In recent years, meditation and mindfulness have broken into the mainstream. As a result, this centuries-old practice has become a buzzword and newly minted investment muse.
But does our obsession with mindfulness and the commoditization of meditation defeat the purpose? And as the industry matures, what’s next in mindfulness?
The business of mindfulness is fast becoming a pillar of the $4.5T wellness industry.
- The US meditation industry is now worth $1B.
- By 2027, the global alternative healthcare industry—including meditation, acupuncture, breathing exercises, yoga and tai chi, and chiropractic services—will be worth $296.3B.
- Mindfulness is one of the fastest-growing health trends in America, with nearly 14% of people having tried meditation.
This trend is being driven by a few key factors, including smartphone apps, new research, wellness culture, and the rise of burnout.
The integration of technology into traditional mindfulness practices makes meditation accessible and affordable for people all over the world. How accessible? On iTunes, for instance, there are nearly 1,000 mindfulness and meditation apps to choose from.
New research on mindfulness and meditation has proven the practice’s benefits, even for people who practice for as little as 10 minutes. From controlling and managing pain to lowering blood pressure and lessening the symptoms of depression, the results are real.
The rising popularity of wellness culture and self-care have thrust mindfulness into the spotlight. Perpetuated by the Wellness Industrial Complex, meditation and mindfulness are perfectly aligned with our never-ending pursuit of optimization and productivity.
According to a 2018 APA poll, 40% of Americans are more anxious than they were at this time last year. Today’s teenagers report higher rates of anxiety and depression, too. Mindfulness, then, seems like a natural remedy to combat these difficult trends.
An ethical conundrum
Some experts have gone so far as to call this industry boom “McMindfulness”, referencing the fact that a 10-minute, app-assisted meditation or a technology-enabled meditation headband stray incredibly far from the original intent of a Buddhist meditation practice, which has no end goal.
In traditional Buddhist meditation practices, there is no opportunity to “do it right” because the process isn’t something you judge. Additionally, meditation and mindfulness programs are also traditionally offered for free, which presents an interesting market tension.
Money on the mind
Despite the apparent conflict, this industry isn’t going anywhere, and opportunities for business and revenue growth will continue to rise.
To date, Headspace and Calm have managed to build billion-dollar businesses on the back of this trend. Following their lead, a growing list of startups and investors are hoping that their mindfulness play will hit it big. Recent funding rounds and products launches include:
- WAVE Meditation, a music-driven meditation app and sensory, vibrating pillow, closed $5.65M in seed funding.
- Journey Meditation, a subscription-based group meditation app, landed $2.4M in seed funding.
- Core raised $4M for its handheld meditation training device.
- Calm Radio, a provider of “life-enhancing music” for focus, relaxation, mindfulness, and sleep, secured $1.25M.
- meditation.live, a wellness platform focused on interactive meditation and movement coaching, raised $3M from SoftBank Capital.
- Elevate Labs, a “mental fitness” startup, closed $7.1M in Series B funding after announcing its new personalized meditation app, Balance.
Meditation and mindfulness are paving the way for mental health startups hoping to address depression, anxiety, and burnout. Next, we expect to see more wellness-infused, technology-enabled mental health startups emerge. From Two Chairs and Alma to Talkspace and Lyra Health, we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what is sure to become a massive industry.