Wellness for the Soul

Statistics on mental health and meaninglessness point to the need to change the way we live, care for our health and work on healing. Young people today experience anxiety about twice as often as young people at the turn of the millennium, and about 40% of the Swedish population agree either with the statement that life is meaningless or that they are dissatisfied with their existence. Many also experience stress because the world feels insecure and unstable. What are the future keys to spiritual well-being?

The medieval physician and nun Hildegard von Bingen prescribed cakes and wine as medicine for melancholy. Today we know that alcohol and sugar are not particularly good for any dimension of health in the long term, but what are we supposed to do instead? There is a feverish exploration of how we can make people thrive, and the hypotheses range from hacking their biology to mystical experiences induced by psychedelia. This article highlights three growing phenomena in the field of soul wellness, and describes how we are moving towards a generalized approach that integrates body, mind and soul, as well as individual and collective.  

The Future of Wellness for the Soul – And the Whole Person 
In an era of increased attention to mental health and well-being, we turn to history to understand how our approach to mind and body has changed over time. Historically, we saw body and mind as a unified whole, with the soul also playing a crucial role. This view also reflected the collective understanding of our societies, where the individual was part of a larger whole – a tribe, a society, a community. 

Over the past two centuries, we have undergone a gradual split, separating the mind from the body, and changing our perspective to focus on the individual rather than the collective community. We have become caught in a tension between mind and body, individual and collective. 

In today's society, we are facing an escalating crisis of meaninglessness and mental illness. Research suggests that the integrated view of body, mind and spirit that prevailed in the past may be one of the keys to addressing this crisis1. By reuniting these perspectives and reconnecting with the collective, we can create a more sustainable foundation for our well-being. Could it be time for a new integration? An integration where we embrace both the individual and the collective, and see body and mind as a holistic entity to promote our health and well-being in society.

The future of wellness for the soul integrates body, mind and spirit, recognizing the importance of the contexts in which individuals find themselves. 

Integrating Body, Mind and Soul: Three Growing Phenomena 
There are many trends and phenomena that indicate that people around the world are beginning to recognize the value of integrating body, mind and spirit. Three growing trends are somatic perspectives on therapy and personal development, the use of psychedelia to broaden perspectives, and a focus on sexual health to empower individuals. 

Helping the Overthinkers – Somatic Therapy​ 
In an age centred on digital communication technology, where intellectual qualities are valued above all else, humans are turning into a kind of 'cephalopods' – brains that exchange digitizable information with each other through screens that can show, at most, a person's upper body. Large parts of the human experience are at best secondary, but often completely overlooked. The awareness of bodily sensations, the recognition of emotions, and the physical contact between people disappear from focus. 

But research indicates that to feel good both mentally and physically, we need a nervous system in balance, and the way to get there involves establishing a way of being that recognizes that body and mind are intertwined2.  From this knowledge, various forms of somatic therapy have grown in popularity. Somatic therapy goes beyond conventional forms of therapy by including the physical experiences and reactions of the body. By exploring the body's role in emotional experience and trauma, it aims to release stored tension and promote self-healing. Somatic therapy comes in several forms, from the therapist verbally guiding the patient in an exploration of the inner physical and emotional experience, to the therapist physically working with the patient's body. 

Similar to the way an antelope shakes off the traumatic experience of being chased by a lion, somatic therapy helps people release stored stress and achieve relaxation. In a time of uncertainty and turbulence, the ability to manage trauma and fear becomes particularly relevant. According to Peter Levin, founder of the somatic therapy Somatic Experiencing, trauma therapy to deal with thoughts and feelings about the future can be as important as processing the past.  

Broadening Perspectives – Psychedelic Experiences​
During the mid-20th century, research into psychedelic substances was suspended due to fears of abuse, patent disputes, and a lack of understanding of the medical effects of the substances. Despite decades of stigma and restrictions, psychedelics have returned to the research spotlight as tools for increased wellbeing and mental health. Studies are now showing therapeutic potentials, particularly for substances such as psilocybin and LSD, showing promising results in the treatment of depression, anxiety and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). 

In practice, psychedelic substances are integrated into psychotherapy, where therapists create controlled environments for clients to explore inner experiences. Research indicates that a single psychedelic experience can lead to lasting positive outcomes for psychological wellbeing, including breaking ingrained thought patterns and allowing for new perspectives on existence.3   

A meta-analysis of studies of the effects of experiences on psychedelia points to the fact that people who have a mystical experience during the psychedelic journey are more likely to experience lasting improvements in their well-being. A mystical experience is a personal and often transcendent experience that goes beyond the ordinary way of perceiving the world. These experiences are often characterized by a sense of connection with something greater than the self, a sense of oneness with the divine, nature or the entire universe. Mystical experiences are difficult to explain in words and may be strongly marked by the supernatural, the spiritual or the inexplicable.Thus, if the mystical experience is associated with the vaguely defined 'soul', it seems beneficial to view the well-being of the soul as something strongly linked to mental health. 

The use of psychedelics in therapy will in the future require careful consideration around safety, regulation and standardization for responsible and effective use. In cultures that traditionally use psychedelic plant medicines in various rituals and ceremonies, there is a long tradition of both the substances themselves and how to frame their ingestion to promote positive developmental experiences. Without such wisdom traditions, there is a high risk of creating destructive use. If psychedelia is part of the future of mind wellness, we need to ensure that we create well thought out frameworks and understanding of proper use, so that the substances and their use are given the respect they require to create positive outcomes. 

Return of Eros – Sexual Well-Being
In Swedish society, sexual health is increasingly recognized as an important aspect of well-being. In recent decades, increased openness and awareness of sexual health has led to taboos being broken down and open conversations in the public sphere becoming more common. An important part of this shift has been to look at sexual health as more than just the absence of disease – things like living in hormonal balance and feeling free in your sexual expression are highlighted as important parts of a healthy life. 

As well as being a fundamental aspect of relationship and reproductive health, discussion of sex as a possible route to ecstasy and thus improved health has also increased. Studies have shown that positive sexual experiences can have significant health benefits, including reduced stress, improved sleep quality and increased release of endorphins, the body's natural 'feel-good' chemicals5. There has been a growing awareness that practices such as Tantra and BDSM can expand consciousness, help explore identities, heal trauma and deepen relationships. For women specifically, authors such as Emily Nagoski, Naomi Wolf and Regena Thomasauer have introduced to popular science that reclaiming the female sexuality is important for women's vibrancy, health and happiness. 

The Healing Power of Community
In the quest for wellbeing and health, more and more researchers are turning their attention to something as old as humanity itself – community. It is in our ties to each other and our sense of belonging that we seem to find the keys to a healthy and happy life, as research strongly suggests: 

Studies in social psychology, such as those conducted by Alexander Haslam and his research team, have given us insight into the power of feeling part of a community. Being part of something bigger than ourselves provides a deep sense of satisfaction and meaning, which in turn can contribute to both our physical and mental health6.  

Similarly, the so-called 'Blue Zones' around the world are an inspiring reminder of the healing power of community. There, people not only live exceptionally long lives, but also lives filled with vitality and joy. The secret to their long-lasting health? Strong social bonds and an unparalleled sense of belonging. 

But despite all this insight and research, we face a significant challenge in combating loneliness and isolation, both here in Sweden and around the world. In today's fast-paced and digital world, it seems to be difficult for people to maintain deep and meaningful relationships, as confirmed by Kairos Futures data showing that Swedes are seeing fewer and fewer friends on a regular basis. 

This is why it is of utmost importance that we reflect on how we can create and strengthen contexts for health and well-being, both on an individual level and as part of society. Fostering a sense of community and belonging is not only a matter of social justice, but also an investment in our collective health and happiness. 

A Life of Rhythm and Ecstasy
A fruitful summary of the state of our spiritual health in the West seems to be that we need both more 'rhythm' and more 'ecstasy'. We live at a constantly high tempo, where activities follow each other in a steady stream that requires a constant switch-on. There is no rhythm to bring our nervous systems back to rest. At the same time as we seem to have lost touch with the rhythm, the health-promoting ecstasy has also disappeared from our lives.  

Neuroanthropologist Jamie Wheal writes in his book Recapture the Rapture that it is vital for our individual health and the well-being of future societies that we have practices where we experience ecstasy or flow. Ecstasy, according to Jamie Wheal, is essential for spiritual well-being by improving mood, providing new perspectives and increasing creativity. Shared ecstasy experiences, such as rituals or artistic events, deepen connectedness. Perhaps it is no coincidence that we are looking back to various psychedelic plant medicines and have increased interest in exploratory sexual practices – something in us understands that we need that mind-expanding ecstasy. 

The Future of Mental and Spiritual Health
What will the future look like if we assume that the phenomena in the report continue to grow, and eventually integrate? Will we see the emergence of a community-building religion practicing somatically grounding practices, spiced up with orgies and ceremonies involving psychedelic substances? Perhaps we will.  

What we seem to be able to say with certainty is that many people's souls are thirsting for more community, nervous system balance and a dose of ecstasy now and then. Going forward, we'll probably see many paths towards these goals.

This article highlights three growing phenomena in the field of mental, physical and spiritual wellness. Are you interested in learning more about evolving trends and megatrends that are influencing our lives and society? Our in-depth insights and analyses can help you understand the forces shaping our future; reach out to Helena Mella to book one of our speakers for a lecture on Megatrends.


1 Ray, O. (2004). How the mind hurts and heals the body. American psychologist, 59(1), 29. 

2 https://positivepsychology.com/mind-body-connection/ 

3 Samuli Kangaslampi (2023). Associations between mystical-type experiences under psychedelics and improvement in well-being or mental health – A comprehensive review of the evidence. Journal of Psychedelic Studies 7 18-28 

4 Kangaslampi, S. (2023). Association between mystical-type experiences under psychedelics and improvements in well-being or mental health–A comprehensive review of the evidence. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, 7(1), 18-28 

5 Goodman, R. E., Snoeyink, M. J., & Martinez, L. R. (2022). Conceptualizing Sexual Pleasure at Home as a Work-Related Stress Recovery Activity. The Journal of Sex Research, 1-12. 

6 Haslam, C., Cruwys, T., Haslam, S. A., Dingle, G., & Chang, M. X. L. (2016). Groups 4 Health: Evidence that a social-identity intervention that builds and strengthens social group membership improves mental health. Journal of affective disorders, 194, 188-195.