Wellness Retreats: What Are They?

Wellness Retreat: Your Questions Answered 

Right now, wellness retreats have never been more necessary. Not only are economic, political and social issues leaving us overwhelmed and unsettled, the always-on mentality ingrained into contemporary culture means truly switching off is no longer part of our collective skillset. Add to that a global pandemic and it’s hardly surprising that interest in wellness retreats is on the rise. 

Modern day sanctuaries designed to help you escape the tolls of everyday life, wellness breaks like the ones hosted here at New Life Portugal are ideal for anyone nearing burnout, struggling with stress management, battling anxiety, depression or grief, or looking for addiction after-care. 

If you’re considering booking a wellbeing break, there’s no doubt you’ll have some questions that need answering. First and foremost, what exactly is a wellness retreat? What happens there? And what should you pack to take with you? Below, you’ll find all your questions answered. 

What is a Health Retreat? 

Put simply, a health retreat is an escape. “A wellness retreat is both a destination and an experience where one steps out of the pace and stress of day-to-day life to nurture the body, mind and spirit,” explains Karin Beeker, M.S, psychologist and program director at New Life Portugal. “It is typically a place set apart in sublime settings where beauty and nature are part of the healing, grounding us in our most basic connection to life.” 

These days, there are many types of health retreat on offer. Some focus solely on physical health, others hone in on mental health, but there are also retreats offering cleanses, body detoxes, technology amnesties, extended deep meditation or completely holistic experiences, like that which is on offer here at New Life Portugal’s retreat centre in Europe. Despite their differences, their goals tend to be similar. “What wellness retreats have in common is time set apart from the normal pressures and routines of life and the use of a variety of means to strengthen the body/mind/spirit connection, rejuvenate physical stamina, promote longevity and nurture a sense of calm.”

The venues of wellness retreats tend to be special, atmospheric places where your shoulders drop and brow unfurls the moment you step foot inside. “Settings can range from pampering luxury spas to rustic cabins and tents where roughing it is part of the program,” Karin adds. 

What happens at a Wellness Retreat? 

To help you escape the stresses of normal life but also improve your strength and resilience, wellness retreats tend to offer a whole spectrum of holistic activities and services. These can span everything from counselling and psychotherapy, mindfulness and meditation practices, spiritual services like reiki, yoga and other physical pursuits, cooking lessons and skill-based classes, beauty and wellbeing treatments, plus so much more. 

The specific activities will depend on the wellness break in question, but quite often they work using a prescriptive approach, where the retreat’s expert guides will help build a schedule to meet your specific goals. At New Life Portugal, we take an integrative approach to wellbeing, combining mindfulness, counselling/coaching, physical fitness and engaged community leaving to help you make the positive changes you want to see in your life. 

“New Life Foundation takes the concept of wellness retreat a bit further than most,” explains Karin. “We believe that it can be more than a reset or a ‘menu’ of individualized treatments, we see it as an opportunity for a transformative experience in which guests can reconnect to what is truly most important – such as values, a sense of purpose and belonging, authenticity, and aim to skillfully facilitate change which inspires us to integrate wellness back into our lives in a way that is sustainable.”

New Life’s model of wellbeing is based on both current research and ancient wisdom and traditions. It’s what we (jokingly) call our ‘secret sauce’, the first ‘ingredient’ of which is community. “Research consistently points  to a sense of meaningful belonging and purposeful living as key to wellbeing,” Karin explains, which is why group experiences are a key feature of our retreats, allowing guests to truly connect and learn from one another. 

The next ingredient is mental health and emotional support, in which trained and experienced counsellors and life coaches are on hand to guide you through any complex issues you may be facing. 

And the final ingredient is contemplative living. Not just an added extra, mindfulness is woven into all that we do at New Life Portugal, from our schedule, to our staff training to how we come to meals. 

What to pack for a Wellness Retreat

If you’ve booked your wellness break but have found yourself staring hopelessly at an empty suitcase contemplating what to pack, first do your research to find out what activities are on offer at your chosen retreat. At New Life Portugal? “Come prepared to be comfortable and to spend a good deal of time outdoors,” Karin recommends. “There are many hiking trails in the area and our campus itself provides many beautiful vistas to explore.”

Her recommended packing list includes: 

  • Exercise wear
  • Loose clothes that you’ll be comfortable in sitting on the floor
  • Swimming wear for the sauna and pool
  • Rain gear
  • Natural insect repellent
  • A journal and favourite pen
  • Your favourite tea 
  • Water bottle and/or insulated hot and cold bottle
  • Shoes that are easy on/easy off (we ask you to remove your shoes in our buildings)
  • Hiking/walking shoes
  • A good hat
  • Sunscreen
  • A light blanket or shawl 

Ready to book a wellness retreat at New Life Portugal? Click here to discover more about our unique approach and our four carefully designed program pathways.