The Memes 2019

Mind Matters
Our New Focus, The New Temple

“The rise of many wellness-focused practices like yoga, clean eating, and natural beauty all feed into a specific consumer desire. It’s certainly about physical health, but it’s also about spirituality and the need for psychological growth and emotional connection.”

- Nicola Brown, Columnist, Toronto Star

Yuval Noah Harari, the thought leader who has captured popular imagination across the world today, speaks persuasively about the fundamental shift in the modern human approach to life. He says that over thousands of years humans have succeeded in gaining control of the outside world – of animals, forests, and rivers – through technological advances. Having accomplished this complete control of our external environment, our focus is now shifting inward, to gain control of the world inside us.

In our over-zealousness to conquer the outer world, we have ignored and neglected our inner world. Worldwide, but especially in India, an epidemic of suicides (India has the highest suicide rate for people under-30 in the world), of people suffering from depression, of growing lifestyle disease incidence, are all manifestations of the extent to which we have miscalculated the impact of modern living on our mental health.

Not surprisingly our inner world has now come into sharper focus. Between 2015 and 2018, India has witnessed an exponential increase in interest in mental health and wellness related topics, visible not just in Google search trends, but also in popular culture.

In a growing pushback against the stigmatization of mental health problems, youth icons such as Deepika Padukone have spoken out about their battles with depression. The topic of mental health has been addressed in popular culture through movies such as Dear Zindagi (Hindi) and Kaasav (Marathi). Modern day gurus such as Sri Ravi Shankar and brands such Aura (the mindfulness app), Omved (the natural therapy brand) and Forest Essentials have gained traction through their messages of mental health and well-being. Social media too has played an important role in fighting the stigma. People are reaching out anonymously today, offering a sympathetic ear, or a shoulder to cry on – making us all more aware and less judgemental in the process.

Pranic healing, yoga, chanting and meditation are all the rage in both India and the developed world. Simple remedies, drawn from age old practices, are growing in popularity because they help us tackle the issue of mental wellness more holistically.

Meanwhile positive mental health is also a growing business. Consumers today are on a constant lookout for exercise that stimulates the mind. A growing ‘brain spa’ industry provides content that not only keeps consumers updated but also provokes them to think deeper. Take TED talks for example – these engaging and informative lectures have a massive online and offline following. They push viewers to think in ways they otherwise might not have, taking them on thought experiments they could not have previously imagined. Such conferences, podcasts and documentaries are all increasingly popular for similar reasons – they serve a growing need for meaningful mental stimulation, and consumers are lapping it up.

Interest in engaging with matters of the mind has also grown from a professional standpoint. Businesses and brands are attempting to leverage neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence to understand customers better. Neuro-marketing rests on the assumption that information can be gleaned directly from the brain, including information about our sub-conscious thoughts and behaviour patterns, placing the human brain at the centre of the business world’s efforts today.

The journey inwards, to regain control of our inner world is well and truly underway. Winning the battle for our minds today is a fine balance between finding positive mental stimulation, gaining a sense of overall peace and well-being, and blocking attempts to game our behaviour.

The journey to attain mental wellness is not unidimensional – how we eat, sleep, drink, exercise and relax, all have roles to play. Products and services that understand this need and cater to it via all aspects of the experience they provide, will be rewarded in the years to come.