Why New York is becoming so LA
Welcome to this week’s edition of Vitamin Z, a newsletter about health and wellness with 3,000+ subscribers. If you are new, you can join here.
The New York Times ran a story last week titled “Is New York Turning Into Los Angeles?” The article claims New Yorkers are embracing the LA lifestyle, from sound baths to mocktails and legal marijuana.
Let’s forgive the clickbait-y headline. No, NYC is not turning into LA. (And thank goodness for that.) But the article highlights a real trend I’ve been noticing for years.
More New York restaurants and bars are serving alcohol-free beverages (“mocktails”). New wellness centers are offering breathwork and sound baths. Recreational cannabis shops are popping up around the city. There’s more acceptance of psychedelic therapy and plant medicine. I wrote about my experience at Nushama Psychedelic Wellness, a ketamine clinic in midtown Manhattan, here.
There’s a cultural shift happening as more New Yorkers—and major cities across the US—adopt health and wellness trends popularized in LA.
I spoke with four leaders in New York’s health and wellness community to find out what they think about these wellness trends and what’s driving them.
Here’s what they said about New York’s embrace of LA-style wellness.
1. The pandemic catalyzed a shift in how New Yorkers think about mental health and self-care.
Courtney Clifford - Coach and breathwork and meditation leader at Sage + Sound, a wellness center on the Upper East Side
“Prior to the pandemic, there were a select number of wellness spaces that offered classes and sound experiences, attended mostly by those with a dedicated practice. After two years of virtual classes, New Yorkers are craving community, new experiences, and ways to cope living in a now remote or hybrid work world.
People are much more familiar with alternative and holistic therapies and experiential modalities, such as breathwork and sound healing.”
Andrea Syrtash - Relationship expert, author and the founder of pregnantish
“New Yorkers are really good at being efficient and complaining about a lack of balance. The pandemic woke up some New Yorkers who realized it’s nice to focus on things that matter—like relationships and well-being.”
2. New Yorkers are looking for new ways to cope with stress and anxiety.
Amanda K. Reilly - Hypnotherapist at Hudson Wellness
“As a hypnotherapist, everyone I see is interested in self-improvement, self-care and self-love in some capacity. Having worked both in LA and NYC, I can tell you that regardless of where a person lives, the root of what many are seeking is to shift their relationship with anxiety. More people are seeking psychedelics simply because it is newly available, with strong research backing it; people are educating themselves on the benefits.
More people are seeking out wellness care than ever before. Having made it through the pandemic, many people were forced to confront and learn more about mental health. Mental health can be improved by becoming more self-aware and choosing to bring wellness into their life.
How is a person sleeping? What are their routines? How are they nourishing their body and spirit? And what about the relationships they engage in? Our parents might not have been raised asking themselves these questions, but we have the opportunity to improve ourselves. And not just our body and intelligence, but our emotional state, our community, our spirituality.
All these companies the article spoke of are based in wellness and they’re capitalizing off it because wellness is important. It helps people feel better. And individuals all over the country are more interested in that. This is very different than the medical model my parents were raised with, relying on a doctor’s advice or a prescription to improve our health. Maybe it does sound a little LA-esque to set an intention in the morning with that crystal we bought before moving into a more powerful day, but I'm pretty sure folks are doing that in Burlington, Vermont, too.”
3. Psychedelic therapy is becoming normalized for many New Yorkers.
Marissa Feinberg - Director of PR at Nushama Psychedelic Wellness
“While I live in New York, LA is my next-favorite city, so I welcome and embrace adopting its conscious living, mindfulness, and overall health and wellness lifestyle.
This trend became apparent to me in 2017 when I joined The Assemblage, a co-working community at the intersection of ‘consciousness and capitalism,’ with a daily schedule of meditation, sound healing, yoga, and lectures about biohacking and plant medicine. Becoming immersed there came at a good time for me, pivoting from running a startup to being a consultant, teaching me to have a more balanced lifestyle.
I've since adopted these practices into my work with such companies as Nushama Psychedelic Wellness. Thus, I’m biased in favor of New York’s rise of ketamine therapy, but it’s because I’ve seen the benefits of these many tools for mental health and wellness for myself and others.
I believe an increasingly digital world, originally intended for connection, has side effects of disconnection. Getting us back in touch with our minds, bodies, spirits, and hearts, through these various tools, from food and CBD to meditation and psychedelic therapy, can help reconnect us with who we are. I say, ‘LA, keep doing what you’re doing. We need even more of your influence.’”
I have a couple friends in New York who are doing “Dry January.” You know, that thing where you avoid alcohol for a month. This reflects a lifestyle trend that’s been documented among young people across the US. Gen Z and millennials are drinking less alcohol than other generations. Journalists have begun using the term “California sober” to describe a lifestyle that avoids alcohol, but allows cannabis and psychedelics.
Just five years ago, few bars in NYC advertised their mocktails. Now alcohol-free options are featured prominently on the drink menu at many restaurants and bars. Boisson has opened six locations across New York City, advertising a wide selection of alcohol-free beer, wine and spirits.
(From the company’s website: “We want to bring a world of amazing nonalcoholic products to you in a welcoming judgement-free zone that sparks curiosity. Our mission is to provide #sophisticatedsips to those looking for an alternative to alcohol, no matter their reasons why.”)
These trends are happening in major cities across the US, not just New York. People see their friends do Dry January, sound baths, or ayahuasca ceremonies, and they want to try it, too. It’s a topic my friend Rina Raphael covers in her excellent new book, “The Gospel of Wellness.”
I acknowledge there’s a certain privilege in talking about these wellness practices. Not everyone can afford a $20 mocktail, $80 breathwork class or $30 turmeric bone broth latte at Erewhon Market (the mecca of LA health food). Yet I think these trends are important and worth examining. The lifestyle practices that begin in LA and New York often have ripple effects that spread across the country.
The hope is that we can normalize and encourage healthy behaviors. Teach more people about the power of breathwork and meditation. Make it more socially acceptable to find alcohol-free ways to relieve stress and anxiety. Educate more people about psychedelic therapy, which could be transformative for the millions who suffer from depression and other common mood disorders.
There are plenty of LA wellness practices the NY Times article didn’t mention. Some of them (earthing, cacao ceremonies, reiki) I doubt New Yorkers will ever embrace as fully as their SoCal counterparts. Others (cryotherapy, hot / cold exposure) may be more likely to penetrate the NYC market.
New York is not at risk of becoming LA anytime soon. Just as LA will never be New York. One of the things that makes this country special is the diversity of cultural practices in different regions of the US. It’s easy to make fun of people who do things that seem weird or different. We’re better off when we stay open-minded, share best practices, and learn from each other.
If LA people can show New Yorkers how to do a sound bath meditation, and New York folks can teach Angelenos how to make pizza—and while they’re at it, how to create more vibrant public spaces that foster connection and a feeling of community—well, maybe that’s a good thing.
Thank you for reading this week’s edition of Vitamin Z.
Until next time,
By Daniel Zahler
Hi there and thanks for reading. If you stumble on my newsletter, you will notice that I write about health and wellness, and ways to optimize cognitive, physical and emotional health. I work with the world’s leading healthcare and life sciences companies to develop innovative new solutions to improve health globally. I was trained as a research scientist at Harvard, and I serve as a GLG council member where I advise global business leaders on healthcare innovation.
Enjoyed your reading experience?
Follow me on Twitter.
Hit reply with your feedback and ideas :)
Share this post with others.