a la Parks and Recreation, and there’s no one way to show yourself love. But, with the world seeing a shift in priorities, the glossy, profitable layers of self-care must now be peeled back and more reflective of real life. Showcasing self-care and wellness as carefree bouts of escapism, while millions of people are grappling with anxiety and depression over the pandemic, isn’t inclusive. Instead, properly capturing the self-care and wellness movement in 2021 means showcasing the heavy lifting.

Representing Self-Care
To properly capture the self-care and wellness movement in 2021 means to showcase the heavy lifting. Image by Wavebreak Media.

The Six New Faces of the Self-Care and Wellness Movement

To document the new methods of self-care people will realistically rely on in 2021, means accepting the fact that no one person has it all together. Between building a sense of community with neighbors to finding new ways to attend therapy sessions, this is what the wellness movement will look like from behind the lens.

Digital Therapy

Therapy over Video Services
With in-person meetings halted for health and safety reasons, therapy over video services has become the norm. Image by fizkes.

With in-person meetings halted for health and safety reasons, therapy over video services like Zoom and apps like Talkspace or BetterHelp has become the norm. With the number of people using digital therapy services rising to 84.7% in 2020, according to the American Psychiatric Association, working through mental health and emotional issues via technology is what wellness will look like in 2021. Those visuals can include a person or people speaking to a mental health professional over a laptop or through video calling with a varying range of emotion.

Prioritizing Sleep

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked an increase in insomnia—reports of odd dreams and an uptick in melatonin sales—throughout 2020. The stress of life during everyone’s waking hours quickly found their way into the nighttime hours and 2020 became the year of the sleep problem. In 2021, however, being proactive in prioritizing restful sleep remains a top priority among experts to improve wellness. To signal the line between work and home life existing more clearly, visuals of sleep can exclude images of phones. Now, better sleep should include closed curtains for a darkened room, a mug on a nightstand that previously held a hot beverage, or the appearance of a thermostat, signaling the bedroom is cooler for improved sleep conditions.

Visuals of Manifesting and Setting Goals

Setting Goals
Following in the steps of manifesting, setting positive intentions for 2021 could look like a person writing in a journal. Image by GaudiLab.

The practice of manifesting has become more mainstream in recent years thanks to the power of social media. Just as one would pull tarot cards or follow what astrological house their zodiac sign is in, to manifest is to will a dream or goal to life with thought. Looking past the mysticism of manifestation, the same practice could be compared to setting intentions or goals. In visuals, taking the time to set positive intentions for 2021 could look like a person writing in a journal, reflecting while seated next to a lit candle, or repeating an affirmation in the mirror.

Hobbies

Learning a New Hobby
Taking the time to learn a new hobby and flex your creative muscles is a unique form of self-care to pursue in 2021. Image by ABO PHOTOGRAPHY.

Roller skating, knitting, adult coloring books, and more. If there’s ever a time to pursue a hobby, it’s in quarantine. With hubs of recreation like the gym or concert venues still closed in many cities, taking the time to learn a new hobby and flex your creative muscles is a unique form of self-care that many will continue to pursue in 2021. The beauty of hobbies is their diversity, so there exists an option for every level of dedication people can muster. Visuals of hobbies can include socially distanced outdoor activities like roller skating (complete with that person wearing a protective mask). A person indoors enjoying a back-to-basics activity like sketching or painting. Or, someone crocheting or creating quirky needlepoint art for family, friends, or themselves.

Communities far and wide came to rely on themselves during the pandemic in 2020. Mutual aid networks popped up across the U.S., assisting people in millions of neighborhoods with free groceries, child care, and rent relief, as well as neighborhood cleanup crews and volunteering to transport food to community refrigerators. Self-care in 2021 is knowing you were able to help when you could. As a result, visuals of community building can include volunteers packing boxes of food and supplies, assisting elderly neighbors in their tasks, hanging up posters of mutual aid services.

Exercise

Exercising at Home
While visuals prior to the pandemic showed exercise and fitness classes in a gym or studio, visuals of physical activity will now show people in their homes. Image by Wavebreak Media.

While 2020 was a reminder to take it easy on ourselves physically and mentally, for people incorporating exercise back into their lives in 2021, fitness routines don’t look as they once did. While visuals prior to the pandemic showed exercise and fitness classes in a gym or studio, visuals of physical activity will now show people in their homes. Capturing exercise done not only to break a sweat but to achieve some peace of mind, wellness in 2021 will look more like yoga with a living room table pushed to the side, a spin bike placed between a bedroom door and a bed, or following along with a virtual exercise class over a laptop.


The Future of Representing Self-Care and Wellness in Visuals

As people continue to adapt to living during a pandemic, honestly showcasing what we’re all going through will continue to be the norm. The reality is that the image of caring for yourself won’t only be shown through a rosy lens anymore. Instead, it’ll look like the healing process it’s meant to be. While we’ll still unwind in the tub after a long day or salute the sun during yoga sessions on the weekends, showcasing wellness in photos, in videos, and on social media will also show us working through our new issues—both alone and with a support system.


Cover image via SFIO CRACHO.

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