How to turn your home into a wellness retreat

Author: Leigh van den Berg

Trend analyst Faith Popcorn was the first to coin the phrase “cocooning” – the preference to stay indoors and turn your home into a comfortable retreat from the outside world. Today, besides the obvious reasons for staying away from everyone else, the desire to stay in is more prevalent than ever, having sparked a boom in industries like food delivery and media streaming. 


While spending more time at home can be great, is it negatively affecting your health? If you’ve fallen into a rut involving pizza delivery and Netflix, perhaps it’s time to give your abode a wellness retreat-style makeover. With just a few changes, you can turn your living space into an oasis of nutritious food, uncluttered calm and type of lighting that can improve your mood and sleep.


Start with the kitchen 


There's no point in adding kale to your fridge if it's going to sit right next to a six-pack of beer. While you get to decide how far you want to go – do alcohol and gluten get to stay? – it would be ideal to get rid of universally unhealthy foods that have no place in a wellness retreat. These include anything high in unhealthy trans fats – things like frozen pizza, biscuits and cakes – as well as anything containing added sugar. 


Once you've got empty shelves, it's time to restock them with the good stuff. This means nutrient-rich foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fatty fish as well as good-for-you whole grains and nuts like quinoa and almonds. No need to stockpile either, as these foods are always better fresh and you may be able to get them delivered to your door in certain areas. Frozen vegetables also retain most of their nutrients and they’ll keep for longer too. 


You can then enjoy them in the way you’d expect to see them on a wellness retreat’s menu. In their natural form or “processed” in a way that preserves their nutritional content. This means investing in healthy kitchen essentials like a juicer, blender and steamer. Also, you might be surprised to learn your microwave can stay. It’s one of the healthiest ways to cook things as it’s short cooking time results in minimal nutrient destruction. 


A study performed by the Nebraska Agricultural Research division showed that using a microwave to steam veggies or stir-frying them with a healthy fat like olive oil ensures they retain more vitamins than boiling them or stir-frying with water. 


Get serious about hydration


That fridge clear out doesn't stop with food. If you really want to live la vida wellness retreat, you know that's going to mean remaining hydrated by drinking more water and saying no to sweet soda. American nutrition expert and registered dietitian Carissa Bealert considers it the most useless thing in your fridge. "Artificial sweeteners and aspartame in diet soda, in particular, can mess with our body's regulatory system. Plus, soda doesn't nourish you. It doesn't give your body anything at all," she says. 


According to The World Health Organization, adults should be drinking at least two litres of water a day, but this doesn't have to come from plain water. Certain foods, like watermelon or soup, have a high water content and that counts towards your daily intake too. You can also count any water you consume in a drink like tea. So, increasing your water intake doesn't have to be dull. Use the veggies in your newly-stocked fridge to create a nutritious soup or smoothie or brew a pot of antioxidant-rich green tea. You can also make plain water more interesting by adding a twist of lemon, a few sliced strawberries or a cucumber spiral. This way, you can add natural flavour while creating a spa-like feeling. 


Declutter and ban blue light 


Speaking of "spa-like feeling", let's talk ambience! If your home is currently cluttered, it's time to embrace your inner Marie Kondo and get rid of anything that doesn't spark joy. Also, you might want to think about what goes where. For example, you're not likely to find a television in your room at a wellness retreat so why have one in yours? In fact, you could take it a step further and banish all electronics, including “blue light baddies” like your cell phone and laptop from the bedroom. 


While any kind of light can suppress your brain's secretion of melatonin, the hormone that tells your body when it's time to sleep and wake, blue light, has the most dramatic effect. This was proven by Harvard researchers who compared the effects of six and a half hours of blue light exposure to that of green light. The blue light was found to suppress melatonin for about twice as long as the green light. Interestingly, red light had the least effect. Perhaps a switch to red light bulbs in the bedroom might be in order?


Set the mood 


Another more relaxing light source that can create a retreat-like ambience is a candle. Better yet, if you opt for scented ones, you can use the power of fragrance to create a sense of calm! Neurologists know that certain smells definitely have an impact on our mood, but it's incredibly subjective. There isn't a universal scent that will make everyone happy. Studies have shown that the smells we like are those we associate with a pleasant experience. So, when it comes to enhancing your home with a soothing scent, don't worry about which are universally considered relaxing, simply choose the one you like best! 


Better yet, train your brain to associate a particular fragrance to deliver an instant sense of Zen. According to Pamela Dalton, a sensory psychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, in Philadelphia, you can do exactly that by picking a distinctive scent and pairing it with a calming meditation session. After just a few of them, just the fragrance on its own can elicit a state of relaxation, even when you don't have time to say "ohm". 




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