Give yourself a break this year for your mental health.
Mindfulness. Meditation. Mental health. The terms have become part of our daily lives, and now they are in- creasingly becoming part of our travel options and opportunities.
In the first wellness travel survey conducted by the Wellness Tourism Association, “meditation/mental health break” was the third most popular response to the question: If you are planning to take a wellness vacation in 2020 what would be the main goal?
A “mental health break” ranked just behind “reconnect with self” and the number one goal: “a general overall re-boot,” selected by close to half of the over 2,500 people who responded to the survey including many readers of this magazine.
So why, we might ask, is mental health, in general, gaining awareness, and why has it become a good reason to travel?The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully,and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
We are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about our own mental health and that of others, primarily because the medical community is openly talking about it, and science is offering us new ways to be proactive with our mental health. First celebrated in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health, there is even an annual Mental Health Day (Oct. 10, 2020), and each year the Canadian Mental Health Association devotes an entire week to Mental Health Awareness.
At the 12th annual Global Wellness Summit held in Italy, this past October, there were a number of presentations that touched on the topic. Dr. Ranieri Guerra, from the Switzerland-based World Health Organization, pointed out that poor mental health is associated with a lack of physical activity. Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation (which was created to fund the teaching of Transcendental Meditation in schools) said mental health tools such as meditation are “not just an abstract thing—there is science behind it.”
For an audience of about 600 delegates from 50 countries, he used the analogy of a little boat in the middle of an ocean being tossed by huge waves. “While the surface of the mind is turbulent, at its depth it is silent and calm.” He points out that some forms of med- itation can help one gain access to this internal place of calm.
In a session on wellness and wellbeing in Hospitality and Travel, panelist Jeremy McCarthy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group pointed out that “the mindfulness trend is a direct response to the pace of change in the world,” in particular, our increasing dependency on digital devices.
‘The mindfulness trend is a direct response to the pace of change in the world’
So how can travel help? Sometimes, to improve mental health we need to get away from the day-to-day stress of work, of home, and of the countless little annoyances that surround us on a daily basis and silently chip away at our sense of wellbeing.
Four ways to become a mindful traveler…
Look for authentic experiences.
For instance, in Québec City, Le Monastère des Augustine, a former monastery dating back to the 1600’s, offers a signature “silent breakfast” to allow guests to begin their day in mindful self-reflection, just as the Augustine Sisters did 400 years ago.
Support companies and destinations that promote and practice eco-tourism and sustainability for the planet.
One example is Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a resort offering both an authentic experience while encouraging guests to support sustainability practices by avoiding the use of plastic bottles. They explain that the glacier waters from nearby Mt. Victoria feed into Lake Louise and then into each guestroom for both bathing and drinking. Guests are given reusable water bottles to fill up and enjoy the glacier waters throughout their stay, plus take the reusable bottles with them upon departure.
Be aware of the food you consume (how and where it is grown and raised).
When it comes to food, restaurants everywhere are continuing to cater to a variety of customer demands giving rise to the continued spread of food philosophies including “farm-to-table,” “eating locally,” “eating seasonally,” “food as medicine,” and “plant-based.”
One example, Spa Eastman Wellness Retreat in Québec, offers a signature Tonic Cuisine based on scien- tific research that food can be one’s medicine.
Look for experience and activities surrounded by nature.
Science tells us that simply being immersed in nature can be good for our mental health. In Vermont, New Life Hiking Spa (open seasonally May to October) builds their programs around outdoor experiences and find that guests prefer getting out in nature rath- er than working out in the gym.
Just a few of the many options and opportunities we now have to allow and add more “mindfulness” to our travels—for the mental health of it!
More Inspiration: Check out this article on tips for a healthy posture when you’re traveling.
Author: Anne Dimon is the executive director of the Canadian Wellness Travel Association and also a regular contributor to our sister magazine, Optimyz.