A lot of things trend on social media, and many of those trending topics aren’t good. In fact, they can be pretty harmful (looking at you, NyQuil chicken). But, like all trends, they capture attention for a reason — some of these popular topics even prove pretty useful.
In the wellness world, including fitness and mental health, hundreds of trends have come out this year or simply grown in popularity. From hot girl walks to healing your inner child, many healthy trending topics are in the zeitgeist for a good reason.
And just because they’re trending now doesn’t mean they need to end in 2023. If anything, they should be continued and explored more. Lindsay Monal, a yoga teacher at YogaRenew Teacher Training, said that it’s important to follow the trends that you like and that will keep you consistent in your practice, whether mental health or fitness.
Here are the most useful fitness and mental health trends of 2022, according to experts:
Mental health trends
End of people pleasing and entering your “villain” era
The simple search “villain era” on TikTok brings up thousands of videos that showcase people putting an end to people pleasing and embracing their so-called villain era.
But while boundary setting and putting an end to people pleasing are both valuable for your mental health, there is something wrong with this being phrased as villainous behavior, according to Sarah Sarkis, an executive coach and senior director of performance psychology at Exos, a corporate wellness company.
“The ‘villain era’ is really an inaccurate depiction of people setting healthy boundaries,” Sarkis said. “While the trend means well, we shouldn’t be vilifying taking a step away from pleasing others to prioritize our own needs and well-being.”
She asked: “If we are always pleasing other people but never addressing our own needs, who are we actually being a villain to? Ourselves perhaps? Is that OK?” The answer: No, it is not.
She noted that burnout (think: holiday stress, work stress, family pressure and more) is a significant driver of this end of people pleasing. “We’re starting to see this shift to reverse years if not generations worth of conditioning to put others’ needs before our own,” Sarkis said.
Healing your inner child
TikTok also led to a trend where people openly acknowledged tough childhood moments and worked on coming to terms with those experiences.
“Talking about trauma more openly and really talking about inner child work, I think, has prompted a lot of conversations that I don’t think have happened at other points in time as openly and as in-depth,” said Genesis Games, a licensed mental health counselor and relationship expert in Miami.
She noted that acknowledging that your inner child needs healing is an excellent first step. Still, adult children who want to take this further can have conversations with their parents or guardians about their childhood experiences.
“I think in that specific dynamic, there’s a lot of room for healing and just knowing your parents maybe did the best they could,” she said.
Games added that just hearing your parent acknowledge your pain could mean a lot for your healing journey. She said that the name of this trend itself, “healing your inner child,” shines a light on what served us in childhood and what didn’t — it helps us reparent ourselves to address unmet needs as kids.
“I would definitely say this was probably one of the healthiest trends of 2022,” she noted.
Rest as resistance
“I’m loving [this] trend, and I want to encourage people to lean further into the trend of resting — so literally sleeping, napping, doing things that fill you up — as a form of resistance against oppression, against patriarchy, against all sorts of things,” said Taisha Caldwell-Harvey, a licensed psychologist and the founder and CEO of The Black Girl Doctor, an online therapy and wellness platform.
Many Instagram posts and TikTok videos challenge the notion that rest is tied to being unproductive or lazy.
Rest “is something productive and active that you’re doing,” Caldwell-Harvey said. She added doing things intentionally that give you joy (like resting) is a productive use of time.
While this trend has been celebrated on social media this year, only some know how to practice it. Caldwell-Harvey said that she has to explain to many of her clients exactly what rest is — for the record, it’s not running errands, cleaning or doing dishes that you didn’t get to because of your nine-to-five. It’s sleeping, napping, curling up with a good book or doing whatever you need to fill your cup.
Openness around diagnoses
While year over year this has certainly gotten better, Games said she noticed in 2022 that more people were taking to TikTok to share their mental health diagnoses — whether it’s what prompted them to get help for bipolar disorder or how ADHD presents in them.
“I think [this] has taken away some of the stigmas, some of the shame and maybe guilt associated with seeing a therapist or around taking medication for psychological reasons,” she said.
While the stigma is not gone, these kinds of videos and posts have helped reduce it, Games added. They help put a real-life face to some of the diagnoses that hold a stigma — like autism or postpartum depression, she said.
It’s also an excellent way to remind those living with any conditions that evidence-based treatments can change your life, she noted.
It’s important to remember that you can’t count on TikTok for an official diagnosis; that needs to come from a medical professional. But you can seek out education, community and support on the app.
The abandonment of the strong Black woman stereotype
By no means is the “strong Black woman” stereotype gone, but Caldwell-Harvey said that she is noticing on social media and among her clients that Black women are ridding themselves of this idea and the pressure that comes with it, too.
“We walk around with a certain lens on how we view things, in this example, if I see myself as a strong Black woman, I see myself as capable, I’m willing to take on adversity, I’m willing to forge through obstacles, I’m going to be ready to break barriers, I’m ready to absorb pain, and I am going to be in this space where I’m relentlessly taking care of others,” Caldwell-Harvey said.
Historically, this has been the reality for many Black matriarchs, “but it comes at a cost,” Caldwell-Harvey said. “That wear and tear can be tremendous, and it can leave us fatigued, it can leave us unhappy with our life, and it even leaves us physically ill.”
Instead, as proven in this social media shift, Black women realize they don’t have to do it all — you can ask for help, hire help, and say no. She said that ending this do-it-all attitude “opens us to experience vulnerability, softness, ease, peace — all the things we deserve to have a full life.”
And this doesn’t mean you can’t pull strength when you need it, it simply means you don’t always have to hold everything on your shoulders with no support.
Hot girl walks
According to Monal, the trend encourages people to disconnect from technology, which is a bonus as many people (unfairly) deal with an expectation to be constantly connected to their email and Slack.
She added that it also helps people get outside in nature, which adds to its importance this year.
Low-intensity exercise (like walking, yoga, hiking and swimming) is increasingly popular, and for a good reason. According to Monal, people are more drawn to low-intensity exercise lately because of the societal shift many are experiencing now. You’re probably back in the hustle and bustle of life — in-person work, social gatherings and more.
“Our bodies are burnt out, and I think more than ever now, a lot of people are waking up and realizing how they need to listen to their bodies a little more,” Monal said. “Those low-impact exercises, like pilates, yoga, even bodyweight exercises, I find a lot of people… are leaning toward more things that are going to be a little more gentle on the body.”
She added that it’s also a good fitness move because it lifts society’s changing opinion on weight loss.
“I think it’s a reflection of the way our culture has shifted around exercise and also away from ‘oh you need to lose weight’ and more toward ‘what’s going to help me move and have mobility and flexibility as I continue to age,’” Monal said.
The shy girl workout
“I love this one because I think this is relatable for so many that may feel intimidated at the gym,” said Breann Mitchell, a trainer for FitOn, a free fitness app with classes ranging from yoga to HIIT.
And a lot of people feel uncomfortable at the gym — at least 50% of Americans deal with gym anxiety, according to a recent HuffPost article. Many worry about others’ perceptions when they lift weights, do specific workouts or even walk into the gym in their skin (diet culture and fatphobia make it hard for many to go to the gym). Shy girl workouts give you exercise routines that aren’t front and center in a gym.
“This trend gives ideas that allow followers to learn minimal equipment type workouts that they can either do in a more secluded section of the gym or the comfort of their home,” Mitchell added.
Shy girl workouts meet folks where they are and help them get in their workout without worrying about the judgment of those around them.
Workouts that align with your menstrual cycle
Working out the same way every day isn’t exactly conducive to someone’s menstrual cycle, and luckily, Monal said that she sees many folks alter their workouts to recognize their body’s needs.
“I think it’s important to honor our bodies, [they’re] constantly fluctuating, so recognizing that [the fluctuation] might also have an effect on why you don’t feel like working out or why you’re more motivated at different points of the month,” is also important, Monal noted.
She added that she’s seeing many people opt for high-intensity workouts in the first week after their period and wind down until their period to accommodate their body’s natural hormone cycles.
And while working out during your period may not feel super appealing, studies show exercise helps reduce menstrual cramps. Remember that exercise during your period doesn’t have to be a super-intense HIIT class or a 5-mile run. Overall, low-intensity exercise is recommended during menstruation.
Incline walking challenge
As mentioned above, walking was a huge fitness trend in 2022 and should be carried through to 2023. Mitchell noted that since walking is such a great, low-impact, and low-stress exercise on the body, it’s ideal for many people’s weekly movement goals.
For those who prefer to work out in a gym, the treadmill offers an excellent way to get in your steps, and the incline walking challenge is one trending-on-TikTok idea that can help you get in a good workout — and it’s one of Mitchell’s favorite fitness trends of the year.
When looking up this trend, you’ll find several different settings you can adhere to, but Mitchell recommends that you set your treadmill to a 12 incline for 30 minutes at 3.0 speed to get in a good walking workout.