How one woman’s dream convinced business owners, international corporations and even governments to stop for just one day…and say no to profits and yes to wellness!
Even when though it was only held in one location in her home country of Turkey, Belgin Aksoy still called her dream event “Global Wellness Day,” because she was determined it would be. Unbelievably, eight years since it launched, the special day of complimentary, educational wellness activities for the masses will be celebrated on June 8th in over 5,000 locations in more than 150 countries on six continents. And, somehow the passion and determination of this beautiful businesswoman has convinced private companies, multi-national hotel corporations and even governments to support Global Wellness Day (GWD), without a dime of profit and with no official sponsors.
The event’s rallying cry is, “One Day Can Change Your Life!” and it certainly has changed hers. Raised in a well-known textile manufacturing family in Turkey who later became hoteliers, Aksoy, became part of the wellness world as she developed Richmond Nua, Turkey’s only destination spa, on a lake about 90 minutes outside of Istanbul. Then a terrifying bout with cancer made her realize how precious wellness really was. She loves to point out that people celebrate anything from Donut Day (June 7 in the U.S.) to International Mud Day (June 29)—so why not have a day dedicated to learning how to live well both mentally and physically?
“The realization hit me that wellness is not a luxury but a necessity, explains Aksoy, “in fact it is the fundamental right of every individual, especially children. But what school curriculum teaches children how to how to destress, how to be mindful, how to love themselves – all essential tools for being happy adults in the future?”
The turning point in taking GWD global was in 2014 when Aksoy began to appoint GWD Ambassadors and Key Supporters around the world (all volunteer of course), — most who she knew from the spa & wellness industries. Their job: to help her convince people, businesses and communities in their own countries to get on board. A secret weapon: a pink paddle with the words: “I Say Yes! to Wellness.” That paddle – which was a perfect prop for pictures — helped notables from Richard Branson to Dr. Oz literally “get behind” GWD’s message.
Next, she created a Seven Step Manifesto – including very simple things like “Do a Good Deed” or “Have Dinner with Loved Ones” — that made it very simple to introduce wellness practices into anyone’s life, no matter their socioeconomic background.
This year’s list of events is dizzying but here are plans for just two countries:
South Africa – Rated the unhealthiest and most stressed country in the world, South Africa GWD team is working towards changing these statistics by speaking at schools about wellness; visiting senior care centers and taking collections of clothes, food & toys to the needy.
France – The Mayor of Paris’ 10 municipal arrondissement will kick off festivities at City Hall with actor Christian Lambert involved. Besides more than 20 events across France, Le Tigre Yoga Clubs throughout Paris will offer public yoga classes.
China, Kenya, Cayman Islands, Peru, Zimbabwe and Dominican Republic are new to the ever-expanding lists of countries celebrating GWD this year. And surprisingly there are a number of countries that feature GWD events in more than 30 locations such as France, Spain, Cyprus, Canada, Hungary, etc.
Aksoy even received a letter of endorsement from Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment in the Maldives, since promoting healthy, active and positive lifestyles is an important initiative for the island nation’s new president, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
Gym Source — America’s largest commercial distributor of fitness equipment — will convert all 35 of their stores to gyms open to the public on GWD.
And, Members of 60 different hotel companies such as Marriott, Four Seasons, Rosewood, Fairmont, Swissotel, Pendry, One & Only, Conrad, Raffles and Six Senses are organizing events. Some are going all the way:
- Mandarin Oriental Hotels — with more Forbes Five-Star Spas than any other hotel group, will use GWD to kick off their celebration of innovations achieved over 10 Years of Wellness and offer complimentary wellness activities at all hotels and resorts worldwide.
- Hyatt Hotels Corp — More than 400 properties, including the company’s regional and corporate offices will host unique health and wellness-related activities on June 8th. Just two examples:
- Hyatt Place and Hyatt House Yinchuan Dayuecheng: This hotel in China is promoting a Family Day Photo Contest as well as hosting a Get Up and Step Up Challenge, where colleagues will use WeChat to count their steps in the morning, promoting efforts to start each day with exercise.
- Exhale: To pull back the curtain on their many spa and fitness offerings, all Exhale locations will be allowing guests and members to bring a friend for free on Global Wellness Day.
“Wellness for me is a whole: physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, adds Aksoy, the process of self-discovery, the balance of body and soul.”
Her hope is that tomorrow is just the beginning of people remembering to take time for their own – and their community’s wellbeing.