Everyone’s talking about
Loneliness

The UK government has appointed a Minister for Loneliness, drawing more attention to a condition that’s believed to be as unhealthy as both smoking and obesity. Are spas in a position to help tackle this increasing problem? Kath Hudson reports

By Kath Hudson | Published in Spa Business 2018 issue 2

When a western government makes a move to tackle loneliness, with both a multi-million pound fund and a dotted line to the Prime Minister, it gives you an idea of how serious a problem it is. In January, Tracey Crouch was appointed the UK’s first Minister for Loneliness with a view to working on a commission and with businesses and charities nationwide to create a government strategy to combat it.

We live in a disconnected world and technology and social media is helping to fuel the loneliness epidemic. Nothing intensifies the feeling of missing out more than being sat at home on your own, while on social media it looks like the world is out having fun, together. Socialising through technology is becoming more widespread, but the loss of real contact is to our detriment.

Interaction with other people is crucial for longevity according to research from Brigham Young University, USA, which found that the most powerful indicators of a long life were firstly, how well socially integrated people are – whether they chat to the random people they see in their day, such as the postman. And secondly, their close personal relationships – feeling that they have someone to look after them if they’re ill, for example.

Crouch, who herself suffered from a feeling of isolation after having a baby, has said this is an issue which all sections of society need to be aware of, so should spas step up as well?

As the sector helps to restore and strengthen people physically, mentally and emotionally, are spas perfectly placed to help? Are the services they already routinely offer an antidote to loneliness? What mix of facilities, programmes and treatments work best? And how can spas reach out to lonely people? We investigate.



Steve Nygren Founder,null Serenbe

 

Steve Nygren
 

Whether or not spas are well placed to help combat loneliness depends on their make up. If it has communal activities and dining, then yes. If it tends towards more isolated programmes and treatments rooms, then no.

I see loneliness in all ages and demographics. In people coming from big urban centres, people who’ve retired, people who’ve lost a partner or those who never quite found a purpose. But do you know what can make a huge difference? A simple walk in nature. Our expansive preserved land and trails at Serenbe, and the surrounding Chattahoochee Hills, is Atlanta’s antidote to loneliness and depression. The wonder of the natural land draws people outside to explore nature, where they run across other guests.

We’ve created communal spaces for organised gatherings, including our stone labyrinth for group guided meditation, and we also offer wellness days and weekends with group activities, lunches and dinners. We also started a new class by candlelight with Thai massage touch, which has been so popular we have to keep adding classes. People walk away restored and come back for more.

To welcome people who are feeling isolated, be clear about your intention. Talk about classes and programmes as group, communal and shared experiences in your communications. At the first touch point, let guests know their group options and play the role of host during their on-site experience. Train staff with hospitality first to engage and listen to guests to assess their needs and comfort levels.

Spas should give consideration to physical infrastructure to programming, including communal hot tubs, steamrooms, sweat lodges, nature walks, outdoor yoga and pilates. They could also think about organising weekends and days of wellness based around multiple treatments and classes so guests are part of a group rather than making ad-hoc choices alone.

• Nygren founded Serenbe, a wellness community with over 700 residents in Georgia, USA, in 2000.

Details: www.serenbe.com


"Let guests know about group options and play the role of host during their experience"



Jeremy McCarthy Group director of spa Mandarin Oriental

 

Jeremy McCarthy
 

It’s a great irony that we’re surrounded by new technologies designed to keep us all connected and yet we’re more lonely than ever. In the US and the UK, some health experts have described an epidemic of loneliness, as more people are living alone. This is considered to be a real health crisis, because social isolation is linked to significant risk factors for mortality. Some studies show that loneliness is even a greater risk factor than smoking or obesity.

I think those who are the most affected are older people as generations move to new communication platforms, and at a rapid pace.

Spas offer three important things which are increasingly scarce in the modern world: a space for silence, disconnection from technology and touch from another human being. These are great luxuries and serve as an antidote to the loneliness.

We offer therapies with the touch of a nurturing healer and settings where loved ones can come and share great experiences in an intimate technology-free setting. At some of our spas we offer Digital Wellness Retreats, to bring people together to take a break from technology and focus on personal wellness. Surprisingly, one of the biggest benefits of these programmes is the connections participants make with each other. Until you spend time interacting with others without devices, you don’t realise how technology serves as a barrier to human connection.

The UK government launched a hotline for people who needed someone to talk to. Interestingly, people don’t usually call to say they’re lonely. They ask about the weather, for directions, or advice. I don’t think it makes sense to market services to lonely people, but services that help people feel connected to other human beings will never go out of style.

• McCarthy oversees 30-plus spas for Mandarin Oriental globally.

Details: www.mandarinoriental.com


"Services that help people feel connected to others will never go out of style"



Charles Davidson Founder Peninsula Hot Springs

 

Charles Davidson
 

If your spa offers facilities which lend themselves to group activities, then you can absolutely reach out to lonely people. At Peninsula Hot Springs, we find that bathing is an excellent way to get people to connect to nature, others and themselves. It was always our vision to create a place of global and community connection and now we get people of all ages and cultures visiting.

The initial reaction of guests is to lay back and drift off into the blissful warmth. Once they’re relaxed, they often start conversations with fellow bathers. It’s the perfect space for connection.

Some of our programmes are also designed to promote interaction. Our clay masters, for example, guide guests through an experience where they’re encouraged to paint themselves and even each other. This helps provide creative expression and a great opportunity to laugh together.

We’re currently constructing new facilities which will greatly enhance this conscious connection of a social hot spring experience. These include a wellness activity centre where we will hold wellness workshops for up to 120 people, incorporating activities like yoga, pilates and massage classes.

There will also be a new fire and ice area, with two 30-person saunas, a snow and ice cave, and cold and ice plunge pools. An amphitheatre bathing area, with seven pools around the top of a terraced seating area, will provide a space for guests to enjoy a Ted Talk style conversation on subjects like music and art.

Connection is the currency of wellness and the antidote to loneliness is finding the opportunity to feel a connection to one’s self, to others and the environment. Connection is one of the key transformational journeys we are offering at Peninsula Hot Springs and it’s an area on which we will continue to focus and grow.

• Australia’s Peninsula Hot Springs, which Davidson co-founded in 1997, attracts over 450,000 people a year.

Details: www.peninsulahotsprings.com


"It was always our vision to create a place of global and community connection"



Kitty Mansfield Founder Cuddle Professionals International

 

Kitty Mansfield
 

The causes of loneliness are complex and up to now, most research has focused on the issue experienced by seniors. However, in 2010 a Mental Health Foundation survey indicated that 18-34 year olds in the UK were even more likely to feel lonely, to feel concerned about being alone and to become depressed about loneliness than people over 55.

We’re more disconnected as individuals than ever which can lead to isolation and what I call skin hunger. Non-sexual, gentle, comforting touch is important to help us deal with the pain of bereavement, the loss of a relationship, rejection and loneliness. We can ease the emotional pain of isolation by cuddling, gentle massage and simply holding someone’s hand.

Cuddling and ethical touch is a healthy way to deal with disconnection. Regardless of how we become lonely, it hurts our health. A recent study by the University of Chicago has found that isolation is twice as unhealthy as obesity and is linked with health problems such as elevated blood pressure, altered gene expression and disrupted sleep. 

Cuddling can alleviate this by releasing feel-good hormones such as endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin. Research has shown cuddling and the resultant release of oxytocin can achieve incredible effects – reduce stress and blood pressure, promote sleep and increase happiness and wellbeing.

Spas are an ideal setting to offer ethical touch therapy and I aspire to seeing it offered widely, alongside massage, as a legitimate therapy option for the maintenance of health and wellbeing. 

Obviously, this is a therapy where strict boundaries must be adhered to, and to this end, I have written a comprehensive training programme and created a professional body for ethical touch therapists.

• On a mission to get cuddle therapy recognised in Europe, Mansfield has created Cuddle Professionals International to offer training and industry standards.

Details: www.cuddle-professionals.co.uk


"Gentle, comforting touch is important to help us deal with loneliness"

 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Spa Business
2018 issue 2

View issue contents

Spa Business - Loneliness

Everyone’s talking about

Loneliness


The UK government has appointed a Minister for Loneliness, drawing more attention to a condition that’s believed to be as unhealthy as both smoking and obesity. Are spas in a position to help tackle this increasing problem? Kath Hudson reports

Kath Hudson
Communal bathing is great way to start conversations Peninsula Hot Springs, Australia

When a western government makes a move to tackle loneliness, with both a multi-million pound fund and a dotted line to the Prime Minister, it gives you an idea of how serious a problem it is. In January, Tracey Crouch was appointed the UK’s first Minister for Loneliness with a view to working on a commission and with businesses and charities nationwide to create a government strategy to combat it.

We live in a disconnected world and technology and social media is helping to fuel the loneliness epidemic. Nothing intensifies the feeling of missing out more than being sat at home on your own, while on social media it looks like the world is out having fun, together. Socialising through technology is becoming more widespread, but the loss of real contact is to our detriment.

Interaction with other people is crucial for longevity according to research from Brigham Young University, USA, which found that the most powerful indicators of a long life were firstly, how well socially integrated people are – whether they chat to the random people they see in their day, such as the postman. And secondly, their close personal relationships – feeling that they have someone to look after them if they’re ill, for example.

Crouch, who herself suffered from a feeling of isolation after having a baby, has said this is an issue which all sections of society need to be aware of, so should spas step up as well?

As the sector helps to restore and strengthen people physically, mentally and emotionally, are spas perfectly placed to help? Are the services they already routinely offer an antidote to loneliness? What mix of facilities, programmes and treatments work best? And how can spas reach out to lonely people? We investigate.



Steve Nygren Founder,null Serenbe

 

Steve Nygren
 

Whether or not spas are well placed to help combat loneliness depends on their make up. If it has communal activities and dining, then yes. If it tends towards more isolated programmes and treatments rooms, then no.

I see loneliness in all ages and demographics. In people coming from big urban centres, people who’ve retired, people who’ve lost a partner or those who never quite found a purpose. But do you know what can make a huge difference? A simple walk in nature. Our expansive preserved land and trails at Serenbe, and the surrounding Chattahoochee Hills, is Atlanta’s antidote to loneliness and depression. The wonder of the natural land draws people outside to explore nature, where they run across other guests.

We’ve created communal spaces for organised gatherings, including our stone labyrinth for group guided meditation, and we also offer wellness days and weekends with group activities, lunches and dinners. We also started a new class by candlelight with Thai massage touch, which has been so popular we have to keep adding classes. People walk away restored and come back for more.

To welcome people who are feeling isolated, be clear about your intention. Talk about classes and programmes as group, communal and shared experiences in your communications. At the first touch point, let guests know their group options and play the role of host during their on-site experience. Train staff with hospitality first to engage and listen to guests to assess their needs and comfort levels.

Spas should give consideration to physical infrastructure to programming, including communal hot tubs, steamrooms, sweat lodges, nature walks, outdoor yoga and pilates. They could also think about organising weekends and days of wellness based around multiple treatments and classes so guests are part of a group rather than making ad-hoc choices alone.

• Nygren founded Serenbe, a wellness community with over 700 residents in Georgia, USA, in 2000.

Details: www.serenbe.com


"Let guests know about group options and play the role of host during their experience"



Jeremy McCarthy Group director of spa Mandarin Oriental

 

Jeremy McCarthy
 

It’s a great irony that we’re surrounded by new technologies designed to keep us all connected and yet we’re more lonely than ever. In the US and the UK, some health experts have described an epidemic of loneliness, as more people are living alone. This is considered to be a real health crisis, because social isolation is linked to significant risk factors for mortality. Some studies show that loneliness is even a greater risk factor than smoking or obesity.

I think those who are the most affected are older people as generations move to new communication platforms, and at a rapid pace.

Spas offer three important things which are increasingly scarce in the modern world: a space for silence, disconnection from technology and touch from another human being. These are great luxuries and serve as an antidote to the loneliness.

We offer therapies with the touch of a nurturing healer and settings where loved ones can come and share great experiences in an intimate technology-free setting. At some of our spas we offer Digital Wellness Retreats, to bring people together to take a break from technology and focus on personal wellness. Surprisingly, one of the biggest benefits of these programmes is the connections participants make with each other. Until you spend time interacting with others without devices, you don’t realise how technology serves as a barrier to human connection.

The UK government launched a hotline for people who needed someone to talk to. Interestingly, people don’t usually call to say they’re lonely. They ask about the weather, for directions, or advice. I don’t think it makes sense to market services to lonely people, but services that help people feel connected to other human beings will never go out of style.

• McCarthy oversees 30-plus spas for Mandarin Oriental globally.

Details: www.mandarinoriental.com


"Services that help people feel connected to others will never go out of style"



Charles Davidson Founder Peninsula Hot Springs

 

Charles Davidson
 

If your spa offers facilities which lend themselves to group activities, then you can absolutely reach out to lonely people. At Peninsula Hot Springs, we find that bathing is an excellent way to get people to connect to nature, others and themselves. It was always our vision to create a place of global and community connection and now we get people of all ages and cultures visiting.

The initial reaction of guests is to lay back and drift off into the blissful warmth. Once they’re relaxed, they often start conversations with fellow bathers. It’s the perfect space for connection.

Some of our programmes are also designed to promote interaction. Our clay masters, for example, guide guests through an experience where they’re encouraged to paint themselves and even each other. This helps provide creative expression and a great opportunity to laugh together.

We’re currently constructing new facilities which will greatly enhance this conscious connection of a social hot spring experience. These include a wellness activity centre where we will hold wellness workshops for up to 120 people, incorporating activities like yoga, pilates and massage classes.

There will also be a new fire and ice area, with two 30-person saunas, a snow and ice cave, and cold and ice plunge pools. An amphitheatre bathing area, with seven pools around the top of a terraced seating area, will provide a space for guests to enjoy a Ted Talk style conversation on subjects like music and art.

Connection is the currency of wellness and the antidote to loneliness is finding the opportunity to feel a connection to one’s self, to others and the environment. Connection is one of the key transformational journeys we are offering at Peninsula Hot Springs and it’s an area on which we will continue to focus and grow.

• Australia’s Peninsula Hot Springs, which Davidson co-founded in 1997, attracts over 450,000 people a year.

Details: www.peninsulahotsprings.com


"It was always our vision to create a place of global and community connection"



Kitty Mansfield Founder Cuddle Professionals International

 

Kitty Mansfield
 

The causes of loneliness are complex and up to now, most research has focused on the issue experienced by seniors. However, in 2010 a Mental Health Foundation survey indicated that 18-34 year olds in the UK were even more likely to feel lonely, to feel concerned about being alone and to become depressed about loneliness than people over 55.

We’re more disconnected as individuals than ever which can lead to isolation and what I call skin hunger. Non-sexual, gentle, comforting touch is important to help us deal with the pain of bereavement, the loss of a relationship, rejection and loneliness. We can ease the emotional pain of isolation by cuddling, gentle massage and simply holding someone’s hand.

Cuddling and ethical touch is a healthy way to deal with disconnection. Regardless of how we become lonely, it hurts our health. A recent study by the University of Chicago has found that isolation is twice as unhealthy as obesity and is linked with health problems such as elevated blood pressure, altered gene expression and disrupted sleep. 

Cuddling can alleviate this by releasing feel-good hormones such as endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin. Research has shown cuddling and the resultant release of oxytocin can achieve incredible effects – reduce stress and blood pressure, promote sleep and increase happiness and wellbeing.

Spas are an ideal setting to offer ethical touch therapy and I aspire to seeing it offered widely, alongside massage, as a legitimate therapy option for the maintenance of health and wellbeing. 

Obviously, this is a therapy where strict boundaries must be adhered to, and to this end, I have written a comprehensive training programme and created a professional body for ethical touch therapists.

• On a mission to get cuddle therapy recognised in Europe, Mansfield has created Cuddle Professionals International to offer training and industry standards.

Details: www.cuddle-professionals.co.uk


"Gentle, comforting touch is important to help us deal with loneliness"


Originally published in Spa Business 2018 issue 2

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