The incidence of lifestyle diseases is increasing. The United Nations estimates that global deaths due to chronic diseases are expected to increase to 70 per cent by 2030. Mental health should not be underestimated either. According to the World Health Organization, depression is one of the leading causes of disability.
Wellness is not only about physical health. It is more a holistic approach, taking into account the state of our mental, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing.
What is promising is that we can make big changes with some modest adjustments.
What is Global Wellness Day?
Global Wellness Day (GWD) takes place on the second Saturday in June. It encourages you to commit to a change that will improve your well-being.
It advocates a simple 7 Step manifesto that you can put to practice in your daily life.
- Walk for an hour
- Drink more water
- Don’t use plastic bottles
- Eat healthy food
- Do a good deed
- Have a family dinner with your loved ones
- Sleep at 10 pm.
Belgin Aksoy established GWD in 2012. Today, it is celebrated in more than 170 countries and in 8,000 locations. There are over a hundred wellness day ambassadors from all walks of life leading the way in their own countries.
Of import, if you wish to organize an event, is the creed that wellness is the right of every individual. Hence, admissions are free of charge. Events cannot be commercialized. Global Wellness Day logos are available to be used, but products cannot be merchandised.
From a Passion for the Hotel Industry to a Devotion for Wellness
Wellness is often taken for granted when we are growing up. As children, we are able to find joy and wonder in the smallest things. For Belgin Aksoy, it was not something she thought much about. Her dream was to be in the hotel business. Hotels intrigued her. Her eyes lit up as she told me: “You get to meet people from all over the world whilst being in the same place. Being able to interact with so many different nationalities feels like you are travelling the world with them.”
After graduating from the Institute Hotelier César Ritz in Switzerland in 1995, she started working in hotels. Starting her stint in kitchens, in restaurants, and at the reception, she then spent six years in the sales and marketing department before taking over her family hotel in Istanbul.
It all seemed to be going to plan.
Then in 2004 at the age of 28, Belgin underwent a life-changing experience. She fell ill and was hospitalized. She stayed in isolation for 10 days at the hospital. When discharged, she was obliged to maintain a five-metre distance from friends and family for another week. Her son was only 17 months old at the time.
“It was torture.” She recalls.
“First I could not see my loved ones. Then I was not allowed to touch them. It made me think about the impact wellness has on our lives. I am thankful that this happened when I was 28 and not when I am 98 years old. I would have missed out on the opportunity to make a difference.”
Belgin tells us that she tries every day to become a ‘human being’.
“We are very different from other living creatures”, she explains. “Doing a good deed by itself doesn’t make you more human. Unconsciously we tend to expect something back from others. I want to do something because it is right and that makes the difference.”
We asked the founder of Global Wellness Day more about herself and her motivations.
What is your definition of wellness?
Wellness is the right of every individual. There is a misconception that wellness is reserved for the wealthy or the elite. Wellness is not a luxury, it is not about material possessions or your career. For me, it means a lifetime journey of finding physical, mental and spiritual health. It is about balance. It can be as simple as waking up, feeling good and being able to appreciate life.
What was your intention in creating Global wellness Day?
I wanted to influence people about the benefits of wellness. After my illness, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery. Out of curiosity, I started to scour the website for a day celebrating wellness. After all, there are days recognizing women, cancer, jazz, the environment, and the list goes on. To my surprise, it did not exist. So I decided to create it.
I organized the first event at the hotel in 2012. It was a small affair with 150-200 guests who were mainly family and friends. I planned yoga, meditation sessions and a juicing workshop. I invited speakers like Marc David, a renowned leader in nutritional psychology.
After the event, one woman in her 50s commented that she always thought yoga was only for those who were young and fit. Another lady remarked that juicing was not as tiresome as she had imagined and she was surprised that it actually tasted good.
I was excited and believed I could make a difference. One person who discovered something new and left feeling good would share that experience with others. Their influence would cause a ripple effect!
That’s how our slogan came about “One day can change your whole life.”
Who or what was your biggest influence?
My father has always had a great influence on me. He is hardworking and he never gives up. He believes you can succeed if you put your mind to it.
The other person is Deborah Szekely [who started the health revolution and founded the destination spa, Rancho La Puerta, in the 1950s] — whom I met in Morocco in 2014. She is 98 years old and is known as ‘the mother of wellness’. She started the health and fitness movement well before it became a trend. She has a wealth of experience with a strong personality. I like how she sets her intentions for the day when she wakes up each morning.
What makes you laugh?
This is a great question! Laughter is beneficial for your immune system and reduces stress. Children laugh way more than adults do. It puts us in a more positive mindset.
I enjoy spending time with people who have a good sense of humour. My son, my boyfriend and my friend Ebru can always make me laugh. They have a sharp wit and their jokes crack me up.
If there were little changes we could make in our lives that could have a big impact, what three things would you advise?
I would say just take any of the three things on the 7-step GWD manifesto. It may be common sense, but they are simple enough for anyone to achieve. By doing them regularly, you will feel a difference.
Also, do invest in human relationships. Despite being more connected by technology today, we often find ourselves more alone than ever.
How do you think the wellness industry will change moving forward from the pandemic?
When I first started with GWD, people used to always ask, “Why are you doing this? What is the point?” People were sceptical about the concept. With the experience we have from the pandemic, I believe more people have understood the importance and impact of wellness. This new awareness means the wellness industry will be viewed differently. I hope it will change the misconception that it is only for the elite.
It should be for everyone.