When was the last time you took a break from your highly stimulating life? In the fast-paced world of today, it’s very easy to assume that we’ve been enjoying the personal time when we really have not. We must be willing to hit “pause” on life for holistic well-being and take a personal retreat once in a while.
A personal retreat is a vacation; time away from your demanding lifestyle. But unlike commercialized vacations, a personal retreat is more about doing less and experiencing more. It’s a time for you to clear your mind, worry less, and mindfully experience your environment. It is a time for introspection, evaluating your current lifestyle and its benefits and drawbacks.
Personal retreats help reconnect with ourselves. When you go through your daily life with checklists of tasks and expectations, it’s easy to lose touch with how you feel. The measure of a good day is what you were able to accomplish, and not necessarily how that day treated you. It also doesn’t help that we fill out downtime with simulations from our electronic devices. Since the TV became a staple in every home, we have had enough distractions from self-reflection. Today, everyone has a personal babysitter in the form of a smartphone to soothe themselves every time their mind wanders towards introspection. The problem with this is that we no longer check-in with ourselves.
This is why taking a personal retreat is one of the best ways you can express self-love to yourself. Of course, the best reality is one where you take mindful check-ins with yourself at all times of the day. However, that is really unrealistic for many of us. We have schooling, professional courses, jobs, side projects, and more. To get the most out of our day, it is sometimes important to ignore how we feel to get the job done.
On a personal retreat, you make the conscious effort to get away from everything that costs you in personal time. By committing to personal retreats, you are improving the quality of your mind and your overall life.
On a personal level, we all know that choosing to take time away from our busy lives generally makes us feel better. Since personal retreats fall under the wellness tourism industry, researchers often work to determine if it is beneficial.
One study by biomedical researchers shows that when participants went on a holistic one-week personality retreat, they enjoyed and maintained health and wellness benefits for up to six weeks1. Another group of researchers conducted a systematic review of 23 studies about residential retreats for wellness purposes3. The results showed that all studies reported post-retreat health benefits ranging from immediately after to up to five years after the retreats.
From personal experiences and clinical reports, we can see that taking a personal retreat is indeed helpful. Choosing to take time for self-care is one of the best things you can do for your quality of life.
The benefits of taking a personal retreat include:
Researchers have observed that going on retreats can result in better health for individuals. The complete absence of pressure from work and relationships combined with adequate rest can benefit your health. Retreats that focus on health include activities such as body treatments, massages, yoga, and medical consultations.
Retreats afford you the time to truly rest, depressurize your mind and engage in self-assessment. You can come out of a retreat with a clearer and more balanced mindset. Taking time for a personal retreat when you are at a crossroads in life may aid you in making a clear-headed decision. The results of a recent study showed significant improvements in psychological measures.
Constantly battling the chaos of life can wear down our inner strength and leave us in a state of exhaustion. We may feel that our motivation is lacking, and our life's purpose is unclear. A retreat is an avenue to re-energize and recondition our minds. Research carried out on human services professionals2 showed that retreats are promising ways to increase mindfulness, resilience, and self-love.
Another advantage of a retreat is how it can open your eyes and minds to appreciate life and nature better. Solitude can give you an insight into your association with others. It may reveal relationships that have been taken for granted or taken too seriously. Observing your retreat in a location that is out in nature can help you reconnect to nature4. You may find yourself with a newfound appreciation for things like the sunshine, the night sky, and so much more.
Personal retreats provide an opportunity for transformation in the life of an individual. Certain positive practices observed during the retreat can turn into lifetime habits that make you a better person. Researchers have proven that you can maintain improvements in well-being gained during retreats for up to 6 weeks. A retreat presents a chance at a critical and honest assessment of how you have been living. If you are unsatisfied with your assessment, then you can try to change your approach to life.
After deciding to go on a personal retreat, the next question is, “where do I go for my retreat?” The two most common options are at home or a retreat center.
An essential factor in choosing a location for your retreat should be its serenity and assurance of privacy. Getting your home ready for a retreat experience should start with cleaning up and organizing your environment. Having an orderly space will make it easier to concentrate on meditation, self-care, and other planned activities. Also, a clean retreat space will foster better health. If you feel you cannot easily achieve these in your home space, then there are several places you can go to.
Some of these locations are dedicated retreat centers, and others are recreational spots where you can take a mini-retreat. You can find one close by with a simple Google search for ‘personal retreat centers near me”. Choosing an established personal retreat center can provide the option of a guided soul searching experience with the help of reputable gurus or teachers. You can go to the beach, visit a lake or garden, or go camping in the woods. There are sanctuaries, monasteries, and communities with retreat facilities in mountains, rural areas, and so on.
You don't have to break the bank to go on retreats. With a small budget or none at all, you can have retreats in your home from time to time.
There is always work to do, and taking time off while leaving important work unattended can disturb the peaceful and refreshing time that you hoped to get. Therefore, delegating your duties to capable hands is the first thing to do in ensuring that your personal retreat is not interrupted by ringing phones or a guilty conscience.
Planning your activities with a flexible schedule is also a great way to maximize your getaway’s benefits. In creating your schedule, include activities that are physically, mentally, and emotionally stimulating. Along with carrying out activities you consider as priorities for soul searching, do something fun and relaxing too. You can take long walks, go swimming, have a picnic, listen to music and many other things. If you intend to spend several days on your time away, doing something fun can be a way to ensure that your journey to refreshing your mind doesn't end up in a rut.
Setting a goal for yourself ensures that you don't lose focus on why you took time away for a retreat. The goals should not be many or be a complex one; it could be as simple as “I want to practice self-care” or “I want to practice mindfulness.” Having a goal will guide you in the choice of retreat venue and choice of activities. It will also make sure that you stay focused on yourself.
Journaling can also help you come out of your self retreat with the best results. How? Writing down your thoughts and goals can provide you with a fresh perspective on issues. It can also help in deeper introspection and give you a better sense of clarity. (check out our list of journal prompts to get you started)
Eating nutritious food at the right times will make sure you keep your energy up and stay healthy during your retreat. Constant hunger doesn't bode well for the intentional lifestyle you need to get the best out of your retreat. Hunger and inadequate nourishment may limit your ability to give full concentration to meditation, reading, and other essential activities.
Life is challenging, and everyone gets their share of challenges. It is possible to feel overwhelmed and disconnected from your inner self. Taking some personal time to reflect quietly without interruption can help you find peace and get back on your feet. Taking a personal retreat has many benefits, and you can do it with little or no budget. You can find personal retreat centers around you or practice it right there in your home.
All you need to do is understand that taking time for yourself isn't selfish. Neither does it mean that you are not as tough as everybody else. It simply means it’s time for you to take a break from your usual routine and check-in with yourself. A personal retreat may be what you need to refresh your mind or get inspiration to change your life. Retreats are simply the best way for you to tackle stress in today's world and find balance in your life.
|Cohen, M. M., Elliott, F., Oates, L., Schembri, A., & Mantri, N. (2017). Do Wellness Tourists Get Well? An Observational Study of Multiple Dimensions of Health and Well-Being After a Week-Long Retreat. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 23(2), 140–148. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2016.0268|
|Aileen M. Pidgeon, Lucas Ford & Frances Klaassen (2014) Evaluating the effectiveness of enhancing resilience in human service professionals using a retreat-based Mindfulness with Metta Training Program: A randomised control trial, Psychology, Health & Medicine, 19:3, 355-364, DOI: 10.1080/13548506.2013.806815|
|Naidoo, D., Schembri, A. & Cohen, M. The health impact of residential retreats: a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med 18, 8 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-017-2078-4|
|Lea, J. (2008), Retreating to nature: rethinking ‘therapeutic landscapes’. Area, 40: 90-98. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4762.2008.00789.x|