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The Future of Wellness with Samantha Wong

Our world is changing at a rapid pace – what does the future hold for wellness?

Samantha Wong is the co-founder of marketing agency On Air Collective and restaurant group Little Bao, as well as publisher of WOM Guide. Impressively, she’s also a triathlete and an associate partner of The Women’s Foundation. How does she find the energy to do it all? Here, she lets us in on her secret to living – and working – well.

“Wellness isn’t a specific lifestyle; it’s a state of mind. ”

Hi Samantha! You must have a packed schedule, so tell us, why is wellness a priority to you?

SW: You can achieve so much more when you’re healthy – it’s a cliché, but somehow I didn’t realise this until just a few years ago. I used to work very long hours when I started my own company and restaurant. I didn’t sleep enough, let alone exercise. The stress was overbearing and I would always get sick as soon as I relaxed. I knew I had to break this cycle.

Serendipitously I’d joined a programme by Nike, which prepared me for a half marathon. The training helped me build a new routine. I was amazed at how both my health and energy levels had improved, but this was only the beginning of my transformation. Along the way, I’ve discovered that wellness is more than just physical fitness…

What does “wellness” mean, then?

SW: Many of us are rethinking what “wellness” means this year. For me, it’s the process of making conscious choices towards a healthy, fulfilling life. I’d say it’s 80% mental health and 20% physical wellness. Our mind determines our actions, after all.

So what are some wellness trends to watch out for?

SW: We now take a more holistic approach towards health, which encompasses physical, mental and social wellbeing. Fitness, for example, is still a major growing sector, but the focus is shifting from the get-into-shape kind of workouts to activities that promote general health. I imagine more will look into wellness coaching, which is less about exercise performance, but more about building an overall healthy lifestyle.

Mindfulness is also going mainstream. Many have raved about the benefits of meditation for years, but we always had this impression that meditation was a singular activity involving sitting quietly with eyes closed. This idea is changing with a variety of meditative practices becoming more popular, from singing bowl meditation to mindful fitness and art making.

Where else can we see this change in attitude toward wellness?

SW: Our understanding of wellness has widened to include a tendency to seek purpose in everything we do. This is reflected in consumers’ choices, from organic foods to socially responsible brands.

When we organised The Gourmet Theatre for Tong Chong Street Market (TCSM) earlier this year, guests didn’t just want to come eat and drink; they were also curious about the stories behind each dish, chef and ingredient. And at our TCSM food truck, in addition to a plant-based menu featuring Impossible Foods, we also worked with Nike to offer free training programmes on the side. The positive response we received goes to show how events can succeed by incorporating elements of wellness to provide more meaningful experiences.

Wellness travel is also gaining traction. In the past, travel was mostly about leisure; now, people are asking, “What’s the purpose of travel?” Whether it’s a retreat to help them reset their body and mind, or a volunteer trip that allows them to do good, they’re looking for experiences with a purpose.

And how do we bring wellness into the workplace for everyone?

SW: I expect to see more Hong Kong companies offering corporate wellness programmes, particularly therapy sessions for employees. Counselling isn’t very common here; there’s the misperception that it’s only for those who are sick. I believe this will change as companies realise its benefits in supporting mental health in the workplace.

Wellness programmes aside, I think the most important thing for leaders to do is to listen to their staff and understand what they want. Occupational wellness is about whether we feel fulfilled with our jobs, and not just about the job benefits.

How about you – what’s your wellness routine like?

SW: I swim weekly and meet my personal trainer twice a week. I also prioritise health and wellbeing at work – whenever I feel stressed, I’d meditate or do something I like – sometimes, I’d even go paint or make pressed flower art for an hour before coming back to work. This may not be realistic for everyone, but the idea is to encourage breaks, even if it’s only for 15 minutes.

So, the bottom line is…

SW: Do what makes you happy. For me, wellness isn’t a specific lifestyle; it’s a state of mind. It’s about the pursuit of happiness and health, but how you’re going to get there is entirely up to you. So, whether you’re a vegan or a flexitarian, a yogi or a jogger, you do you!

Follow Samantha on Instagram @sifestyle_hk for more.

What’s the Future of Diversity? Find out with Kayla Wong, a local LGBT+ activist. Stay tuned for more insight from our panel of tastemakers. Next instalment: The Future of Cocktail Culture with Antonio Lai.

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