One thing the last few years of travel has really taught me, is the importance of well being. The truth is, when you’re travelling solo, there is no-one else to look after you and if you don’t learn to take good care of yourself, you’re not going to get the most out of every experience. I’ve really taught myself to slow down a bit over the last year, I’ve accepted that I don’t have to do and achieve everything, that sometimes it’s okay to sit back and just appreciate life instead of giving 110% and exhausting myself. I’m still learning, every single day, but I definitely have a better appreciation for what makes me happy both mentally and physically than I did when I was first travelling. What helps me be my best self? Lots of exercise, tasty, healthy food, a wide open horizon and lots of time spent outdoors. I’ve realised that being online is my job and to a certain extent, is a hobby, but that I can’t let it dominate in any way because it really does impact on my mental health.One thing that has really helped me to stay balanced over the years is gifting myself time. We’re always so busy rushing around trying to do everything in our careers, relationships and in our free time, but sometimes we just need to give ourselves time to breathe. I was so guilty of never giving myself time to just be still, and I still am, but I’m trying my best to improve. And so, when an opportunity came up to review an Inner Peace Retreat with Psychologies Magazine, I jumped at the chance to spend a day deep in the countryside and really getting to know myself. Taking place at West Lexham Manor, near Norwich, the retreat offered a weekend spent focusing on psychology, mindfulness, creativity, meditation and movement set against the backdrop of the stunning grounds. What more could a girl want?Driving up to West Lexham Manor through frozen fields and breathing in the crisp morning air, I instantly felt refreshed and ready for restoration of my mind, body and soul. The stunning grounds were the perfect place for that and I couldn’t wait to explore more later on. On arrival, the organisers gave a warm welcome and ushered us into morning tai chi in the beautifully restored barn which has been purposefully created for group events and weddings. With sunshine beaming through the windows and birdsong in the background, we started the day by warming up our aching bodies and minds led by neuroscientist Dr Tamara Russell, who was definitely one of the most memorable characters from the weekend. After the session, we went for breakfast in the sun-drenched hall, and it was clear to see the emphasis on well being from the delicious, healthy meal of locally sourced ingredients that awaited us.We were back in with Dr Tamara for our first session of the day, Practical Models for Exploring Body and Mind, which was a fascinating insight into neuroscience and psychology, but with a real life context that made it easily accessible for anyone new to the topic. Tamara used various exercises to look at the way we relate to ourselves and how that affects us in our daily life when we make decisions or react to situations. After studying a bit of neuroscience and psychology at university, I’ve always been fascinated by models like these and how they can be used to understand why we are the way we are. We all found this workshop so interesting and helpful that it actually ran over into the break and later I could hear many of those attending the retreat continuing the discussion over lunch.Later on we had another workshop, this time with Suzy Greaves, editor of Psychologies Magazine, which was one I was really excited for. Being a journalist, I’m always looking to develop my skills in any way I can, so a journaling/writing workshop with Suzy seemed perfect for me. This time we had an opportunity to get outside and breathe in the fresh air and to take in the sights, sounds and smells as we wandered around the grounds. Nature is so soothing, and despite being based in North Norfolk, I find that lately I haven’t had a chance to just get outside and appreciate it, something that I’m sure has caused me to feel a bit stressed out. We were told to just write freely, uninterrupted by others and uninterrupted by thoughts of how we should write. I let my hand glide across the page and all of us taking part felt our innermost thoughts and feelings pour out on to the page. I was amazed at what came out, what I’d been holding in and finally just had to explode across the page, pure stream of consciousness.We enjoyed a leisurely lunch – let me tell you the food was just incredible – followed by a chance to explore the grounds with owner Edmund Colville, as he discussed the retreat and the lay-lines around his family home. Later that afternoon, we had our final workshop of the day, which was easily my favourite and really left an incredible impression on me. The 5 Rhythms Movement workshop with meditation teacher Chris Connors forced the group to throw away all inhibitions, stresses and worries, and to really let loose. We’re talking 90 minutes of dancing freely as a mass and an individual to various pieces of music, and by the end of the session, everyone was exhausted but liberated, making their way out of the barn with smiles on faces and a new sense of peace. I thought I was pretty relaxed before I walked into that workshop, but I can tell you I felt like a completely different person by the time I walked out of it and I know every single person in that room felt exactly the same. Sadly I had to leave after this workshop and didn’t get a chance to chat to the others over dinner, but the whole experience was beyond anything I could have hoped.Whether you need stillness, a chance to slow down or if you are searching for inner peace, these workshops give you a chance to take a time-out in the unspoilt beauty of West Norfolk. If this sounds like something that would be right up your street, there will be many other retreats taking place this year which focus on yoga, mindfulness and body confidence, and another Psychologies Inner Peace Retreat is in the pipeline. Both men and women attended and while some were more interested in the psychology, others were going through some huge life changes, but all felt just as welcome and came away with a genuine sense of inner peace. Find out more and book at www.westlexham.org
*Images provided by West Lexham Manor
Have you been to a retreat? Would you like to attend one? How do you find peace in your daily life?