Health, career, spiritual practice: there are many facets to a happy life. Caroline Sylger Jones chooses five very different retreats to reignite all aspects of your inner glow
What makes us happy may be an ancient question, but going on a retreat is a good way to find out what might work for you in today’s world. Earning your living by doing something you love, perhaps? Learning how to value joys as they come, and how best to deal with pain, anger or stress at other times? How about just experiencing that lovely rush of serotonin after a massive dose of vigorous exercise? Here are five very different retreats designed to boost your happiness and make you feel great.
The coaching retreat: A Life at Work, Somerset
If, like a lot of people, your job finds you spending a third of your life doing something you don’t love with people you don’t like, then taking four days out in Somerset with career coach Mark Pearce and psychologist Julie Bullen should have you bubbling with ideas for how to change things. Held at Ammerdown House, a simple venue in the tranquil countryside near Radstock, these meticulously structured retreats use bona fide coaching methods to help you re-imagine your calling – from intensive pair work to private sessions in cognitive behavioural coaching. You’ll find your small group will very quickly bond, providing you with a safe environment to share and explore your innermost concerns, insecurities, joys and ambitions.
From £750 per person, see www.alifeatwork.co.uk
The meditation retreat: Gaia House, Devon
Meditation remains the single most useful tool I’ve come across to calm me down and set me back on track. The goal is not to stop thinking, but to enable us to become dispassionate observers of our thoughts so that we develop a sense of ease, of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. Lots of spas and retreats now offer meditation teaching, but I still find Buddhist centres the best place to start, or develop, a practice. In the UK my favourite is Gaia House, a former convent in the peaceful south Devon countryside with a serene meditation hall, clean and simply decorated bedrooms, healthy vegetarian food, lots of spaces to lose yourself and expert tutors who specialise in teaching Vipassana (insight) meditation.
From £134 per person for a weekend retreat, see www.gaiahouse.co.uk
The detox retreat: Jiva Healing, UK and Turkey
From affordable, comfy venues in the UK and Turkey, this lovely little company hosts healthy eating, cooking, yoga and juice-fasting retreats – and even teach classes on happiness. Co-founders of the company, Melissa Gamble and Rebecca Andrist, draw on theories of Buddhism, positive psychology and the water experiments of Japanese researcher Dr Masaru Emoto during the classes: happiness is 90% attitude, they say, and if you’re miserable, you’re more likely to be sick even if you eat healthily. It feels somehow wrong taking notes, but it’s too fascinating not to.
From £750 per person, see www.jivahealing.com
The fitness retreat: 38 Degrees North, Ibiza
The high you get from the release of serotonin after exercise isn’t free, you have to work for it, and one of the best places to do that is in the sunshine of Ibiza with 38 Degrees North. This feisty, talented company runs health and fitness retreats on the White Isle between April and October. Their Optimal Fitness retreat combines mountain biking, hiking, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, hatha and ashtanga yoga, cardio, beach and strength circuits, core fitness sessions and aqua spinning. Plus there’s a fabulous spa at their base, the Aguas de Ibiza hotel, where you can chill out after a day’s activity.
From £1,499 per person including everything except flights, see www.thirtyeightdegreesnorth.com
The creative retreat: Skyros, Greece
These summer retreats inspired Jimmy Carr to give up his job with Shell and get into comedy, and continue to be mighty popular with people from all walks of life. Held on a sun-kissed Greek island, they take the idea of looking after yourself back to its ancient Greek roots, where mind and body were seen as one, and physical exercise was complemented with mental stimulation in the form of philosophical readings and debates. In other words, they’re a mix of work and play. Choose The Skyros Centre for writing, personal development and art courses, or Atsitsa for more beach-based sporty activities. Families are welcome in August.
From £595 per person per week, see www.skyros.com
Positive Travel is edited by Aaron Millar. He writes about adventure travel and personal development through exploring the world, at The Blue Dot Perspective.