Self-Optimization with Anna Bjurstam, Vice President of Six Senses Spas


In the era of blooming social media and narcissism that comes along with it, it’s no wonder that so many of us would like to stay at peak performance. This early spring, the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute organized, for their 14th European Trend Day, a “Self-Optimization” conference to reveal the future of wellness trends. Among world famous writers, scientists and speakers was Anna Bjurstam, the Vice President of Six Senses Spas.

As a high-level wellness professional, she is creating the future of our spa services and is a role model for mindfulness and healthy leadership. She is challenging herself as a wellness professional by maintaining several roles at the same time – such as the VP of Six Senses Spas, the manager of Raison d’Etre spa consultation company, a Strategic Advisor for Pegasus Capital Advisors, and a founding board member of the Global Spa Summit.

Anna Bjurstam is constantly cooperating with the world’s best experts, doctors, and scientists. She tries every single new treatment prior to considering the application of the treatment at spas inspired or managed by her. Through her work, she is creating the most innovative spa treatment system in use today.
So, how invigorating would it be to test some of the very new, innovative and promising treatments for self-optimization – how far would you go to become your “Super You”?
Find out Anna’s answers along with her personal insight into self-optimization, futuristic treatments and demographical issues that future wellness and spa specialists are taught to relieve.

1) As an invested businesswoman, how do you manage your work-life balance?
The most important is to be disciplined with how you spend your time. I have two kids and I want to make sure that I’m a good mother. At the same time I have a career and then I have myself, and a husband I shouldn’t forget. I have decided that there are certain hours I work, and then there are others where I am able to switch off and focus on myself, on my children or my friends. This is especially important for women, because our brain is firing all the time, we are wired that way; we just have to be very disciplined.

It’s also about caring – we are very good at taking care of others, but we need to take care of ourselves as well. Even science has proven that we are lousy at taking care of ourselves. And then of course when taking care of yourself, you basically find your song and sing it. For me it has been this. For others it could be yoga, or running, and whatever you feel that gives you power to take care of yourself, because there is no one way that is right. Finding your way and not listening too much. It’s really about finding your song and singing it.

2) Would you consider Microdosing of Psychedelics as a wellness treatment and if possible to try that out by yourself as well?
If it were legal, absolutely I would, but if it is not legal, then no. For me I think it could be a great treatment but everyone is different. I think it can have huge benefits.

Remark: Microdosing of psychedelics refers to using tiny doses of psychedelics such as LSD or psilocybin in order to recover from depression, end of life anxiety, OCD, PTSD or to boost one’s mental effectiveness for increased focus, creativity and mindfulness. (Author)

3) As Vice President of Six Senses Spas what are your experiences with social media pressure for perfection, when your appearance becomes your reputation?
Oh it’s huge, I have to say. You know, you always have to look and behave like you are super healthy and no-one is super healthy all the time. Neither am I. When I travel, it is difficult to keep my weight steady, so it fluctuates the more I travel. The minute I get home I start losing weight. It is a lot of pressure because you always have to walk the walk, and if you don’t, how can you then talk about wellness. It’s like being an overweight personal trainer – it just doesn’t work. So there is absolutely a pressure but it is also a motivator.

4) Will plastic surgery “die out” due to the rising trend of mindfulness and natural beauty?
No way. (laughing) I think plastic surgery has somewhat already died out – well relating to the “crazy” plastic surgery, this has kind of calmed down. However, we are seeing that minor corrections such as fillers and Botox are exploding. I think there will be other methods where you don’t have to undergo the type of plastic surgery that can give you rather unnatural looks. There will be new treatments, for instance stem cells or nanobots – they can come up and fade the wrinkles away. All of these things will come up because plastic surgery I think is slightly outdated.

If you look at the wellness market, then beauty and anti-aging is where we spend the most money. People want to look beautiful the reason for that is tied to our evolution, it’s part of our reproduction – because we look for that ideal person who we can mate with and believe can carry our genes forward, so to speak. People that are beautiful also get more well-paid jobs, they get jobs more easily, they have more confidence in life, so there is always going be a focus on beauty.

5) Can spas help with the issue of loneliness and isolation nowadays?
Right now, I’m personally working on this project with a couple of scientists to see how we can combat loneliness in a different way. Loneliness has been combated from different angles but not in a holistic way, and empathy is big part of that. Building up empathy is going to be a very big focus in the future.
Regarding isolation and loneliness I think spas can help. Loneliness has so many components, and a lot of it is finding meaning. You need connections and you need support. I just read a study that said 55% of the American population don’t have a single person that they can confide in, someone that they can talk to honestly and deeply. This is a very scary statistic. “

So I think what we can do is foster connections and support, as well as help people to find their meaning. We can help them to take care of their wellness and themselves as well as anything else. When it comes to the neurobiology of loneliness, loneliness is basically about you building walls because you are scared, instead of building bridges. You can connect if you want to. At the moment I am exploring how to reconnect with nature which is important for preventing loneliness. Because you are actually never alone, even when you are alone. Hopefully in couple of years we will be able to have something that services loneliness. “

6) What about using Virtual Reality in spas for people’s wellbeing?
We haven’t actually started with it in Six Senses Spas. We have in some ways experimented with Virtual Reality to see how it works and determine what is the response. We want to get more spas in cities because in “paradise Virtual Reality” this is not that interesting, because you are not in that reality. So, we are now opening up spas in Singapore, New York, and other cities – that’s where we are going to get much more.

Remark: Virtual Reality is a simulation of a three-dimensional environment created by computer that can be interacted with by a person using special electronic equipment such as a helmet with a screen or gloves fitted with sensors. (Author)

7) Today at GDI conference we talked about how status makes people happier. Does status make you happier?
Not me, it doesn’t make me happier at all. I have lived through a couple of crises in my life, where I understood that status, what you do, or what you have, has very little meaning, and the connections you have and who you are inside, is important. For me status represents very little value.

8) How do you keep up with all the creative work, where do you find your inspiration for spas?
I get it from my experts, but also reading a lot, studying, books, listening to podcasts, looking, just keeping everything open, and going with my gut, because there’s so much information out there. So I would say that it’s a lot about just being open and saying this interests me. Focus on one thing and then go on to the next thing and focus on that and go deep into that. Taking it all in. I am a kind of a nerd. I love to study, I can read research reports and I can talk to a researcher and understand what they say. Then I extract that learning from them and think how we can make that into mainstream knowledge. Like we did with Dubai and Biohacking, with the treatments –how do we make this work so people actually want to pay for it?

9) What kind of “Self-Optimization” techniques are you personally practising?
I do a lot, I’m kind of like our first speaker, but I haven’t broken any bones doing it. As I did last week with the Neurofeedback, I test things myself quite a lot. I have an office at home, where I have a thing to hang up-side-down, vibartional plates, all kinds of things that I work with. For example NormaTec boots – whenever I feel like it, I use them. For example, sometimes I do conference calls with “boots”on.

Then I meditate almost on daily basis. I do breathing work every day. I have done it today in this room quite a lot. Because you can do it wherever. I do it because of how breathing works to influence our heart rate variability and stress levels, and also signals to your brain – this really goes into self-optimization. For instance controlled breathing. Basically everything we do at the spas, I test on myself.

Remark: Bio- and neurofeedback training is a computer-supported, interactive brainwave training method for stabilising the central nervous system. It involves training the brain to follow a desired pattern of behaviour and react positively to self-regulation. (GDI)

10) Currently, how common is the usage of self-optimization treatments at Six Senses Spas and in your present wellness projects?
In Six Senses Spas, we are a chain, and we decide this is what we do, but individual developers are very scared of this still – they want a traditional thing. So we sneak things in, the self-optimization is not a huge thing, yet in some of our projects it is. We have to have people that believe in it. It is very new. Biohacking, for example, most people don’t know what that is – so it is still too new. “

Remark: Biohacking is the process of making changes to your lifestyle in order to “hack” your body’s biology and reach your peak-performance. (Author)

To conclude, as we see “Self-Optimization” is a real upcoming wellness trend, now and in the future. Still, some of the things we can expect to see perhaps around 2023, as not much is publicly available today and first one must break through public stigmas. Even though Anna Bjurstam is already bringing future into reality starting with BioHacking in Six Senses Spas in Dubai or usage of Virtual Reality in their city spas.
Yet self-optimization techniques are available for everyone, and it will be up to individuals whether they care about using preventive health care options or rather stay with old-fashioned cure based health care concepts.

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