How To Make The Most Of A Retreat

You’ve done your research, put down your deposit and now you’re contemplating what to pack for your upcoming wellness retreat. But how do you know for sure that your hard earned dollars are going to good use?

A little pre-planning can go a long way in ensuring you leave a retreat rested, rejuvenated and ready to incorporate your newfound zen into your daily grind.

Here are 8 tips to making the most out of any retreat:

Prep your body and mind
Whether it’s morning yoga, a vegan meal plan or meditation, most retreats feature some element of healthy living. However, if you’re thrown into that lifestyle without warning, it can be a serious shock to the system.

To temper the jolt, ease yourself into a slower gear in the week or two leading up to departure. This could look like eliminating alcohol and sugar, incorporating a 5-minute breathing exercise into your routine or avoiding your toxic co-worker. That way, by the time you hit your first downward dog at dawn, you’re mentally and physically prepared for what’s to come.

Set intentions or a theme
Grab a piece of paper and a quiet spot to jot down some thoughts about what you hope to accomplish on the retreat. If you’re stuck, consider reflecting on why you’re attending in the first place, what obstacles you’re currently up against and how you want to feel when you come home.

If you’re still reaching for meaning, take the pressure off and set a theme rather than a specific intention. Coming up with an overall theme like reminding yourself to relax or to push yourself can help you to refocus your attention if you’re feeling ungrounded at the retreat.

Let go of preconceived notions
Keep in mind that while an intention or theme can help you to focus, it shouldn’t be a hard line in the sand. Retreats are an amazing place to get a change of perspective and reset your habitual patterns, but resist the expectation that you’ll have a life-changing revelation.

By letting go of any preconceived notions and allowing the retreat to unfold naturally, you’ll actually open yourself up to more of the experience. If you hold on to what you think should happen, you’ll close yourself off to potential insights and likely walk away disappointed.

Ditch your electronics
Some retreats have rules against using electronics, but even if you’re somewhere they’re allowed, it’s best to unplug. You’re at a retreat to stay in the moment, so checking email or mindlessly flipping through Instagram won’t help you achieve that higher purpose.

A digital detox can also help you to break the cycle of addiction to your cell phone and computer, a problem that 61 percent of people admit to having. Studies also show that high social media use and screen time can trigger increases in loneliness, jealousy and fear – feelings you’re trying to nip in the bud on a retreat rather than fuel.

Connect with others – or not
Sometimes, it can be useful to put yourself out there and connect with the like-minded humans sharing your space. Meeting new people, opening up to strangers and talking about what brought you to book the retreat can allow you to forge relationships that you’ll cherish for years to come.

On the other hand, if you’re constantly seeking the approval of others or you’re working on quieting your monkey mind, spending time nurturing the relationship with yourself can prove more fruitful than expanding your network.

Don’t wait until you arrive to decide what side of the fence you’re on with this one. Instead, use the time you’ve dedicated to intention setting to get clear on how you’ll interact with the other attendees.

Push past your fears
Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. You didn’t sign up for a retreat because you wanted to do the same thing you do every day. There are going to be times when you feel scared or uncertain – that’s normal and okay. What’s not okay is to withdrawal into the fear and prevent it from allowing you to breakthrough.

Make the decision before you leave to say yes to the unknown so that when you’re faced with it, the choice is already made.  

Listen to your body
You know yourself better than anyone, so if you recognize that you need a break, take it. It won’t do you, or anyone around you, any benefit to hurt yourself or go past your breaking point. So yes, push yourself past fear and your comfort zone, but know when to call it quits, too. There’s no shame in taking a walk by yourself, opting out of that headstand or going to bed early.

Incorporate what you learned
Too often, we find ourselves having an unforgettable experience…and then immediately reverting back to our old ways when we return. By reflecting on what came up for you during the retreat, you can be more cognizant of incorporating any learnings.

Take time when you get back to journal or talk to a supportive friend who can help you parse through what you’re feeling for the nuggets of wisdom. Then, remind yourself as you go about your day-to-day that it’s possible to change and evolve into a better version of you.

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