Dr. Diana Hill

Why you should go on a retreat

Published 2 months ago • 3 min read

Put your energy where it matters most.

Dear Reader,

I rarely use the word “should,” but there is a time and place for it—like when I tell my teenage son, “You should take a shower.” Or when I remind myself, “You should stop scrolling now.”

Lately, I’ve been telling clients, “You should go on retreat.”

I put retreats in the “should” category because I see them as part of your physical and mental hygiene in our modern world, like showers or limiting phone use. (Note: If money, time, or travel are barriers, some organizations offer free or online retreats.)

I went on my first retreat at age 14. During those rocky teen years, my mom took me to hot springs in Ojai, sweat lodges in the Santa Ynez mountains, and even singing with whales on Orcas Island.

As an adult, I’ve traveled to retreat centers worldwide, with favorites in Peru, Costa Rica, and France. Now, I take my kids on retreats and lead therapists and the general public on yoga and ACT retreats.

Why should you go on a retreat? Because magical things will happen for you.

You restore physically.

Synergy happens when you eat whole foods, get enough sleep, move nutritiously, slow down your nervous system, remove toxins, and engage in contemplative practices. You activate your body’s natural capacity to regenerate and heal itself. By the third day of retreat, people’s skin starts to glow.

You get a break from the daily buzz.

Imagine a day without emails, pings on your phone, commuting in traffic, or to-dos. Imagine taking the time you put into running your life and using time to live your life. On retreat, you have time to watch a sunset, taste your food, look people in the eyes, and ponder a beetle as it crosses your path.

You make connections.

Often, people think of retreats as isolating, but some of my deepest friendships have formed while on retreat. You are with like-minded people who value rest and connection. It fosters radical honesty, vulnerable conversations, and friendship. There’s no make-up, phones, or facade to hide behind.

You reset your habits.

When I lead retreats, I recommend participants focus on at least one new habit while they are there. It’s much easier to give up that glass of wine when it’s not offered at dinner or start a morning meditation practice when you don’t have to make breakfast for the kids. When you jumpstart and strengthen your new habit on retreat, it’s established and ready to bring back home to more challenging environments.

You connect to nature.

Retreat centers are usually in beautiful settings. You will hear bird sounds, see wildflowers, and gaze at night skies packed with stars. You can’t help but feel awe and immense support when immersed in the natural world.

You rekindle your spirituality.

It’s hard to feel spiritual when your days are packed with to-dos. The quiet time, solitude, and ritual that retreats offer open the door to reconnect with your faith or grace as you understand it. There’s time to chant, pray, and meditate.

You remember who you are.

There’s a homecoming that happens on retreat. You get to meet yourself again and reflect on your life and where you want it to head. You make fresh commitments and get clear on course corrections. Doing nothing is doing something. I often get emails from retreat participants that they returned and left their jobs, ended toxic relationships, or started new businesses. You need time to make big decisions like these with clarity, and on retreat, you have all the time in the world.

Many blessings and more good to come.

Diana Hill, PhD

Your psychological flexibility guide

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Dr. Diana Hill

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