Six Senses’ Anna Bjurstam on wellness & happiness

Anna Bjurtsam

The happiness issue: Anna Bjurstam is the “Wellness Pioneer” at Six Senses. We talked about her role, Six Senses’ wellness philosophy, and people’s happiness factor. 

Six Senses stands out among luxury brands specializing in five-star hotels, resorts, and wellness spas offering immersive experiences blending local culture, nature, and wellness. Six Senses properties are located in some of the most picturesque and culturally rich environments across the globe, including Portugal, Fiji, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Maldives.  

Six Senses Spas offer a wide range of holistic wellness, rejuvenation, and beauty treatments administered under the guidance of expert therapists. A key element of all Six Senses properties, Six Senses Spas are also hosted by prestigious hotels and resorts in many other locations.

Anna Bjurstam is the Wellness Pioneer for Six Senses. An industry veteran of 25 years, Ms. Bjurstam also acts in the same capacity for Raison d’Etre, a brand she co-founded, and as an independent consultant and Global Wellness Summit board member. Her expertise extends beyond traditional wellness, incorporating elements like shamanism, energy medicine, and BioGeometry. And her approach to wellness is holistic, emphasizing sustainability and community. Ms. Bjurstam has been instrumental in driving forward the concept of wellness in hospitality, promoting practices that foster connection to others and the environment​. 

In 1997, Mrs. Rosamond Freeman Attwood founded Raison d’Etre Spas, which Ms. Bjurstam was a part of and joined full time in 2000. Raison d’Etre became a leader in the spa industry and was sold in 2013​. Ms. Bjurstam’s educational background includes a master’s degree in finance, and she has a deep interest in quantum physics and science, which she integrates into her wellness philosophy​.

We spoke with Anna Bjurstam about her role, Six Senses’ wellness philosophy, and people’s happiness factor. 

Can you please talk about your role there and what it entails? 

When I started with Six Senses, I was in charge of spas and wellness. After about six years, operations were doing very well, so I kind of handed it over, and today I have made up my own title, which is Wellness Pioneer. I love that title as you’re kind of pioneering and you can make mistakes, and that’s okay, because it is a pioneering industry. So, I’m in charge of our wellness strategy, the future, where we’re heading, and of the club concept that we’re going to launch next year, Six Senses Place. The first is in London, and then we’re launching in Bangkok, Dubai, Tel Aviv, New York, and Lisbon. I also work with a lot of start-ups on the side. 

Can you talk to me about Six Senses’ wellness philosophy? 

At Six Senses, our wellness philosophy is built upon foundational pillars that form the core of our approach to holistic well-being. These pillars are: mindfulness, eat, sleep, move, live naturally, and connect. One of the primary pillars is nutrition. We prioritize locally sourced, organic, clean ingredients, and are 50% plant based. We offer comprehensive, from-the-ground-up sleep programs aimed at optimizing sleep quality and duration for our guests, from designing sleep-friendly environments with quality bedding to sleep assessments and support. Everything has been approved by sleep doctors. In every location we have our integrated biomarker screening. Our educated practitioners have a minimum five-year education in health. This can be in exercise physiology or as a naturopath, or something else. This is a non-invasive, FDA approved device that gives us a very good understanding of a person’s health and wellness status, to guide us in personalizing programs to individuals. 

We have a systemized approach across all of our properties, including the same food system, whether in China, Thailand, or Europe — the ingredients change, but the system and the parameters are the same. We have the same beds in all our locations, our integrated wellness is the same. We also have a kids program called Grow with Six Senses. The framework is the same wherever you are but you do different things if you’re in Thailand vs Switzerland. We have the same base treatment menu in every location. But then, in India we do Ayurveda, in Thailand we do Thai massage. We try to make everything as localized as possible. 

And then of course, sustainability is a big thing, and that feeds into wellness. We’re probably the most sustainable hotel company out there today. We haven’t had plastic bottles for 20 years. We are plastic free in our locations. We still have plastic computers and the AC is built from plastic, but single-use plastic is almost completely gone 

Could you discuss how wellness trends vary in different locations around the world? Like, between Asia, Europe, and other regions? What are some notable developments in these areas?

Countries are becoming more and more proud of their own indigenous wellness treasures, such as TCM in China, Ayurveda in India, or other healing modalities in South America. That’s something in which we’re seeing a big surge. We’re also seeing a strong trend where guests are seeking out native healing traditions. On the complete other end of things, longevity is booming much more in Europe and the US compared to Asia. Asia and that side of the world is more spiritual and connected to nature in everything they do. They’re smarter than we are, because if your connected with nature, have community, and feel that you have a purpose, you’re happier and healthier, and live longer than people who do IVs and injections and stem cells while stressing about it. But biohacking is obviously still something that’s really happening. 

China is also very focused on beauty. Beauty is booming and they’re moving through beauty trends at super speed. They’re really into natural cosmetics and cosmetic supplementation.

Are you seeing a rise in interest in wellness travel and interest in wellness in general? 

It’s Booming! It’s incredible how big it is. Five or so years ago, maybe 25% – 30% of our guests were interested in wellness. Now, I would say it’s 99%. This is probably more the case at Six Senses than at some other resorts because we’re now known for wellness. We’re not running serious wellness retreats but we have more wellness than other hotel brands and you can dip your toe in if you’re interested. You can do this biomarker screening, but you don’t have to do a whole detox program, and you can learn about how to create your own body scrub, deodorant, and face cream at our Alchemy Bar. 

So, yes, I’d say that things have completely changed. The early adopters, who were interested five years ago are now doing intermittent fasting and cold dips and blue blocking glasses. And then the other 70% are getting more and more interested in how to eat well, how you sleep better, and that sort of thing. 

Why do you think there is this rise in interest? 

I think people are tired and overwhelmed. When we look at our phone in the morning, in that first 30 minutes our brains get as much information as we did in a full week 50 years ago. We’re completely overwhelmed with information and people are tired. That’s what we’re seeing. People are not sleeping, they’re worried, they’re stressed, their cortisol levels are too high. They need to learn how to stimulate their vagus nerve and improve their HRV. And you do that through relaxation, being out in nature, and going back to basics. 

How does technology fit into wellness and hospitality these days? Do you find you are using more of it?

We’re using a lot more technology, but we’re trying to be mindful. I’m using wearables at the moment because I am in the period of measurements, but then I’ll go three or four months and do nothing. Because the most important thing is to listen to your own body and its cues. It’s much smarter than any wearable, but sometimes we need wearables to learn about our bodies, which is interesting. So, I think we’re trying to use it mindfully at Six Senses in the sense that we use it when it serves us and not when it doesn’t.

Be mindful of digitally detoxing every day if you can. We encourage our guests not to look at their phones first thing in the morning if possible. Because that will overstimulate the brain and the brain gets tired. You’re supposed to have a slow buildup of your brain function. 

Can you address how all of the things that you do at Six Senses contribute to happiness. Do you think a lot about people’s happiness factor? 

Yes, we do. Incredibly much, I would say. But not really “happiness” exactly, because happiness is a cursed word. It means that you have to do something to become happy, like buy a new car. If we talk to Buddhist monks, they talk instead about “contentment.” Contentment is something to strive for because happiness implies that we always have to be on a high end. 

We’re rolling out a program later this year for spiritual wellbeing, which is about having purpose and being connected with yourself and others. Having a community is very important for being happy or being content. If we are content in life, we have joy. Being content brings more fulfillment. I believe that, more than anything else, spiritual wellbeing and finding awe and wonder and curiosity in life is what creates what we call happiness. 

That’s why we’re so big on things like retreats and festivals. We want to create that community. We’ve also been rolling out communal tables and conversation cards on tables. So, you can put your phone in a box and use conversation cards. It’s been so successful. Guests are loving it.

What are you excited about? 

I’m incredibly excited about longevity and what you can do to prevent needing to go to hospital or getting various diseases. Seventy percent of Americans suffer from autoimmune disease, and 40% have two. The likelihood that I will get cancer is pretty big, but if I do the longevity measures, I can maybe push that forward five years and that’s huge. So, I’m very excited about longevity research and also the more technical stem cell, exosomes, peptides research that’s happening at the moment. Female health has been growing and I’ve learned so much in the last couple of years that I wish I knew before about how my body actually works. And then I’m very excited about shamanism and energy medicine because that’s something very close to my heart.


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