How wellness retreats can extend your ‘Vacation Effect’


The Vacation Effectwhat exactly is it?

It takes the rush out of rush hour.

It carries you as you step out of the elevator still feeling the memory of a gentle breeze from the ocean air.  Your hair tucked away but holding on to salty curls and sun blushed streaks.

We are all familiar with the carefree feeling that remains after a well needed holiday. The gift of relaxation extends past the duration of your holiday and you become additionally productive and dynamic for the next week or so.

Slowly, the feeling of carefree joy thaws into a memory. Our attention dissolves into e-mails, meetings and deadlines. We may begin to question the validity of a break, rushing to the computer to book our next getaway. Then there are some people in the office that seem to be unaffected by post-holiday blues. Still walking through the office as if they are on a travolator weeks after their holiday.

With the recent popularity of wellness retreats, science has been interested in quantifying their positive effects. How effective are wellness retreats at reducing our stress levels long term in comparison to a normal holiday?

A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine measured the improvements in overall wellbeing after a one-week wellness retreat. All improvements in health were sustained six weeks after the one-week retreat! Across the board participants reported ongoing improvements in weight loss (an average of 1.5kg), psychological symptoms and decreases in the indicators of stress. With some minor lifestyle tweaks, like weekly yoga and meditation, the effects may last even longer than that.

Other studies found similar results. A study compared two groups of woman at a resort – with one group participating in wellness activities and the other abstaining. The woman participating in wellness activities reported improvements in spirituality, gratitude, self-compassion, and anxiety over and above the “vacation effect”.

Another study found evidence that work place productivity – your cognitive function and task-based attention – is improved after a week-long retreat.

If one week-long wellness retreat can positively affect your stress levels and overall health for a sizeable portion of the year, perhaps we are thinking about holidays the wrong way.

Maybe they don’t have to be short carefree enigmas existing in an otherwise stressful life. Perhaps we can use wellness holidays as tools to effect our quality of life year round.

Blog lovingly written by Mikaela Moretti