We have Earth Day. We have Mother's Day. We probably have Earth Mother's Day, along with hundreds of other "days" to acknowledge and celebrate something. What about Wellness Day?
Of course, every day should be devoted, in part, to wellness -- exercise, healthy eating, meditation, adequate sleep, soul-nurturing connections -- but life intercedes and we forget to remember ourselves. On an annual Wellness Day, though, people might be inspired to make long-delayed doctor's appointments, start a new fitness plan, and unplug for the sake of their health and happiness.
You might not have heard of it yet, but Wellness Day already exists. It's the brainchild of Belgin Aksoy, the 38-year-old owner of the Richmond Nua Wellness Spa in Lake Sapanca, Turkey. She's held a Wellness Day conference/festival there for two summers -- this June, the speakers and demonstrators included a yoga instructor, an organic chef, and a longevity expert. I spoke to Aksoy about why she's so passionate about the subject and how she intends to bring her vision of Wellness Day to the world.
Val: Why do we need Wellness Day?
Aksoy: Our festival slogan is "Only one day can change your entire life." So I see Wellness Day as a starting point. You can say, "On Wellness Day, I'm going to take care of myself. I'm going on a long morning walk. I'll drink a lot of water, and avoid sugar." One day of little things won't seem overwhelming, and it could kick off changes that could become a habit, adding years to your life.
Why is this so important to you?
Wellness is my passion, and I can't keep it to myself. We shouldn't wait until we get sick or we lose a loved one to realize how short life is and that we need to take care of ourselves. I know people who say, "I don't go to the doctor. I'm too busy for sleep or exercise." They think disregarding their health is something to be proud of. So many diseases can be prevented by making minor adjustments. Lives can be saved and vastly improved if we focus on wellness.
Are you speaking from personal experience?
I had thyroid cancer 10 years ago, around the time my son was born. I was breast-feeding him and had to stop when I had the operation. Since then, I prioritized my health and wellness and put all the other things -- like work -- into perspective. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, and saying, "I have no thyroid. My medication will give me cellulite and I'm going to gain tons of weight," I started taking those baby steps to exercise more and avoid sugar, and I got hooked on being fit. Now, I get up at 5:30 a.m. every day to work out. My friends ask, "Are you crazy? Why are you doing it?" and I say, "I'm doing it for me." Only for me. By the time I wake up my son, I'm full of endorphins, feel great and ready for the new day.
That does sound kind of brutal.
No, I love it! Wellness isn't a punishment. It's something you do to respect yourself. I respect my body, soul and health. I know the value of it because I almost lost it. I could get in a car accident tomorrow and die, but I'm not going to dig my grave with a fork, or with alcohol, or with stress and depression. Loving yourself means taking care of yourself as best you can. Wellness Day serves as a reminder to do just that.
Wellness has an emotional aspect, too.
Absolutely. According to the World Health Organization, by 2030, depression will be the biggest threat to public health, more than heart disease, cancer, diabetes or obesity. Doing activities that lift depression -- eating well, meditating, connecting with people in real life, cooking, doing yoga, taking a walk -- is a global need.
How committed are you to establishing a world-wide Wellness Day?
Totally committed. I don't know how long it will take, but when Wellness Day is celebrated globally -- two years or 20 years from now -- I will be the happiest woman on Earth. If it happens 90 years from now, I can die happy, knowing I helped make it happen.