In a perfect world, every day of the year would be wellness day and we’d be well every day of the year.
But as you know, the world is not perfect…and sometimes it takes being unwell to realize that wellness deserves a special celebration and day of its very own. Can just one day change your life? That’s the idea.
It all started with an illness, a vision and a commitment from a special someone to make June 8th a day to celebrate wellness around the world. Eight years ago, it started with one celebration at one Turkish spa, blossoming over the years into events in over 150 countries and 5,000 locations.
Turkish businesswoman and destination spa owner Belgin Aksoy began Global Wellness Day fueled by her passion and belief that wellness, rather than being a luxury, is the inherent right of every single person. By enlisting the help of hotels, spa chains, fitness centers, yoga studios, foundations, hospitals, schools, senior centers and entire towns, Belgin is spreading the message of wellness.
“Wellness is the quality of life. Wellness reflects how we look, how we feel, and how we relate to our surroundings. It’s looking in the mirror and being happy with what you see; it’s being kind to yourself and others. Wellness is self-responsibility and not allowing others to decide for you.”
I couldn’t agree more; I agree wholeheartedly that we’re all entitled to wellness; that wellness is not only a right but a necessity – and a gift to treasure. And like Belgin, I had my brush with a life-threatening illness. But since I realize, in this so-called midlife, that I’m more the type whose strength is in conceptualizing rather than organizing, I was curious as to how this woman managed to motivate over 100 volunteer ambassadors, advisors and supporters to turn her dream into a reality. And on such a wide scale, at that… Thanks for the inspiration and hard work, Belgin!
Going through a life-threatening illness really makes you evaluate what kind of care arrangements would suit you best, especially in your old age. One of my friends works as a home carer for a franchise and I think if I could be looked after by someone like her, I would know that I was in safe hands. Are you a home carer contemplating running your own senior care business? If so you might be interested to learn more about CareShyft. For more information, head to careshyft.com.
So, let us now move on to my chat with Belgin.
SK: What inspired you to create Global Wellness Day? What fueled your passion?
BA: In 2004, I had serious health problems and experienced radical changes in my life. In this process I learned something new but challenging every day while regaining my health. I learned that the balance of health and happiness is indispensable. After seeing the positive effects due to the changes I have made in my life, I couldn’t just sit; I had to do something to spread the message out to the world.
This was the starting point of a labor-packed journey, with a simple but also significant question; “Health is one of the most important issues of our lives – there are so many special days – from “Hug Your Cat Day” to “Tell a Joke Day” and Donut Day” – why isn’t there a day dedicated to living well?
With that in mind, I created Global Wellness Day in 2012 and started celebrating it in my hometown of Istanbul, Turkey.
SK: Can you describe how/when it began, how it grew to where it is today?
BA: With the slogan “One day can change your whole life,” Global Wellness Day is celebrated on the second Saturday of June every year. It is a non-for-profit day, a social project dedicated to living well with the purpose of asking the question: “How can I live a healthier and better life?” to help raise awareness of both individuals and society toward what it means to truly live well.
To spread Global Wellness Day’s message, we have appointed 87 GWD Ambassadors, 25 Key Supporters and four Advisors from around the world who work in coordination with each other and the mass media in their countries to help spread Global Wellness Day worldwide by organizing GWD celebration activities on the second Saturday of June each year. Global Wellness Day celebrations around the world include 50K marathon, 5K walk, forest therapy, planting trees, visiting elderly care facilities, beach cleaning, food and clothes delivered to needy, positive thinking, zumba, yoga, breathing, laughter, forest therapy, bike riding, Tai Chi, mindfulness techniques and much more.
Happily, on its 8th year – and the 5th year it has been celebrated internationally — Global Wellness Day has become an event celebrated in more than 5,000 locations, in over 150 countries and 6 continents only with complimentary activities.
SK: What was your biggest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
BA: The biggest obstacle we faced in all GWD celebrating countries was to make certain communities of the societies aware of the “wellness” concept – that it is about both the body and the mind! Yes, today, many are well-aware that eating healthy and doing physical activities is a great way to live well, but still many people think that wellness only for the elite that they can’t easily obtain. In this context, the fundamental purpose of Global Wellness Day is to make us aware of the value of our lives; even if it’s for one day of the year, to make us stop and think, to get away from the stress of our everyday lives and our bad habits, and thereby find peace within ourselves.
With Global Wellness Day’s Seven Step Manifesto, we aim to make it simple for wellness to be a part of anyone’s life, no matter their social or economic background. That’s why community participation – our theme for this year – is so important.
SK: What was the biggest surprise?
BA: Working day and night to spread wellness and in the end seeing Global Wellness Day embraced by so many people around the world in such a short time was a surprise. Having the Global Wellness Day flag reach the Mt. Everest Summit, a climb I will never be able to make, or seeing a bridge built in the “No Man’s Land” border of Thailand and Myanmar, a place I will never have a chance to visit, having aid missions organized for the needy, having support from Presidents to mayors, from schools to hospitals, from world-renowned business people to Hollywood stars and much more and finally having an extraordinary Global Wellness Day Family of 116, all the while touching the hearts of millions, I guess these are just a few moments that surprise and warm my heart.
SK: What’s the most important/meaningful message about wellness that you want to send to the world?
BA: I’m a strong advocate of the idea that wellness is not a luxury but a necessity, the fundamental right of every individual. Wellness, for me is a whole; physical, mental and emotional well-being, the process of self-discovery, the balance of the body and the soul.
Click here for a full list of countries and their specific celebrations.
What does wellness mean to you?