The benefits of a Retreat for your wellbeing
By Jessica Horne, founder of Rise Retreats.
Life has a way of devouring our time as we get older. Daily routine becomes a structure we can easily get trapped in and the more we repeat the same rhythms each day, week, month; the more difficult it is to pull ourselves out of the everyday world of to-do lists, family and relationship tasks, work responsibilities, commuting etc. Time is being gobbled up and we barely have a moment to wander where it’s going and how we might slow it down. Mark Twain says “if you have no time to rest, it’s exactly the right time”.
The reality is there is almost always time to take a break, to switch off from the day to day and from our social feeds to focus on resting our mind and body, it just needs to be consciously prioritised. Research has shown how important slowing down and focusing on our needs are to our mental health because ‘you can’t serve from an empty vessel’.
What does the research into slowing down show?
The benefits of slowing down and practicing self-care are clinically validated and results include better focus, productivity, and physical health. Whilst it may seem counterintuitive to stop doing the things on your to-do list to become more productive, this is precisely what science has proven to be the case. “People that look after themselves [and practice self-care] do have better cognitive ability. They do have better focus and they do have better concentration,” says Dr. Russell Thackeray, a licensed clinical psychologist who consults on the topic of productivity.
Doing too much triggers psychological problems
Many of us find ourselves drawn to a constant ‘doing’ mindset, despite perhaps understanding the benefits of doing the things that are focused on our personal rest and well-being. There is a helpful model that helps to explain why this might be the case. Paul Gilbert created the motivations model based on our emotional regulation systems that reside in different parts of our brain. The model essentially points to three states that we use to manage our emotions: the doing mode, the threat mode and the self-soothing mode. The problems come when these come out of balance, particularly when there is less focus on self-soothing, which can manifest in a cycle of shame and self-criticism. Many of us live between the doing and threat emotional modes and give very little time and attention to self-care, despite it being an equally important state for the balance of our emotions.
So how can we practically implement changes to help us focus more on self-care and self-soothing?
Six practical ways of slowing down:
There are a range of small things you can commit to in your everyday life that really can help to move the needle. Here are six ideas you can try:
10-minute meditation: Apps like Calm and Headspace offer these on their user-friendly apps. I love the ‘daily calm’ series on the Calm app, which is a ten minute meditation each day focused on different topics. You can experience it for free on youtube here
Yoga Nidra: Yoga nidra is a guided meditation focused on bringing you into the liminal state between sleep and waking in order to cultivate deep relaxation. This is a really good one for those of us who struggle with sleep. You can try this wonderfully peaceful experience out by visiting the Yoga Nidra Network website and listening to one of their many free sessions.
Massage: Just a 30-minute massage to release physical tensions can help us feel revived. It also forces us to lie still for 30 minutes which is a positive self-care practice in itself! So, if you can get away for just 30 mins, find a massage centre near you or book one through Urban (if you live in London, Manchester, Birmingham or Coventry where they run their services) and they can come to your house to save even more time.
Walk: A free and instantly mood-boosting activity. So tie those laces, zip up that puffer and head off to breathe in the fresh air and take in the nature around you.
Go on a retreat: Book yourself onto one of the many retreats taking place across the UK and abroad, such as this one by my company Rise Retreats. More on this below!
Listen to yourself: This is important. For your self-care on any given day, you might have a totally different need to those described above. You may find self-soothing through inviting a friend over for dinner, sitting in front of your favourite TV show with a glass of wine or reading in the bath. It doesn’t have to be something that social media would tell us is beneficial. It is what you and your body is asking for at that time. Find what works for you and prioritise that.
Retreats are getting more and more popular following the enforced lockdown and resulting stress that Covid has bought upon us. People crave escape, rest and connection outside of their day-to-day roles and responsibilities. But what are retreats and what do they involve? There is no clear answer to this as retreats take different forms. There are silent retreats, detox retreats, fitness retreats, surf retreats, yoga retreats. The list goes on but the core of retreats are, as the definition states, to ‘move back or withdraw’ in some way.
Why Rise Retreats?
I founded Rise Retreats because I want to provide an experience focused on cultivating well-being through rest and recharge where guests have the opportunity to break away from their daily pressures. Our retreats are not about restraint, and they do not demand any level of fitness. They are simply about looking after YOU and cultivating self-care within you for a few precious days within nature and with a comfortable place to rest. Guests will enjoy lots of nourishing and delicious food and activities to soothe body and soul including yoga, meditation, walks and some local surprises thrown in. I am a self-confessed retreats junkie myself and having spent the last 10 years or so going on different retreats from pilates in Fuerteventura to surfing in Jersey, I have learnt to recognise and crave the feeling I have after being on a retreat. It is a feeling of freedom, positivity, clarity of mind and a sense of calm. I want to bottle up this potion of feelings and give it to others because it has proven to be so beneficial to me and my loved ones. You can see going on a retreat as an injection of self-care that tops you up so you have more energy, compassion, positivity and focus when you return to everyday life.
I have listed a few different elements of a retreat and the benefits they can bring below. All are elements of self-care and together they conjure up the retreat potion I described above:
Space and time:
Retreats are simple escapes, focused on giving you the gifts of space and time to read, walk, think, sip tea, listen and just be.
Energizing and recharging body and mind
Many of us put our bodies under lots of pressure each day. Whether it be hunched over a computer or rocking a baby on our hip, our bodies benefit from movement outside of our routine motions. Yoga helps the body and breath open up and activate in a mindful, restorative way. Food is another element that can be neglected when we are busy. We might grab a bag of crisps, sandwich and diet coke for lunch and something easy for dinner like a delivery. We could find we are missing out on giving our body essential nutrients as a result of a frantic diet. Retreat food is prepared slowly and carefully, provided to you without you needing to lift a finger. Most retreats focus on wholesome vegetarian fare abundant with fresh vegetables and fruit, giving your body an injection of nutrients essential for energy and daily functioning.
Meaningful connections with others:
At retreats, you usually have a chance to share elements of your time and space with other retreat guests. Whilst there is always the space and time and option to be solo, there are equally chances to meet new like-minded people who you might never have been able to meet. Social connection is at the core of our needs as human beings, so enjoying these social sparks that light up when we meet a new friend can transform our mood and outlook.
A retreat is usually run in a beautiful setting making the most of nature. This gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself mindfully into the great outdoors and notice the small incredible things that pausing in nature over the changing seasons can bring to us.
When is the next retreat?
Our next retreat takes place over the first weekend in March to welcome the Spring after a long winter. Retreat guests will stay at Abbotstone Farm House nestled within 2500 hectares of countryside within The Grange Hampshire estate. Guests will arrive at 3pm on Friday the 4th of March and leave at 1300 on Monday the 7th of March in order to maximise a long, restorative weekend where they will enjoy twice daily yoga, delicious vegetarian meals, nature walks, wine tasting, guided yoga nidra, a cacao ceremony and fire pit evenings.
If you fancy a break from your everyday to pamper your body and mind and come back awash with the positive effects of giving yourself everything you need for a few precious days, do get in touch. We have a few spaces remaining in our single occupancy or twin rooms and we are offering 10% off in January.
About the author
Jess Horne founded Rise Retreats in 2021 with a passion to bring people unique short breaks focused on resting and recharging body and mind within beautiful parts of the UK. Having been on lots of retreats herself and working on two, Jess has gathered a wealth of knowledge and experience that she hopes will shine through in the Rise Retreats experiences. Rise is an opportunity to escape the everyday, look after yourself, connect with like-minded people, eat delicious nourishing food, indulge a little and experience a part of the local area.
Jess lives in London with her husband and two little boys, Charlie and Joe. Self-care for Jess comes in many forms depending on her mood but her go-to activities are going for a jog by the river, cooking for friends, reading or watching a reality cooking show with a glass of wine!