Author: Claudia M. Elsig, MD
There is a new movement at the high end of the luxury market. The super-rich are making more conscious choices and thinking differently about how they spend their time and money. Mindful luxury is the new kid on the UHNWI’s block.
The wealthiest in our society have long been beholden to a particular lifestyle. It is a life that glitters with private jets, luxurious holidays, a portfolio of exclusive real estate, a collection of super yachts and supercars, discrete shopping for exquisitely understated luxury brands, eating Michelin-star food, lavish parties, and having a team of people around to fulfil every wish day and night.
It is an existence far beyond most people’s wildest dreams, but for many UHNWIs, behind the riches are hurting souls. Among the super-rich, there are:
- Complex relationships within families.
- A lack of true friendships.
- An intense worry about losing wealth.
- Pressure to remain wealthy and successful.
- The stresses of wealth management and succession plans.
Life as a billionaire may seem easy from the outside, but these unique pressures make it highly stressful and incredibly lonely. Despite enormous and unimaginable wealth, life in paradise can feel surprisingly empty.
Now mindful luxury is defining how some of the super-rich approach life. For many, for the first time, a mindful approach to living creates opportunities for transformational experiences and a chance to address often neglected mental well-being. As a result, illuminating discoveries are being made.
This blog considers how mindful luxury is elevating mental health awareness.
What is mindful luxury?
Wealth, mental well-being, and conscious consumerism aren’t things one would typically package together. But among the educated, high-wealth jet setters, especially those of the Millennial and Gen Zedder generations, there is a growing sense of the importance of sustainability, the environment, and how life choices impact mental health.
The unlikely pairing of luxury with mindfulness and conscious consumerism even has a name. It is called mindful luxury.
While some billionaire preppers buy up luxurious bunkers to survive what they perceive as an impending societal collapse1, others are exploring luxury with a new focus. The angle is on health and freedom instead of stockpiling the world’s best in everything. As a result, throwing lavish parties and jetting privately from one highly exclusive luxury resort to the next has lost its shine.
Today, luxury consumers are becoming more environmentally aware and are showing more interest in locally sourced materials. While some commentators point to a greed crisis – according to Oxfam, over the past two years, the wealthiest one per cent have bagged nearly twice as much wealth as the rest of the world put together2 – those with more optimism are observing some spiritual awakening in the higher echelons of society.
Mindfulness piques interest everywhere, but the connotations are for simplicity, and the super-rich crowd isn’t ready to forgo luxury. So, it may be some time yet before they run off to a silent mud-hut retreat and eat congee for weeks.
Mindful luxury provides a compromise, giving many of the benefits of pared-back mindful experiences without losing the comforts rich people are used to. A luxury retreat, for example, provides a nurturing environment where participants can engage in mindful activities, such as meditation, yoga, and relaxation classes, yet still enjoy ultra-luxurious amenities and the highest-in-class living standards.
High-end wellness resorts, exclusive spas, and luxury retreat centres have popped up worldwide to pamper and serve the rich and famous. However, in recent years, the crème de la crème of mindful luxury comes from a new wave of discreet and refined luxury rehab and mental health centres, like CALDA, explicitly founded to help solve the mental health problems of the super-rich.
What is mindfulness, and why is it important?
For a good reason, mindfulness practice has surged in popularity over the last decade. Advocates would say we could all benefit from being more mindful.
So, what is it? “Mindfulness involves the self-regulation of attention so that it remains focused on the present moment.”3
Empirical research shows that mindfulness brings many positive benefits to psychological health. A review of studies concluded that mindfulness and its cultivation facilitated adaptive psychological functioning.4 Its effects ranged from increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms, and emotional reactivity, to improved regulation of behaviour.
Mindfulness isn’t new; it has been around for centuries and is deeply rooted in Buddhist tradition. In 1977, Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the first mindfulness-based intervention (MBI), mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). The practice integrates Buddhist meditation with other contemplative practices, like yoga, and modern psychological theories about stress and coping strategies for application in health care.5
Henry Shukman, Spiritual Director of the Mountain Cloud Zen Center, explains how mindfulness develops “the capacity to be here and now” and brings “a gentle and compassionate way of being with ourselves.”6
Shukman says that mindfulness enables presence, which is “an internal zone that we already have. When we come into this space of presence, there is nothing to be fixed or solved.”
Essentially an inner experience, mindful presence enables us to connect with the idea that we live in an interconnected way with other beings and our surroundings. It is this, says Shukman, that “dissolves the illusion of separation.”
It is a difficult concept to appreciate, but perhaps it explains how mindfulness is helping super-wealthy people to feel less isolated and lonely.
Any form of mindfulness, whether breathing techniques, meditation practice, or simply being mindful as one goes about daily activities, takes a person’s focus to the present moment and away from thoughts. Many people who practice mindfulness report they feel more relaxed, have greater enthusiasm for life, and improved self-esteem.
How does mindful luxury improve the mental health of the rich?
1. Disconnecting from stress
Unique factors mean that life in the super-rich fast lane harms mental health. For many, stress awareness is almost non-existent. Now mindful luxury enables the wealthy to disconnect from daily stressors and gain insights into their mental health.
Whether through a yoga retreat, engaging in daily meditation practice, or checking into full-on rehab at a mental health clinic, disconnecting from stress creates opportunities to develop a deeper understanding of self and the causes of suffering.
2. Recalibrating health
Mindful luxury is also recalibrating health through enhanced well-being. For example, participating in wellness activities, like yoga, Qi Gong, or Tai Chi, spending time in nature, eating healthily, taking a break from alcohol, enjoying spa treatments, and experiencing somatic work, like massage and cranial sacral therapy, all down-regulate the stress response and contribute to better physical and mental health.
3. Greater clarity and focus and a sense of calm
Behaving more mindfully has positive effects on the brain. Research shows that mindfulness-based interventions can increase emotional clarity.7
Deep breathing and meditation work on what is known as the HPA axis (or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis), which controls the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Mindfulness decreases sympathetic nervous system activity (stress response) and increases the action of the parasympathetic nervous system (calming things down), resulting in a greater sense of serenity.
4. Growing connection and meaning
Choosing more meaningful and health-inducing activities, especially where there is contact with other participants, enhances social connections and reduces feelings of loneliness. Engaging with like-minded individuals in mindfulness-based activities can also bring a sense of purposefulness, something that is recognised as being overwhelmingly absent in many super-rich lives.
Women often give up careers to start a family, but nannies take charge and then kids are shipped off to boarding school. Children have their lives mapped out for them and are expected to succeed in education. The lives of the super-wealthy can feel sterile and devoid of connections. Mindfulness can re-establish a sense of purpose in life.
5. Developing self-compassion
Studies show that wealth reduces compassion.8 According to research, higher social class predicts increased unethical behaviour. Other research suggests that people who are kind and compassionate are more satisfied with their lives and have better physical and mental health.
Mindfulness provides clarity about the consequences of thoughts and actions. These insights can help a person develop compassion for self and others and live life more conscientiously.
Find your freedom through mindful luxury at the CALDA Clinic
Mental illnesses not only cause emotional and physical pain, but they also mean an attack on personal freedom.
The CALDA Clinic was founded to give UHNWIs their freedom back. An unprecedented and perfectly coordinated team of experts delivers visionary treatment concepts. Guests stay in our luxurious, refined accommodations overlooking Zurich’s Gold Coast with breathtaking views of Lake Zurich.
CALDA offers mindful luxury at its best to personalities who seek a highly private, tailor-made rehabilitation in an exclusive environment. As well as comprehensive diagnostics, psychiatry and psychology, and orthomolecular medicine, clients are encouraged to participate in mindfulness-based activities, such as meditation, equine-assisted psychotherapy, art, music and dance therapy, and yoga.
For more information about our programs, please get in touch with us.
- Rushkoff D. 4 Sep 2022. The super-rich ‘preppers’ planning to save themselves from the apocalypse. The Guardian.
- Oxfam International. Press Release. 16 Jan 2023. Richest 1% bag nearly twice as much wealth as the rest of the world put together over the past two years. [Accessed online 7 May 2023].
- Crego A, et al. 21 Jan 2021. Relationships between Mindfulness, Purpose in Life, Happiness, Anxiety, and Depression: Testing a Mediation Model in a Sample of Women. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 18(3):925
- Keng SL, Smoski M J & Robins C. 31 Aug 2011. Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies. Clin Psychol Rev. 2011 Aug; 31(6): 1041–1056.
- Schuman-Olivier Z, et al. Nov-Dec 2020. Mindfulness and Behavior Change. Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2020.28(6):371-394
- Shukman H. 16 Nov 2022. Message from Henry: Mindful Presence. Mountain Cloud Zen Center. moungtaincloud.org [Accessed online 7 May 2023]
- Cooper D, Yap K, & Batalha L. 1 Aug 2018. Mindfulness-based interventions and their effects on emotional clarity: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Affect Disord. 2018 Aug 1;235:265-276.
- Piff P K, et al. 27 Feb 2012. Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).