Wellness

What Is Global Wellness Day, Who Founded It, and How to Celebrate

We interviewed the founder of Global Wellness Day, and compiled a list of awesome physical and mental health activities on offer at hotels around Asia.

Shirodhara Treatment, COMO Shambhala Estate

Shirodhara Treatment. Courtesy of COMO Shambhala Estate

By Uracha Chaiyapinunt

Jun 3, 2022

WE’RE MIDWAY THROUGH 2022, and wellness has become ubiquitous. It’s not just because of the pandemic, though certainly a world-sweeping virus has encouraged more people to take a pause, to assess their habits, behaviors and priorities. Seems like everyone is chatting about wellness casually over dinner with friends and family; complaining about it incessantly with colleagues; choosing hotels based on the health facilities and programs offered; and constantly receiving narratives around the importance of self-care from every media and pop culture outlet. But this wasn’t the case 11 years ago, when Belgin Aksoy first founded Global Wellness Day. 

Celebrated annually on the second Saturday of June, Global Wellness Day is a social project that highlights the importance of holistic health. With the slogan “One day can change your whole life,” Global Wellness Day is intended to shed light on a deceptively simple question: How can I live a healthier and better life? Back in 2011, this question was mostly met with more questions; wellness was considered a buzzword at best, and a taboo topic at worst. These days, hotels and organizations, individuals and influencers around the world have picked up the mantle — in 2019, none other than Oprah namechecked #GlobalWellnessDay on an Instagram video of a hike with her dog Sadie and her bestie Gayle King. “No matter where you are on your wellness journey, kicking off your day with one small, healthy habit can go a long way,” her caption read.

Belgin Aksoy, Founder of Global Wellness Day with Oprah Winfrey
Belgin Aksoy, founder of Global Wellness Day with Oprah Winfrey. Courtesy of Global Wellness Day

In 2004, Belgin Aksoy, a Turkish hotelier, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. For someone who’d thought she’d led a fairly healthy lifestyle — eating well and exercising regularly — the diagnosis felt entirely unexpected, sparking her lifelong hunt for a better understanding of health. Through this personal chapter, Aksoy made it her mission to advocate for wellness on an international stage. “Wellness, for me, is a whole,” she tells Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia. It’s “physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, the process of self-discovery, the balance of the body and the soul.”

In pursuit of that, she, one, founded Richmond Nua Wellness-Spa, Turkey’s first destination spa known internationally for its award-winning wellness programs bolstered by a robust compendium of aquatherapy treatments and health traditions from Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Turkish Bath, Richmond Nua Wellness-Spa, Global Wellness Day hotels and activities 2022 what is it and who founded it, Belgin aksoy
Turkish bath. Courtesy of Richmond Nua Wellness-Spa

And, two, to ensure the message was accessible to all, she founded Global Wellness Day. “I’ve always believed that wellness is not a luxury but the inherent right of every individual,” Aksoy says. “Wellness is the quality of life. Wellness reflects how we look, how we feel, and how we relate to our surroundings. Wellness is looking in the mirror and being happy with what you see, being kind to yourself and to others. Respecting yourself and your environment. Wellness is self-responsibility and not allowing others to decide for you.”

To further raise awareness, Aksoy has appointed 103 Global Wellness Day ambassadors and 25 key supporters and advisors around the world. These individuals work together to organize complimentary activities every year: past events have included fun runs, forest therapy, sound baths, yoga, Zumba, Tai Chi, biking and more. A lot of these events also connect people with the community; this year, for example, Aksoy will be taking part in Chiva-Som International Health Resort’s annual CSR project, a medical aid mission to disadvantaged communities near the Thailand-Myanmar border.

Courtesy of Global Wellness Day (2)

As Oprah said, you can easily mark Global Wellness Day on your own, with just one small healthy habit. But if you choose to go the old-school route — a la the era when, as Aksoy says, “wellness was mainly considered a luxury; visiting luxury spas and destinations, for instance”  —  we have put together a brief list of interesting ways that hotels and resorts around Asia are celebrating Global Wellness Day 2022 with both guests and non-guests. This is by no means a comprehensive guide, so if none of these highlights strike your fancy, get Googling for inspo… and save the date for June 11, regardless. 

A Handful of Hotels with Cool Global Wellness Day Events in 2022

Pullman Maldives Maamutaa

pullman accor maldives Global Wellness Day hotels and activities 2022 what is it and who founded it
Pullman Maldives Maamutaa. Courtesy of Accor

It’s hard to top a Maldivian summer, but here’s how the Pullman Maldives Maamutaa are taking Global Wellness Day to the next level this year. Hawaii’s internationally renowned free diver Jessica Cao will be at the resort to lead a complimentary beginners free diving course for guests, as part of the hotel’s Aqua Week that runs from June 7 to 12. 

pullmanmaldivesmaamutaa.com

Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam

Bamboo Massage for Vietnamese Journey Ritual, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Global Wellness Day hotels and activities 2022 what is it and who founded it
Bamboo Massage for Vietnamese Journey Ritual. Courtesy of Six Senses

Situated on a dramatic bay overlooking the East Vietnam Sea, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay is kicking things off on June 10 with an intimate wellness gathering featuring the hotel’s wellness specialist, who will be sharing tips on how to improve sleep quality. Guests can pick and choose from a variety of complimentary activities like sunrise hike to Fairy Beach, meditation and yoga

sixsenses.com/en/resorts/ninh-van-bay

The Peninsula Hotel, Bangkok

The Pool, The Peninsula Bangkok, Global Wellness Day hotels and activities 2022 what is it and who founded it
Courtesy of The Peninsula Bangkok

The Peninsula Hotel is known for going big in the holistic health department, and Global Wellness Day this year is not an exception with its three-day retreat ‘The Art of Happiness’ fair from June 10 to 13. The schedule is packed with up to 14 activities a day, ranging from crystal sound and gong therapy; cooking classes with the hotel’s five-star culinary team; de-stress acupressure sessions; physical workouts; a cocktail event; and educational panels led by experts in the field. 

peninsula.com/bangkok

Capella Tufu Bay, Sanya

Capella Tufu Bay, Sanya, Global Wellness Day hotels and activities 2022 what is it and who founded it
Courtesy of Capella Tufu Bay, Sanya

An all-day affair, Capella Tufu Bay is starting Global Wellness Day this year with a cycling tour that will take guests through the vibrant countryside that surrounds the property. When you’re back at Capella, head to the beach lawn for morning ritual tai chi, followed by a HIIT class at the beach that promises to be challenging yet rewarding. Find your center in the afternoon with a singing bowl session at the award-winning Auriga Spa before winding down with Capella’s evening ritual, cocktail workshop and sunset yoga at the wedding lawn.  

capellahotels.com/en/capella-sanya

Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas, Malaysia 

Anantara Desaru Coast : Spa Double Treatment Room, Global Wellness Day hotels and activities 2022 what is it and who founded it
Courtesy of Anantara

In recent years, Desaru Coast has grown to become a popular coastal destination in Southeast Asia for its convenient proximity to major cities like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. If you’ve been contemplating a trip in June, book now to enjoy complimentary activities celebrating Global Wellness Day: private singing bowl sessions from renowned sound therapist Mr. Tan Han How from June 10 to 20; weekend yoga by the beach; a limited-edition massage only available for the month; and a nature walk to take in the sights and sound of Desaru Coast. 

anantara.com/en/desaru-coast

COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali

Yoga time at COMO Shambhala Estate, Global Wellness Day hotels and activities 2022 what is it and who founded it
Courtesy of COMO Shambhala Estate

COMO hotels are known for their extensive spa and fitness programs, and in sticking to the Global Wellness Day slogan that one day can change your life, their legacy property near Ubud, COMO Shambhala Estate, has mapped out a one-day start-to-finish wellness program. From obstacle circuits to mat pilates, hydrotherapy and yoga, all signs point to this 9-hectare tropical paradise if you’re trying to leave everything behind for a day. 

comohotels.com/en/comoshambhalaestate

137 Pillars Suites & Residences, Bangkok

Dining by Design Herb Garden, 137 Pillars Suites & Residences, Bangkok, Global Wellness Day hotels and activities 2022 what is it and who founded it
Courtesy of 137 Pillars Suites & Residences, Bangkok

Reset, restart and rejoice. Need a break from the chaos? 137 Pillars Suites & Residences four-day, three-night stay in the heart of Bangkok comes with healthy plant-based meals, exclusive deep sleep turndown amenities, spa treatments and sunset guided meditation. If you’re looking for a deeper release, make sure to sign up for a talk therapy session with a counseling psychologist from MissionOn as well that aims to leave you feeling more at peace than when you checked in. 

137pillarshotels.com/en/offers/reset-restart-rejoice

Chiva-Som International Health Resort, Hua Hin

Chiva Som Global Wellness Day hotels and activities 2022 what is it and who founded it
Courtesy of Chiva-Som International Health Resort

The woman who founded Global Wellness Day, Belgin Aksoy herself will be giving a wellness talk at the famed Thai health retreat on June 2. Then Chiva-Som will take to the internet like last year, sharing their wisdom through a series of online classes and workshops on how to live mindfully via Global Wellness Day Thailand’s Facebook page. Learn from experts on which food and supplements decrease stress and anxiety; how to get started on a plant-based diet; how sound frequency and vibrations from sound bowls can clear blockage; and how to shift your mindset using powerful healing tools to boost happiness and feel-good hormones.

facebook.com/globalwellnessdayTH

Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto

Four Seasons Kyoto Global Wellness Day hotels and activities 2022 what is it and who founded it
Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto

After two years of strict border controls, head to Japan this summer for a break from reality. Taking advantage of Kyoto’s picturesque scenery, Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto will host the Higashiyama Run, whose route has been mapped out to take in some of the city’s most iconic sights. Fitness coach Sota Sasauchi will lead morning stretches and guests can choose from two different courses — both of which are guaranteed to invigorate your morning. 

fourseasons.com/kyoto

Joali Being, Maldives

Joali Being private island Global Wellness Day hotels and activities 2022 what is it and who founded it
Courtesy of Joali Being

Sweat out the stress at Joali Being this June. The second of the Joali brand hotels in the Maldives, Joali Being, which opened in late 2021, is hosting an Amazing Race that comprises a 1.5-kilometer island run followed by a 500-meter ocean swim to get your adrenaline rushing and your endorphins kicking for Global Wellness Day. 

joali.com/joalibeing

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