Looking for a Fresh Start? Try This

The word retreat means "withdraw," and sometimes that's exactly what you need to do to in order to regroup your thoughts and view your life from a different perspective. A retreat center is a sanctuary, a place where you can go to engage in therapeutic activities of all kinds. Formal retreat settings, sometimes called "renewal centers" are usually located in isolated areas, close to nature in woodland areas or near beaches, in modern structures or more camp-like facilities. There may be guidance, programming, and group activities, or you may choose to go it alone on a personal or even silent retreat.

Religious leaders often go on retreats to temporarily distance themselves from the material world and focus on their spiritual commitments. As a lay person, you can also attend a Buddhist, Hindu, Christian or other religious or spiritually-centered retreat to focus on prayer and meditation, since most faith-based retreat centers welcome people of all beliefs. Dr. Ellen Idler, director of the Religion and Public Health Collaborative at Emory University, finds that the healthy practices and social support found in religious or spiritual practice throughout one's lifetime contribute to both physical and emotional health.

While a yoga retreat focuses on the practice of yoga, you may also participate in other physical and mental health-focused activities that include music, drumming, hiking, meditation, nutrition, and alternative healing practices such as reiki, mindfulness, and Ayurveda. Spa services and a variety of healing and relaxation activities are available at most yoga retreats, as are guided creativity and culinary arts projects.

If you're environmentalist, you'll probably enjoy spending time in an ecologically- friendly retreat setting most likely situated in or near a nature reserve. Eco retreats can be found in some of the most beautiful settings in the world, in Hawaii, Nicaragua, Australia, and often closer to home, in the wilderness of your own state. The setting of an eco retreat is natural and the focus is on local flora and fauna. Expect hiking, bird watching, plant identification, wildlife sightings, composting, recycling and other activities that revolve around environmental protection and preservation.

For some people, expressive writing, or writing down thoughts about traumatic or emotional experiences, has been shown to improve mental and physical well-being. A writing retreat usually provides individual housing and amenities in a quiet location conducive to creative thinking. You can work alone and at the same time feel a sense of fellowship with others who are there for the same purpose. Many writer retreats also offer group workshops and individual guidance in addition to a place where you can find the solitude you need to focus on creative endeavors.

Weight Control
In addition to pampering, a spa retreat is often the place where you will find activities geared toward weight loss and healthier living, such as cooking and fitness classes, stress management and self-empowerment workshops, and individual wellness counseling.

Regardless of the specific nature of the retreat, most focus on some aspect of physical and/or mental health and wellness. Some are for women only, men only, or parents only. Some focus on mindfulness and meditation. Others center on fitness and healthy eating. Most formal retreats encompass a variety of activities and disciplines that can contribute to personal renewal and healing. Normally, both individual and group guidance and activities are available.



Andersson, MA and Conley, CS. "Optimizing the Perceived Benefits and Health Outcomes of Writing about Traumatic Life Events."  Stress and Health; 2012 Mar 9. doi:10.1002/smi.2423. Web May 2012

Baikie, KA, et al. "Expressive writing and positive writing for participants with mood disorders: an online randomized controlled trial." Journal of Affective Disorders; 2012 Feb;136(3):310-9. Web May 2012

Idler, Ellen. "The Psychological and Physical Benefits of spiritual/Religious Practices." Spirituality in Higher Education; 4(2) Feb 2008 Web May 2012

Retreat Finder  Web May 2012