Wellness Trends for 2017 : Trend #3 Silence

Written By: Lauren Holmes

A new focus on silence at wellness destinations and spas came through loud and clear in Summit presentations: from Dr. Franz Linser’s keynote (2016 Summit co-chair; founder, Linser Hospitality), “Wellness As It Was Meant to Be” – to Tom Bauer’s talk (COO, Vamed Vitality Resorts) on future, silent directions in wellness resorts – to the Wellness Tourism Roundtable exploring what will constitute “Wellness Tourism 2.0”. Linser argued that wellness programming at hotels/ retreats today can sometimes feel like nothing more than an “operational line-item” (some fitness classes or spas to “check off”), while future destinations will need to put a deeper, more comprehensive focus on the true “art of living” - from helping people “do” to helping them “be” - and that will include a much more powerful focus on silence and nature. Bauer’s talk argued that time, space and silence will be the most precious future luxuries, and that retreats will need to help people restore inner silence, make contemplation possible, and will specifically explore “how much spiritual buildings and spas have in common”.

Schloss Mondsee (Austria) - Example of the new quiet, contemplative "wellness monasteries".

The Past: Wellness retreats and spas have always aimed at being serene sanctuaries, but frankly, many have remained too noisy: people clattering away on phones even in “quiet rooms.” And the first wave of “digital detox” was often only about confiscating guests’ devices, but with very little else truly transformative on offer.

The Future: As digital noise ratchets up, we will see a sharper focus on silence, mindfulness and deep nature at hotels, retreats and spas: from new “silent spa” models to more wellness destinations being developed in (and with the quiet, contemplative values of) former monasteries. We will even see more silent eating and restaurants, salons, gyms, stores and airports…

The Knottnkino "Nature Cinema" - example of the silent nature over "noise" trend in South Tyol, Italy.

The Medical Evidence for Silence: Given that always-on digital connection is such a new phenomenon, the medical establishment is just beginning to grasp how it’s destroying our health and sanity. But recent studies confirm that both noise – and digital “noise” – hurt our focus and sleep, and increase stress hormones, anxiety and depression. But what is the impact of periods of silence on the brain? A Duke University study (2013) found that two hours of silence daily incited significant cell development in the hippocampus, the brain region related to the formation of memory. And “the brain on silence” is a brain evaluating internal and external info into “a conscious workspace”…establishing how we fit into the world. So, if depression and dementia are both associated with decreased hippocampus neurogenesis, silence looks to be a promising therapy.