What are the benefits of a wellness retreat?
Life gets so busy that we often forget just how important it is to look after ourselves.
A hectic schedule might mean that we opt for fast food rather than a healthier option, don’t get a chance to practise yoga
, or simply can’t find a moment for essential downtime.
Sometimes the best way to refocus on living mindfully and healthily is to step away from the day-to-day.
On paper, taking some time out at a wellness retreat sounds attractive. Not only is a one-week stay relaxing, it can have some seriously beneficial knock-on effects for your physical and emotional wellbeing.
“We can’t continue to give of ourselves and contribute to our families and communities from a state of depletion,” says Blackmores advisory naturopath Leanne McLean
“A wellness retreat is time taken out of our usual daily/weekly routines to seek stillness. It can offer us the chance to recharge so that we can be fully engaged with our lives.” .
According to a 2017 study
by the RMIT School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, a one-week, live-in retreat which featured therapeutic and leisure activities and a mostly plant-based, organic diet led to improvements in everything from weight to sleep. Better still, those benefits were sustained for six weeks after the retreat ended .
For McLean, a retreat offers us a chance to heal physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually; rest and rejuvenate; take a renewed perspective on a situation; and find stillness and look within. It’s also the perfect time to do a ‘digital detox’ – that is, to turn off the phone and the computer and be in the present moment.
“Our brains need the rest – the space for our own imagination rather than images and opinions that have been passively placed before our eyes,” says McLean.
Create your own wellness retreat at home
At times when cost or inconvenience means you can’t make it happen, don’t worry. Here’s 6 ways that you can create a similar effect at home.
1. Turn off your tech
A side effect of visiting a retreat that’s tucked away in a remote, rural location? Patchy internet and mobile-phone reception, which is good news for your health.
Switch off for a while at home and not only will you have more time on your hands (many of us check our smartphones 85 times a day!), your risk of anxiety might even fall, particularly if you’re someone who likes to use a couple of devices at once.
2. Let nature call
There’s another good reason most health retreats aren’t smack bang in the middle of the city – nature is good for us
Take a regular 90-minute walk surrounded by trees and you are less likely to feel a positive benefit to your mood.
Not a leaf in sight at your place? Listen to a “nature” CD instead. Just hearing sounds like trickling water and birdsong is believed to lower stress levels .
3. Think about sleep at dinnertime
And we don’t mean planning an early night (although that can’t hurt!). Instead, think carefully about what you put on your plate.
Healthy meals are at the heart of any health-retreat experience and what you eat for dinner can have an impact on your sleep.
The best meal for some good-quality shut-eye is one that’s high in fibre and protein but low in saturated fat. It may help you to fall asleep faster and spend more time in the restorative stage of deep, slow-wave sleep.
4. Go organic
The jury is still out on whether eating organic food is significantly better for us nutritionally, but for a health-retreat-style detox, it’s a good idea for a short period of time.
Stick to an organic diet for just seven days and the level of pesticides in your body decreases by almost 90 per cent, according to researchers from RMIT University.
5. Practice regular meditation
You might have hours to spend meditating at a retreat but if you’re short on time at home, even 5 minutes a day will help. When practiced regularly your stress levels could be significantly lower.
Set up a space where you can have alone time, and decorate it with things you love – flowers, objects with meaning – to help create a lovely ambience.
Not sure you can meditate without help? Download a meditation app
, like Meditation Oasis’ Relax & Rest Guided Meditations or Smiling Mind.
6. Get some scents
Even the air inside a wellness retreat smells relaxing. Replicate the effect at home by using some soothing scents.
The top picks? Lavender and sweet orange oils; research suggests these aromas helps people feel calmer.
7. Create a clean space
One thing you’ll notice about most retreats is how clean and pleasing on the eye they are.
So while it might not sound like a traditional retreat-like activity, make time to clear up clutter around your home, especially in those areas you’re “retreating” to, such as your bedroom and perhaps the study.