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Wellness Questionnaire with Rosewood’s Niamh O’Connell

Get to Know Industry Insiders With a Look at their Personal Wellness Thoughts, Philosophies, and Practices.


Leading the strategic global development of spa, wellness, and recreation operations, Niamh O’Connell, group vice president of Asaya and wellness for Rosewood Hotel Group, is focused on spa design, concept development, and programming for existing hotels across the group’s three brands: Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, New World Hotels & Resorts, and KHOS. She also spearheaded the creation of Asaya, the group’s integrative wellness program, when she recognized a void in the ultra-luxury market.

With more than 25 years in the wellness industry, O’Connell has overseen the opening of 13 spas across Rosewood Hotels & Resorts and KHOS and conceived and launched three Asaya destinations throughout the Asia-Pacific region, with 11 more scheduled. Before joining Rosewood, she held various senior positions with Hyatt International Hotels & Resorts and served as vice president of operations at ESPA International. Born in Ireland, O’Connell now resides in Hong Kong. Here are some of her thoughts on wellness and the self-care practices she has gleaned along the way.

What does wellness mean to you? 

To me, wellness is a lifestyle that transcends all aspects of life, from personal and social connections professionally and within the community to physical activities, emotional balance, and food choices. Wellness behaviors are my every day. 

What are your favorite things to do to maintain your personal wellbeing? 

I love being outdoors, whether that is paddle boarding, hiking, gardening, or going for a stroll. I also enjoy having time to reflect and have taken up hand/script writing, which I find very calming. 

Is there a specific fitness activity that you love and why? 

Group fitness classes are great fun! I get a buzz from being with other people, learning new techniques, understanding how it helps me to build a stronger, more resilient body and the rush of endorphins. They’re also a great way to meet new friends who share common interests.

What is your favorite healthy food, and do you have a favorite way of preparing it? 

My friend Kate O’Brien’s Glow: Your Complete Four-Week Plan For Healthy, Radiant Skin with 60 Skin-Nourishing Recipes is my go-to. All the recipes are based on the principle of enhancing your skin health, and there are amazing recipes that are quick to prepare. One favorite that bursts with flavor is the pomegranate, feta, and quinoa salad.

What is your favorite healthy beverage (alcoholic or non-alcoholic), and do you have any insider tips for preparing it? 

I love homemade almond milk for a quick pick-me-up. It really boosts my energy! I make it by soaking 160g of raw almonds overnight and then blending with two fresh Medjool dates, a half teaspoon of vanilla extract, a pinch of sea salt, and 750 mL of filtered or spring water. Once it’s creamy, I strain through a muslin cloth, cool in the fridge, and enjoy for days!

What is your greatest wellness achievement?

I think wellness is something that is constant and ever evolving versus a series of individual achievements. I am continually working to enhance my wellbeing, and the older I get, the more self-accepting I have become. Though I suppose that is an achievement in and of itself.

What person in wellness do you most admire and why? 

Daniel Friedland, M.D. Every time I read his book, Leading Well from Within: A Neuroscience and Mindfulness-Based Framework for Conscious Leadership, I learn something new that I missed the first time around. When I listen to his lectures or chat with him, I feel enriched and inspired to take on the day’s challenges with gusto and joy.

What is the best piece of wellness advice you have ever received and from whom? 

“Be authentic in everything you do”—Sue Harmsworth.

What do you think is the most exciting wellness innovation you have recently discovered? 

Sleep is something I value, and currently, I am testing out a new technological device that can be used in homes or hotels to record sleeping patterns and relaxation levels, such as during a massage or spa treatment. I believe the future of wellness is preventative and diagnostic and by integrating technology, we can provide our clients with tools to enhance their wellbeing as well as monitor and achieve their goals, which in turn supports long-term change and improved lifestyles.

What is your idea of balanced healthy happiness? 

I don’t think there is such a thing as “unbalanced” happiness. Personally, I know I am in a state of balanced happiness when my physical, emotional, social, and mental levels of wellbeing are aligned, and I work on achieving this through my daily habits of exercising, eating nourishing food, maintaining meaningful connections with my family and friends, and finding a little quiet time to myself.

What do you think is the most overused word or words in wellness? 

The word “wellness” itself is used exhaustively and is often confused with wellbeing.

What is your favorite place for a healthy vacation or escape? 

Anywhere by the sea, with warm temperatures, fresh air, access to nourishing food, and space to engage in physical activity.

Is there a particular wellness company or brand that truly impresses you with their efforts and why?

I admire many brands and companies that promote authentic wellness offerings, but to name a few favorites, I love Haeckles, Ground Wellbeing, Lanserhof, and GOCO Hospitality.

What is your favorite self-care routine? 

I have recently started gua sha, andI find it very therapeutic at the end of the day to stimulate and flush out any stagnant energy from the day. I was originally only working on my décolleté and face, but now I love doing it on my legs and arms and feel that this has been enhancing my sleep.

What is your go-to for de-stressing? 

A bar of chocolate! Or a great workout with my trainer—something high energy to shake off the anxiety and get my endorphins flowing.

What aspect of your wellbeing do you struggle with the most, or would most like to improve? 

It’s a great question. I think there is no one specific dimension that I neglect, but my priorities shift depending on work-life balance. 

What wellness-related books or authors do you recommend, and why? 

I tend to read a few books at once, but one from Haemin Sunim, a Zen Buddhist teacher, is always on my bedside table. And in regards to my passion for sleep, I’m currently reading Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, Ph.D.

How do you celebrate small victories? 

I need to get better at this. I tend to look to the next project or goal without reflecting and celebrating the successes.

What brings you joy? 

My partner!

About The Author

Heather, co-founder of Well Defined and the former editor-in-chief of American Spa, is an award-winning journalist and content strategist, skilled in writing, copyediting, and media relations. She is also a freelance writer and has contributed to Elite Traveler, Islands, Kiwi, Luxury Travel Advisor, Organic Spa, Porthole Cruise, Travel Agent,,,, and, in addition to various custom publications. She is frequently called upon to comment on various spa and wellness trends for various media outlets.