You can learn a lot from a search history.
This month, Google released its annual “Year in Search” list to show which terms saw the highest spikes over the past year. The roundup offers some insight into what internet users around the world cared about, were curious about and concerned about in 2022.
One big topic is noticeably absent this year: Covid-19. Last year, vaccination and preventing infection were of great interest, but this year saw no mention of coronavirus in the top health and wellness searches.
Instead, this year’s searches focused on physical and mental recovery — how to get stronger physically and how to cope with issues like anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Here’s a breakdown of 2022 in Google searches and some ways to address these topics going into 2023.
Workouts were a big focus of conversation this year: “Body weight workouts,” “weekly workouts,” “exercising for mental health,” and “core workouts at the gym” all were among the popular health searches.
Body-weight workouts are a good access point for exercise because you don’t need expensive equipment, and you can build a foundation for eventual weight training, said Dana Santas, CNN fitness expert and a mind-body coach in pro sports, in a previous story.
She laid out a 10-minute workout to get started.
If you are looking to go further and build a regular exercise routine, a 2021 megastudy found that the keys are to make a plan, build in reminders and reward yourself for sticking to it.
Coping with difficult emotions
Google users asked “how to handle stress,” “how to stop a panic attack,” “how to cure depression” and “focus with ADHD.” They also looked up good mental health practices for little ones, with searches for breathing exercises for kids.
It might not be surprising that many people were focused on coping and stress, especially in light of an ongoing global pandemic, economic concerns, and the adjustments associated with returning to school and workplaces.
While stress is a normal physiological reaction that all people experience, it can slide into a severe condition like anxiety or depression if left unchecked. One thing to look for is whether the feeling goes away after a stressful event has ended, said Dr. Gail Saltz, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
Stress can also exacerbate mental conditions like depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, Saltz said in a 2021 interview with CNN.
If you suspect you might have chronic stress or another mental health disorder, you should talk to a trusted friend or family member to see whether they have noticed differences and reach out to a mental health professional, said Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble, psychologist and founder of the AAKOMA Project, a youth mental health nonprofit, in a 2021 story.
Journaling, podcasts and books
The quest for better mental and physical health didn’t stop at a quick internet search, according to the data.
Among the popular terms were searches for more resources on mental health, like books, podcasts and journaling techniques aimed at improving wellness.
“Expressive writing works for a number of reasons,” said James Pennebaker, a psychologist, researcher and professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Acknowledging an upsetting event has value, he added in a previous CNN story. “And writing about it also helps the person find meaning or understand it.”
There are also guided and formatted journals to help keep you going.
One significant change this year was the addition of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for mental health crises. The number is as simple as three digits: 988.
Those numerals were among the health-related searches that saw a surge this year.
The dialing code is available across the United States and is meant to be easier to access for people in mental health crises, similar to 911.
“One of the goals of 988 is to ensure that people get the help they need when they need it, where they need it. And so, when a person calls 988, they can expect to have a conversation with a trained, compassionate crisis counselor who will talk with them about what they’re experiencing,” said Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, the administrator of the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in an interview with CNN in July.
“If it’s the case that they need further intervention, then likely the crisis counselor will connect them with a local mobile crisis team,” she added.
Additional reporting by CNN’s Jacqueline Howard, Megan Marples and Veronica Stracqualursi