Arming up with a tote, comfy shoes, and going shopping was once a fun way to discover a new brand of soap, fall in love with a fashion trend, and stop somewhere for tea while connecting with friends.

Those were more innocent times. As we head into the year 2021, that sort of activity is, in all likelihood, a historical artifact. The year of the pandemic has changed, according to a recent study, our habits around many aspects of life. And we are unlikely to return to our old ways. We shop online, discover online, and do our self-care online.

The joy of discovery we once found at the mall has moved to subscription boxes, an industry that’s currently estimated to be worth $15 billion as sheltering-at-home humans turned to them 40 percent more than they did before the pandemic. People love receiving a surprise box of everything from clothes to soap to tea to wine — or just about anything you can put in a box — because it’s a fun way to discover new products.

Telehealth — where you visit a doctor or therapist through a video connection — has also taken off, since no one wants to go where sick people congregate and hospitals are over capacity.

Combine these enormous and sudden habit changes with the fear and loneliness of sustained lockdowns, social distancing, and the canceling of our family get-togethers and you have the perfect storm for a gift season loaded with wellness subscription boxes and services.

I certainly hope so, anyway. I love to receive and open a package in the mail, especially when I don’t know what’s in it. (I am not alone in this. The dopamine hit of this experience is another huge reason subscription boxes are popular.) And giving a loved one the gift of health, wellness, and personal growth is exactly what I plan to do.  

Who’s with me?

A little therapy?

Have you ever put down the phone after talking with a friend or relative and had the sinking feeling that all is not well? What human is doing well amid all this stress and solitude? In fact, according to the CDC, 40 percent of the US population reports struggling with mental health issues, at the moment. You can give a bit of therapy, as a gentle way of helping anyone you know who is having a hard time to talk about it, through TalkSpace. Give a single online therapy session ($79) to start the ball rolling. Or gift unlimited, text-based messaging therapy ($279) so you can stand down on your own worry.

A box of self-care

Every month, Therabox will package up a self-care kit and ship it to you or your gift recipient. It might be the tools and encouragement for a healthy daily self-care ritual, a bit of luxury pampering, a happiness exercise kit, or some creative inspiration. All the joy of getting a gift package in the mail followed by the happiness contained in the box might be the highlight of the month for someone sheltering at home. A prepaid three-month subscription is $99.99.

Packaged calm

Stress is a killer. The Calm Box subscription box is designed to fight it off. Every month, you get a box filled with candles, teas, snacks, books, and other self-care items that promote calm. It’s a ritual and a treat all packaged up and shipped monthly. A three-month gift subscription is $27.99 per month.

A container of creativity

There has been a lot of talk of the amazing creativity that past pandemics have spurred. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet during the plague. Sir Isaak Newton created calculus during a pandemic. Taylor Swift dropped two albums this year. Inky Box is for the rest of us. Each box contains pens, ink, paper, projects, ideas, and inspiration for anyone who loves to put thoughts — visual or literal — down on paper. Art is therapy, right? A three-month, prepaid subscription is $109.95.

Empowered health

If all this talk of illness and our collective hesitance to go to the doctor has resulted in a feeling that you must take power over your own health and encourage your loved ones to do the same, there is no better gift than the gift of knowledge. Inside Tracker transforms the lab tests you get from your doctor (or order yourself) into knowledge. What foods will boost your immunity? What should you avoid? All this comes complete with an online dashboard and text reminders to keep you on track. It’s easy to gift, even at the very last minute.

Health insurance

Millions of American have lost health insurance during this global pandemic, which is – in the eyes of any same person — a crime against humanity. You might not be able to afford to gift someone actual health insurance to counter this cruelty, but you can give them access to telehealth. A membership to Plushcare – where they can visit a doctor online, get prescriptions, get access to birth control, manage ongoing health issues, and get a nearly instant doctor’s opinion on any health care issue that comes up is just $14.99 a month (plus $99 for the first visit.)

Or, if prescription medications aren’t an issue and you just want to gift the ability to ask for a doctor’s advice, Healthtap is just $10 a month and $45 for the first doctor’s visit.

A meditative journey

As anxiety and panic disorders explode across the country, meditation — a key for unlocking inner calm — is taking off — and it’s a great idea. If you know someone who needs to learn some calm, give a subscription to Headspace. In just a few minutes a day, with the guidance of a former monk, you will learn to find inner calm, sleep better, and get healthier and happier. There are hundreds of guided lessons and plenty of exercises to help work mindfulness into everyday activities. It’s $12.99 a month, $69.99 a year, $9.99 a year for students, o $99.99 a year for the whole family.