A few years ago I was first asked by some of my clients to organise a retreat. My thoughts turned to yoga, solitude and raw food, which are not my areas of expertise. As I began to research I found that there are a vast array of retreats, which are known as wellness tourism.
What is wellness tourism?
Wellness tourism is when people take a journey and stay at least one night at a facility with the aim of enhancing their physical, psychological, spiritual and/or social well-being (adapted from Cornelia Voigt).
Broadly speaking, there are three types of wellness tourism:
1. Beauty Spas – Where visitors are seeking to be pampered and indulged, they want to relax and ease stress.
2. Lifestyle Resorts – Where visitors focus on reflection and mindfulness, health but not necessarily fitness.
3. Spiritual Retreats – Where visitors emphasise the benefits of escape from the usual way of life and use the peace and tranquillity for self-realisation, self-awareness and spiritual progress.
All of the experiences have at their core the opportunity to ‘Focus on you’, a chance to be selfish, in service of being the best person you can be, without being responsible for anyone else or anything. The visitors that attend lifestyle resorts and spiritual retreats also prefer to have their experience by themselves without being accompanied by someone who knows them. They are looking for personal transformation.
Research shows the scientific benefits of retreats
A recent study found that engaging in a retreat can have a short-term impact on the brain’s “feel good” dopamine and serotonin function – two of the neurotransmitters associated with positive emotions.
Improvements were shown in perceived physical health, tension and fatigue. The authors highlighted the strong emotional responses such as “reduced stress, and the capacity to produce life-changing results.”
Further research in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that attending a retreat can lead to substantial improvements in multiple dimensions of health and well-being that are maintained for at least 6 weeks.
And research comparing having a holiday to attending retreats found that a retreat provided longer-term biological change like taking an anti viral, than a holiday.
Top 5 Reasons to attend a Retreat:
So unsurprisingly my clients were right, a retreat was exactly what they needed. When I asked what they want from our next retreat and what they had taken from their previous attendance, they came up with the following. I think that these 5 reasons provide a strong case that retreats can make a great alternative to your typical holiday.
1. Focus on Me
Do you remember the last time that you had a chance to focus on a task without any interruptions? Imagine the plan you’ll be able to create in a weekend where you don’t have to worry about making dinner or doing laundry! A retreat weekend is the perfect time to focus on you and what you need to do to make the upcoming year unforgettable.
In today’s society, we all need time to take time out. Any woman who is saying, “I’m losing track of where I’m going, I’m living other people’s destinations”, this is the place to come, these are the people to surround you with who will help you discover a direction. It might be something new, you haven’t thought of, or it might be clarifying goals you’ve already had and making them real. So go for it, give yourself that time; you deserve it.
2. Set Goals
Does working on your goals keep slipping to the bottom of your to do list? You can have the best intentions to put the time aside to work on your goals and it still doesn’t happen. If you’ve invested your time and money to attend a retreat, why wouldn’t you do the work you came to do?
One past retreater said: “I can’t recommend it highly enough. Being here for the two days, I have come back energised and transformed. For me the difference has been that all those negative thoughts that I had, have somehow just disappeared and now I have a clear plan on what I need to do with the focus of looking after myself and also moving forward with my idea.”
3. Unplug from routine
When was the last time you ditched your mobile or tablet, your computer, the TV, your work and other demands for a couple of days? With the opportunity to do so you will have time and space to reflect on how you’re living your life and maybe gain new, perhaps healthier, perspectives.
It’s a space to be able to be reflective and to think about your goals, your dreams, your wishes and also to put things into perspective, going out into nature, being able to be silent for half an hour, to be able to listen to my thoughts.
4. Meet new people
When was the last time that you made a new friend? As we get older, it can get harder. A retreat provides the chance to make meaningful connections with likeminded people who want you to succeed.
There are so many different women from different backgrounds who came with a wealth of knowledge, that were able to share their experiences
5. Connect with nature
How often do you get to wander and appreciate nature, rather from dashing from A to B? Nature has a lot to teach us, improves our sense of wellbeing and an ideal environment for reflection
Going into nature, exploring things through poetry, taking a more creative stance to find a practical solution is great.
Interested in a retreat as an alternative or addition to your next holiday?
It is an opportunity to focus on you, a chance to escape your usual way of life, and a space for personal transformation amongst like-minded women, you can even be pampered and indulged in the sumptuous surroundings.