When it comes to maintaining work-life balance, it is important to prioritise self-care as a regular part of our routines. But sometimes when things get super busy, these self-care activities can be the first things to fall to the wayside.
That’s where the wellness retreat comes in. Sitting at the intersection of self-care and tourism, a wellness retreat offers time away from daily stressors in a new, usually beautiful, location with activities designed to promote mental and physical health. And the wellness tourism industry has been booming since 2015, and is estimated to be worth $US639 billion dollars globally.
And with benefits that include decreased stress, better quality sleep, and a calmer mind, what’s not to love about taking some time away from the grind to reset? Read on for some of our tips to help inspire your next wellness retreat, whether going alone or as part of a company trip.
What are the benefits of a retreat?
Many of the benefits associated with retreats seem self-evident: decreased stress, time to reflect and reconnect with our inner selves, and a chance to spend time away from life’s ordinary stressors.
But there is some evidence to suggest that the benefits don’t end when the retreat does. A 2018 study by BMC Complementary Medicine found the positive impacts can last for up to five years after the retreat ends. It’s worth considering how a retreat can be integrated into your broader wellness goals and plans.
Ideas for activities on your next wellness retreat
A wellness retreat sounds great on paper, but what do they actually involve? Depending on your intentions for the retreat, some of the activities may vary. Is the idea to completely unplug from the outside world? Or is it to foster better team connections and synergy?
Below are some ideas for activities which will help at any kind of retreat, with the overall goal of promoting mental health, reducing stress and acting as a circuit-breaker for the stresses of normal life.
Visualisation is not just a hippy-dippy buzzword. When used properly, it can be a powerful psychological tool that increases your ability to be successful. The trick is, your visualisations have to be achievable, and specific.
For example, one psychological study showed that people who visualised themselves performing a workout actually improved their ability to do those exercises in practise - even if they hadn’t actually touched a weight! It’s a technique adopted by athletes and chess players alike in order to increase their chances of success.
One effective way of engaging in visualisation is to think of a specific goal, and then sit down and close your eyes, and imagine that you have achieved that goal. Imagine this in as much detail as possible, including how you feel, what you smell, and where you are. The more vividly you can bring to mind how you will feel after achieving the goal, the more effective this exercise will be.
Closely aligned with visualisation, mindfulness meditation is another excellent retreat activity.
Where visualisation focuses on the future, mindfulness meditation encourages participants to focus on the present moment. When you can inhabit the present moment fully, worries about the future or regrets about the past melt into the background, leading to decreased stress in the body and a calmer state of mind.
The benefits of yoga are well known, and during lockdowns there was a surge in popularity for this calming exercise which it is possible to do in your own living room. ‘Yoga with Adriene’ became an international sensation, and for good reason. Benefits of even the gentlest yoga practise include increased awareness of the body and breath, increased blood-flow with cardiovascular benefits, strength and calming the body.
Participants often attend retreats because they want a challenge. While mindfulness is great, finding a balance with physical activities is vital for a holistic program.
Here are some simple physical activities to incorporate into your retreat:
- Hiking, walking or running
- SUP (stand up paddleboarding)
- Snorkeling and diving.
Connecting with nature
There are well-established psychological benefits that come from connecting with nature. If you normally live and work in a city, a retreat can be an excellent way to escape the concrete jungle and spend time outside. Aside from enjoying beautiful landscapes, connecting with nature can improve emotional regulation, memory and mental health. Just ask comedian Judith Lucy, who hugged a tree and felt overwhelmed by her connection to nature.
So it’s worth considering incorporating eco-retreat activities into your next retreat.
Here are some eco-retreat activity ideas you might want to consider:
- Safari drive or walk
- Nature walk with a knowledgeable guide
- Bird watching
- Learning how to garden or hobby farming.
Talks, music, and entertainment
Organisers often overlook entertainment when considering spiritual retreat activities. The focus for a retreat is typically on spirituality and wellness. But fun, happiness, and laughter are crucial for a balanced life and shouldn't be overlooked for a spiritual retreat agenda.
Depending on your budget, you might want to include a speaker or comedian, musical act, or another spiritual performance artform.
How to plan a successful spiritual retreat
Planning a retreat can (ironically) be a stressful process, but it doesn’t need to be! The following tips can help you make sure you have a comprehensive plan and keep things running smoothly.
What kind of retreat will this be?
Who are you inviting on this retreat? Maybe you want to help your company by organising a corporate wellness retreat, designed to reset everyone’s minds and foster teamwork and connectedness. Or perhaps you want to run a retreat with tickets open to the public. Once you have defined the retreat, it is time to get into the planning.
Like any event, planning and sticking to a budget for your retreat is imperative. Retreats are often intimate affairs with fewer people than other types of events, which means a tighter budget. So, you need to be a little more creative when choosing your retreat activities. Here is a handy guide to creating an event budget [link to 0022 on budgeting].
Promoting your retreat
It’s important to work out a solid promotion strategy so the right people find out about (and buy tickets to) your retreat. This is a great chance to get a little creative, through making new content across a variety of platforms, gathering testimonials from past attendees or using social media. For more inspiration on event promotion, check out our free Showstoppers ebook.
Retreats might take a little bit more planning than other events, but the payoff is well worth it. Decreased stress, better mental health and better long-term productivity are just a few reasons to start planning a retreat.
Selling tickets to your next retreat?
List your event with Humanitix, and your booking fee will fund the future education of disadvantaged kids. And what’s more inspiring than putting profits towards something good?
Em Meller lives and works in Sydney, Australia on the unceded lands of the Gadigal people. Her work has appeared in places like The Lifted Brow, Cordite, and Going Down Swinging. She has studied creative writing at the University of Technology, Sydney, and at Oxford University.