By Susie Ellis, Chairman & CEO, Global Wellness Institute
Davos and mindfulness. It is fantastic news for our industry that for the first time on the World Economic Forum's agenda, there were mindfulness sessions daily - led by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Apparently the topic infiltrated many other conversations. In addition, Dr. Dean Ornish was interviewed about the results of his research on reversing heart disease. While neither of these topics are new to those of us in the industry (both entered our zeitgeist about 20 years ago) the fact is that what's on the agenda in Davos is what's trending and that means these are now entering the mainstream. We should pause and let that sink in. It's really important.
I had the good fortune of attending the Davos World Economic Forum in 1998 and 1999. Those years the conversations were all about the internet - no mention of wellness. I was there as "spouse" because my husband, Peter, had been invited to present his internet commerce model for selling cars. He had pioneered the first automotive website Auto-by-Tel in 1995. When I think about how "new" the internet conversations were in Davos those years and compare them to where we are today, well it gives me the chills because it is likely that we have absolutely no idea how advanced the wellness discussions will be 20 years from now.
Thierry Malleret, who himself was one of the chief architects of the Davos agenda for decades, sums up this year's Davos agenda and gives special mention to the importance that was placed on wellness.
"There is no better gauge of global sentiments than the WEF Davos Annual Meeting that took place last week. What is the conventional wisdom among global decision-makers and investors? Their two biggest concerns - leaving the economy and financial instability aside: rising inequalities and climate change. Climate change was a particular concern for senior executives in the travel and tourism industry. The evidence that extreme weather events are increasing in intensity and frequency is incontrovertible. Even “mild” shifts in weather over the next few decades will cost global companies hundreds of billions of $ - they have no choice but to adapt. They like: the US economy, long $ / short € and ¥, India, technology and all the themes supported by global mega-trends (wellness, ageing, sustainability, food and water, etc.) They dislike: (most) emerging markets, energy / commodities exporters and all related assets. An interesting feature of this year’s Davos was the realization that wellness disciplines such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness have passed an inflection point and are now becoming part of the mainstream. Mindfulness – defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, (a molecular biologist who pioneered mindfulness meditation), as: “paying attention, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” – was at the center of many discussions. Several CEOs acknowledged that it has an impact on the workplace: it reduces stress, improves the sentiment of wellness and promotes calmness, clarity and creativity. So much so that it is now part of the training program of more and more companies, ranging from General Mills to Goldman Sachs."