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7 tips to turn group trips into healing, mindful and wellness retreats

7 tips to turn group trips into healing, mindful and wellness retreats

Wellbeing experts share a thing or two about how to own the weekend trip and turn it into a wellness getaway, a time well spent bonding with dear ones while rejuvenating oneself.
group of friends wellness retreat
Representational image | Shutterstock

The bags are packed and you are set to go on that much-awaited weekend trip with friends or family. The trotter in you has enthusiastically researched and picked out flaunt-worthy locales and cool cafes and restaurants to check out (and click selfies against). That is the scene for a regular holidayer.

But if you are looking at travel as therapy, especially with your loved ones, and unwinding at a yoga or an ayurveda wellness retreat  is burning a hole in your pocket, then here are ways to ensure your regular trip turns out to be one. 

Bonding is the goal

Be it cycling, hiking, coffee or wine trails — the regular excursionist focuses on the activity rather as an experience to be stored away, probably in photographs and memorabilia.  

“Look at [the getaway] as a way to bond! That’s the start,” suggests Dr Vihan Sanyal, Mumbai-based psychotherapist and founder of Mind Factory. 

He suggests identifying the real reason for the bonding. “Is the trip [meant] to get family members or friends – who probably do not get along – to mingle and bury their differences? Or is it [meant] to further strengthen and deepen that bond? Focus on suitable activities accordingly,” he suggests. 

Participatory group activities like Dumb Charades or Antyakshari* can help members of groups to come together. “[These days] people drift apart even over phone texts. So social interactions should be the priority when on such trips.” 

(*Antyakshari is a popular Indian film song-based `game of the ending letter’: two or more groups sequentially pose each other popular film song bits. The defending team must respond with a song beginning with the last syllable of the challenger’s song.)  

Be a ‘bonfire listener’

Better still, be a listener and urge people to talk about emotions. Sarmistha Mazumder, founder of Mindfully Sorted, a behavioural health platform in Bengaluru that curates programmes and mindful retreats for people seeking to heal, suggests asking fellow trippers  ‘How are you feeling?’ instead of a perfunctory “What’s up?” 

“Give space to each other to share, without advising or judging; just listen actively and empathise. Such sharing helps people to offload their emotional baggage and feel that much happier,” she suggests. 

To make group outings meaningful and unwinding experiences, Dr Sanyal lists out a few points to keep in mind as listeners: 

  • Give the persons who are expressing themselves the respect they deserve 
  • Do not interrupt them, but encourage them to talk 
  • Ask them gentle, open-ended questions to help them introspect 
  • Do not give an opinion too quickly 
  • Avoid dismissive statements 

“These are just a few attributes of a good listener. In the process, you might even pick up something interesting about those persons, get to know them and understand what they must be going through. If there are some warning signs, then you’d be able to guide them [to appropriate expert help],” Dr Sanyal says.

Try breathwork on the go

Then there is breathwork, a term for conscious breathing practices. The beauty of breathwork, says Jay Bradley who is a breathwork teacher and healer from Palm Springs, California, is that it is mobile and can be done on the go, on vacation, or anytime one needs an inspirational lift. 

“It’s best to breathe deeply to your favourite music so it’s recommended that you have your cell phone handy, maybe also a portable speaker. Normally an eye mask or eye cover is suggested for a more peaceful, inward journey, and two lungs and a heart are always needed.” 

Bradley recommends the three-part conscious breath as it offers physical, emotional, and spiritual transformation. “But people can learn their favourite style of breath and practise it anytime and anywhere.” 

He finds it to be the single most powerful technique to help somebody with their mental health and well-being. “It takes you on a deep journey of self-discovery, allowing you to feel and sense emotions, blocks, pain, and trauma that one doesn’t normally access daily or on a regular talk therapy.”

Create something together

Activities that prompt dialogue and exchange would be a great idea. Bengaluru-based event curator Ekta Singh suggests trying out together activities such as mandala art, cooking or creating a piece of art or sharing the highlight of the day. “There is so much that can be done to rejuvenate one’s body and mind. Sitting and writing, gratitude journaling, farming, gardening, and learning about sustainability, to name a few,” she says. 

Mazumder believes that trying new things is not just fun to do but also subconsciously helps to bring new perspectives into monotonous thought patterns and it also challenges our minds with curiosity.

Harness the power of journaling

For those who take time to open up in new social circles, a good way to unwind would be to write down a list of things you want to do, let go, make priorities, express gratitude, or even just randomly pen down thoughts.   

This can be a group exercise as well. “As a group, one can design a special journal for each one and write for 10 minutes about the trips made over the years. It would be fun to read them and share,” says Mazumder. 

“Choose a comfortable corner and reflect on the things that disturbed you and jot them down. Burn that piece of paper if there’s a bonfire around” to get it out of your mind, Ekta Singh suggests. 

Meditation & exercise

“Early morning meditation really helps to amplify one’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Hire a person and get the group to do yoga, breathwork and meditation,” suggests Dr Sanyal.

Be ‘present’ 

Wellness experts have for a long timeemphasised the importance of ‘being in the moment’. The outing might just be the right place to start. 

Hug a tree, for starters. “Close your eyes and hug a tree tightly and even share your secrets. The act of hugging releases a hormone called oxytocin which helps us to calm down and increase positive emotions,” explains Mazumder. 

One can also try journaling, said to be a powerful tool to help ground a person into being mindful. 

Making cherishable times 

Behavioural skills trainer Sudhir Udayakanth of Bengaluru suggests a handy guide for the seeker-traveller holidaying in a group. 

  • Once you reach your destination forget about your home and your other ‘world’. 
  • First, ensure that all put the phones away as much as possible (your phone and your group’s). 
  • Have meals together; do not let anyone miss it. 
  • Eat healthy. 
  • Be punctual for group events; be courteous and considerate with all, especially those who serve you. 
  • With other members, have light-hearted, informed conversations on common, pleasant and amusing topics.  
  • Talk about interesting things that you noticed. 
  • Include a nature walk with comfortable footwear. 
  • Carry your favourite book. 
  • Make it a safe, open and non-judging group where everyone can be themselves.

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