If you've ever unplugged for a week at a retreat, you already know what a life-changing experience these types of self-care escapes can be. But now science does, too, thanks to a new study that's discovered spiritual getaways have the ability to positively alter the chemical makeup of your brain—particularly the dopamine and serotonin (reward and emotional) systems.
Knowing the science behind the mind-body benefits of metaphysical getaways is great, but how do you keep the good vibes going once you're back to reality?
Whether they last a week or just a weekend, the key to maximizing [retreat] magic is to take your learnings and turn them into life-long habits once you get home.
It's a question Lisa Levine, reiki practitioner and founder of the East Coast's epicenter for alternative medicine, Maha Rose in Brooklyn, has given a lot of thought to since opening her own woo-woo weekend retreat space in the Catskill Mountains last spring. Maha's northern outpost, a two-hour drive upstate from New York City, has become a haven for urbanites who want to unplug and recharge over three-day immersions into practices like moon rituals, sound baths, and energy healing.
Even before researchers started looking into their physiological benefits, Levine considered retreats a powerful way "to delve in deeper and connect with [yourself]" (i.e. they have the ability to positively alter your mental outlook in ways that won't show up on a brain scan). And whether they last a week or just a weekend, the key to maximizing their magic, she says, is to take your learnings and turn them into life-long habits once you get home.
But she also understands that maintaining the routines you picked up on a retreat after you return to the responsibilities of everyday life can feel like miracle work.
Here are three things you can do to maintain the magic of a retreat once you're back to reality.
1. Don't plug back into regular life right away
“Give any revelations or inspirations you received during the retreat the chance to sink in a little deeper," says Levine. "Don’t hop right back on social media. Don’t go right out with friends." Instead, she recommends going home and taking a bath or journaling.
2. Maintain the friendships you established on your trip
“Stay connected—other people on the retreat often represent the direction you want your life to go," Levine says. "You had this amazing experience together, [so] when you see them again, this will be reinforced. You remember the revelations, the depth of experience.... It stays alive.”
3. Treat your life as if you're on retreat
Who says that retreat life isn't reality? “You felt so good because you were meditating every day, doing yoga, writing, or spending time in nature. You can continue these practices in your own home," insists Levine. "Treat your life as if you're on retreat. Maybe the first hour or the last two of the day is your retreat time—do your spiritual practices!” If it’s easier to maintain the magic with others, go to a yoga or meditation class or join a women’s circle. And if your community doesn't have one? Start your own!
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