I’m here at the first day of the 2015 Global Wellness Summit in Mexico City and even after a long day of travel, a poor night of sleep due to jet lag and the altitude adjustment (we’re at about 7,400 ft, which is a switch for a Piedmonter such as myself), I’m full of inspiration and ideas. Some of the world’s leading thinkers and innovators in the health and wellness space—including Wellness Warrior founder Deborah Szekely—have gathered here to connect, share their ideas, and continue the progress of the wellness movement worldwide.
“Wellness” can be an elusive word with many different nuances and definitions depending on who is using it. Here at the Summit, we’re quickly learning that it is a growing and changing concept driven by science, intuition, entrepreneurship, and passion. The morning session was, in part, a celebration of that progressiveness. Some highlights:
—The Summit opened with celebrated filmmaker and director Louie Schwartzberg, whose videos of the natural world are as technically brilliant as they are spiritually moving. An outspoken critic of industrial impacts to ecosystems (“The U.S. needs to ban Monsanto’s RoundUp, just as the EU has done” he exclaimed), Schwartzberg shared numerous video clips including one very appropriate to Mexico about monarch butterflies, one about the symbiosis between bats and cacti in the Sonoran desert, and one from his upcoming production of Fantastic Fungi (the links we share here are similar, but not identical to the ones shown at the Summit). “Mother Nature,” he said, speaking about the intention with which he approaches his films, “is still my greatest teacher.” He reminded us all to include the concepts of gratitude, mindfulness, focus and joy into our definition of wellness.
—Susie Ellis, CEO and Chairman of the Summit, gave a warm welcome to the audience and highlighted the importance of the gathering for furthering the health and wellness industry’s message of seeking prevention and proactive health solutions. “Together, we are stronger,” she exclaimed, a sentiment with which we at Wellness Warrior couldn’t agree with more. She also explained that the Summit was adding more of a focus on wellness in green building construction, in the workplace, in travel, and in schools then it has before.
—A bilingual bienvinido was delivered by Miguel Turruco Marqués, Mexico City’s Minister of Tourism. He spoke of the strides that the city has taken towards wellness (a city in which, according to Marqués, 80 percent of people are suffering from some degenerative disease) including getting over 20,000 restaurants to take the salt shakers off of their tables. He shared news of this machine in the subway that gives free tickets for doing 10 squats. His was a reminder that wellness can be enacted on a community/city scale.
—Delving into the world of research associated with wellness, Dr. Claudia Aguirre shared with delegates her incredible research and work in the new and emerging field of psychodermatology (yes, you read that correctly). Have you ever come down with a rash during a period of extreme stress, or watched a blemish blossom on your chin right before the prom? That’s her field of study and the research is fascinating. Similar to the way in which we now know about the gut-brain connection, they are finding that there is a skin-brain connection as well! Researchers have found clear evidence of neural pathways that govern our thoughts and emotions and are only activated through the skin. Among other things, she posited that this new field could end up giving us insight into autism and schizophrenia. Check out Dr. Aguirre’s website here, and her Ted Talk here above. It will blow your mind—or your skin—or both! Her talk was a reminder that the concept of wellness is expanding exponentially through science and a deeper understanding of our biology.
The morning didn’t end there. Thierry Malleret of the Monthly Barometer gave data and an economic analysis of why, in his words, “The world has no other choice than to make wellness mandatory.” Maggie Hsu, chief of staff at Zappos and formerly the Downtown Project, spoke eloquently on the Holocratic approach with which Zappos approaches creating a healthy workforce. Katherine Johnston and Ophelia Yeung gave an update on the workplace wellness research from the Global Wellness Institute, noting a whopping 87% of people are disengaged at their workplace and that wellness at work is a right and a responsibility of us all. Bonnie Baker, Eduard Rincon Gallardo, Fernanda Montiel and Diana Mestre gave a beautiful talk on the power of the traditional Mexican Temazcal, an indigenous healing practice. And our MC, the talented and Emmy winning Giselle Fernandez, gave guidance in “intention setting” for the conference when recounting her experience with a Mexican shaman who told her, “Be more you than you have ever been before.”
The world of wellness is vast and ever-changing as evidenced by this opening session of the Global Wellness Summit. To limit the word “wellness” to one definition would seem shortsighted, almost foolhardy. I feel fortunate to be surrounded this weekend by many leaders who can help us all better understand the meaning of the word.
PHOTO: The Wellness Warrior team in Mexico City at the Global Wellness Summit. From left to right, Chief correspondent Damon Cory-Watson, Wellness Warrior founder Deborah Szekely and Senior Advisor Mary-Elizabeth Gifford.