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If You Own A Smartphone, You Need A Mental Health Retreat ASAP

a woman Relaxing, sitting overlooking a lake and mountains

Mental health: this is a trending topic, and for good reason. 1 in every 13 humans worldwide suffers from anxiety, a rate that is even higher in the US (1 in every 5 people). Depression rates have increased 18.4% between 2005 and 2015. Somewhere in the world a person dies by suicide every 40 seconds, and studies show that for every death by suicide, there are approximately 20 other attempts. Seeing a therapist has become as common as going to the dentist, and a study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) found that around 40 million adults in the United States admit to having anxiety. For perspective, that’s basically everyone living in California, or more than the entire population of Canada. These figures don’t even include those who don’t realize they are suffering from depression, stress, or anxiety, meaning the percentage is actually higher. It’s a scary time for mental health, but finally, FINALLY, society is opening a dialogue about why everyone feels as if they are falling apart, and what can be done to help. Mental health is losing its tabooness.

Smartphone Use Leads To Pessimism

Let’s get to the bottom of what’s tampering with our wellbeing. What has led us to our current mental health situation? Why is our depression and anxiety increasing? There is certainly a lot of depressing news about the coronavirus, toxic air, deforestation, global warming, garbage-filled oceans, hunger, racism, sexism, bigotry, and the list drags on, but that’s not what’s causing our depression. Genocide, natural disasters, and epidemics have always occurred. The difference today is our awareness. Thanks to our smartphones, we are constantly connected, and while having easy access to information 24/7 has its perks, such as directions to the nearest hospital in an emergency, it comes with seriously consequential downsides.

Hearing about all the bad things happening worldwide every time you open your phone creates a “sky is falling” mentality. You start to focus on disheartening events, and the weight of the world’s problems weighs on your mind ‘round the clock. The result isn’t just that you trend pessimistic, it’s that pessimism compromises your stress-management capabilities.

First, pessimists naturally dwell on stressful or negative events longer than optimists. This means your stress hormone—cortisol—levels are elevated for longer. Over-exposure to cortisol has been linked to anxiety, depression, metabolic issues, heart disease, poor sleep and weight gain, as well as memory and concentration impairment.

Second, optimistic people have been proven to be more active, eat more healthfully, and they don’t typically turn to excessive alcohol or drug use to get their kicks.

What this doesn’t mean is that you should be like an ostrich, burying your head in the sand, believing unseen danger is no danger at all; rather, it’s important to learn healthy ways to cope with life’s stressors.

The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management.Mayo Clinic

Social Media Increases Our Anxiety

Beyond the exhausting stream of negative news, social media is proving to be a menacing opponent to our mental health. It’s the perfect landscape for our insecurities and self-criticism to proliferate. Whenever we log into social media we see “perfect” people who make us doubt our self-worth. I need to be as skinny, or as muscular; I need to make more money; I need to find a way to afford expensive, trendy clothes; my job isn’t good enough; I’m not as adventurous; I need to travel more; I need to experience more; I need to be more.

Incessantly comparing ourselves to a seemingly fabricated reality quickly takes a toll on our wellbeing. We spend more time worrying about what we are not, rather than becoming who we should be, and our anxiety spikes.

Bottom line, the depressing news we receive daily combined with our need to succeed and the constant comparison game we play on social media is a recipe for anxiety. Phones keep us always “on,” prohibiting us from truly breaking away as we constantly search for the instant gratification technology brings, instead of slowing down and relaxing. We are attached to our phones and technology instead of to ourselves, others, and our surroundings, and that allows physical and mental toxicity to thrive.

We Need To Regain Balance In Our Mental Health

So what about today’s environment makes it so toxic? In short, we’re out of balance. Everyone is hyper-focused on career and personal success. We’ve stopped treating our “temples” (our mind, body, and spirit) respectfully, and, resultantly, it’s crumbling beneath us. Popular belief these days is that you have to be the hardest worker, dedicating every spare moment to your work in order to be successful. Taking the time to eat a wholesome meal or get a full night’s sleep somehow equates to not working hard enough. Pushing your body to breaking point has become like a badge of honor. Just read interviews with high-profile business people or celebrities–chances are they’ll talk, in a more braggy way, about their long work hours, lack of time to eat or sleep, and how they prioritize their career and image above all else.

But failing to give your mind, body, and spirit time to rest and recharge isn’t something to brag about, because what’s really happening is you’re functioning at a small percentage of your full potential. Crazy as this may sound, by allowing yourself to actually sleep and actually eat, you’ll be able to get more done. How? It all comes down to having more energy and being more alert. And that’s not all, once you stop comparing yourself to other people, you’ll be able to focus on reconnecting with yourself instead.

Forget “Likes”. Be Real.

Do you remember what it was like before social media and smartphones? Back then, mornings started out by getting ready for your day; nowadays, the first thing most of us do when the alarm sounds is check our phone and tap into social media. Essentially, we’re comparing ourselves to others–and consequently feeling inadequate–before we even have a chance to put our slippers on. Instagram’s test in removing “likes” is a step in the right direction. In a recent press conference, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri stated, “The idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, to make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on connecting with the people they love and the things that inspire them.”

The hope is that removing “likes” will help users stop comparing themselves to others, thus removing the stress of being “good enough” or as liked as everyone else. This comparison game is causing many people to feel as if their anxiety is spinning out of control, but few people actually stop long enough to address the cause of the decline in their mental health and wellbeing.

Put Down The Phone

The good news is it’s not hopeless. Just because the odds seem stacked against us doesn’t mean we are helpless. We can do many things on our own to help break the trance of our phones (read our recent article on how to do a digital detox). For instance:

  • Immerse in nature (aka “Forest bathing”). Even just spending 20 minutes a day in nature has been proven to help lower stress and anxiety, decrease blood pressure, lower your heart rate, and decrease your chances of developing a psychiatric disorder.
  • Read a novel. Find a comfy chair and put your phone on silent. You might find you can go more than two paragraphs without getting distracted when it’s just you and a good story.
  • Learn a new hobby. The practice of learning something new is extremely beneficial for our brain health.
  • Take a bath. Alone, without your phone. Light candles and watch them dance instead.
  • Exercise
  • Do yoga
  • Eat healthful foods. Pay attention to the flavors as they hit different parts of your tongue.
  • Connect with other humans
  • Volunteer
  • Pet an animal
  • Take a vacation
  • Visit a spa
  • Meditate. The use of meditation apps in adults in the US has increased from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2018. Are you part of that statistic?

…this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Don’t Do It Alone. Try A Health Retreat.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, or perhaps don’t have the time or energy to get things back on track yourself, check out a wellness retreat that incorporates mental health practices.

Mental health retreats are a great place to start—you’ll be surrounded by people who are in the same boat as you and having support from a team of professionals will ensure you stay on track.

Mental health retreats will actually help you break toxic habits and provide you with long term solutions for living a balanced life, but in case you are thinking they just aren’t for you, I’m here to tell you they are. Why? Because they aren’t one-size-fits-all.

There are many different types of mental health retreats available to suit various needs and interests. Some retreats focus on eastern healing practices, like yoga and meditation, while others focus purely on self-care (think spa: mud baths, steam rooms, massage, etc.). Some are open to everyone while others are gender-specific. Others are centered around particular activities, such as farming, clean-eating, creativity, or hiking. Many retreats emphasis connecting with nature, but, for all you indoors personalities, others don’t. And while the word “retreat” might make it sound like something only possible for wealthy people with unlimited days off from work, there are actually retreats available at any budget, for any length of time, and for any lifestyle choice.

Finding a place to unplug and reset is more attainable than it seems.

Mental Health Retreats Are About More Than Just Relaxing

While visiting any mental health or wellness retreat will do wonders for your wellbeing, starting off with one that combines many aspects of your health might be the best choice. Such retreats, like Mountain Trek, are holistic health retreats that focus on five areas of health in harmony: fitness, nutrition, stress management, sleep, and detoxification. Combining these five areas has a profound effect on your health and wellbeing, laying the groundwork to reduce social anxiety, decrease depression, and relieve stress in your life back at home.

Instead of focusing on just one area of your life, these types of holistic health retreats address each of these key areas in equal turn; after all, each one plays a role in our wellbeing and are all equally affected by the toxicity of modern society. For example, fixing your diet is a great place to start and will make you feel better, but if your stress levels are still sky-high your life will still feel toxic and unbalanced. This is why a wellness retreat like Mountain Trek is an ideal choice to get you started on your journey to a detoxified life. Every detail of your stay there is planned and prepared for you–all you have to do is focus on being present in the moment. It takes the guesswork out of trying to learn how to detox on your own.

A visit to a mental health retreat is about more than just relaxing–it’s about changing your life and giving you the tools you need so you can continue to reap the benefits long after you’ve returned home.

Prevent Burnout. Invest In Longevity.

You can only push yourself so hard before burning out. Between the go go go attitude of modern society, the negativity surrounding us worldwide, and the constant need to compare ourselves to each other, it’s no wonder our mental health is in a state of decline.

Our way of life isn’t sustainable; we need to reset our bodies and minds, beginning with purging toxic thoughts and habits. Taking time for yourself shouldn’t be viewed as a treat, but rather as a necessity. We need to take care of our bodies and souls if we want to be able to function at our best without breaking down. We only get one body, after all. Show yourself some respect and tackle the issue before it gets worse!

Visiting a mental health retreat will teach you the skills you need in order to reset and recharge by helping you cultivate valuable practices you can continue back at home. It’ll jumpstart the process and be the catalyst for changing your life and living a healthier lifestyle, both mentally and physically. There’s never been a better time than now to unplug and reconnect!

To learn more about Mountain Trek, and how we can help you reduce anxiety and regain your mental health balance, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Easy Ways to Digital Detox

Easy Tips for Digital Detox

"Digital detox" is a buzz phrase we're hearing more of lately but what exactly is it and why should we do it? After all, isn't technology meant to improve our lives, helping us keep more connected and freeing up time so we can concentrate on other things?

It's true technology has vastly improved certain aspects or our day-to-day but our relationship to digital devices is changing at a rapid pace and it's important to notice the specific impacts on your life. And to do this, we need to take a step back and discuss toxins, detoxifying and the role of digital media and devices in all of this.

What is Toxic Load? 

A toxin isn't just a form of poison that enters your body. Toxic load can also be mental or emotional. It is the result of stagnation through repetition. When there is a build-up of patterns that block energy, we become inflamed and constricted – we lose the natural flow state of expansion and contraction. This could be the increasing pattern of attention span interruption or multi-tasking at work, due to the constant repetitive information signals to our brain from our digital devices. It could be the build up of bio-waste and chemical compounds in our body due to the repetitive sitting we do, which limits circulation and elimination. Even our social world can become stagnant if we are not going deeper than social media for our heartfelt interactions.

Why is Detoxifying Important?

Detoxifying is the process of supporting a flow state in our whole being. When we take a break from ongoing patterns and habits, we recalibrate and become "lighter of being." Our mind, body and emotional states are interconnected. By taking a break from incessant incoming info bites, not only does our mind get a break from vigilance, but our stress hormone Cortisol gets a chance to lower, which in turn supports sleep, appetite and energy levels. When we move our body (ideally 10,000 steps a day), our circulation, lymph drainage and elimination organs (liver, kidney's, intestines, lungs and sweat glands) release waste and unhealthy chemicals. And on an emotional level, having an intimate conversation with someone we trust allows the weight of our concerns to be released.

What's the Best Way to Digital Detox?

Digital detox goes beyond just spending less time in front of your iPad, phone or computer. There are other aspects that can be incorporated to ensure a full detox experience. Here are three easy ways to do it: 

  1. Electronic Devices: Shut all electronics down one hour before bed. This will allow your Cortisol to drop and will support better sleep. Take that hour to do some restorative yoga, have an Epsom salt bath, or give and receive a massage, all of which aid in toxin release and deep regenerative sleep.
  2. Move More: It's not enough to be away from your devices for awhile and then just sit there waiting for the chance to check them again. Get up! Dance, walk, skate, swim. Keep the blood pumping, Breath deep. All of this will help your elimination system, decrease inflammation and increase a flow state.
  3. Eat Veggies: It may seem odd to mention food when discussing digital detox but the fact is by eating more vegetables, which contain more fiber and antioxidants, you're helping your elimination system and supporting a lean and clean body. In other words, the more veggies you eat, the more you'll want to move around, meet friends in person, get outside, and generally enjoy a fuller life.

Of course, the best way to digital detox is to take a break from your day-to-day life and immerse yourself in nature. Click here to learn more about how Mountain Trek supports digital detox through its program. 

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The Importance of Digital Detox and How To Do It

How to Digital Detox

Recently we’ve had many journalists asking about our digital detox program at Mountain Trek. As many of us become addicted to our smart phones, tablets, wristbands and smart watches, laptops and anything else with a screen, it’s that much more important to remember to take time away from all things digital. That’s why it’s so great to visit Mountain Trek because we’re immersed in the most beautiful natural environment in North America – one in which it’s impossible to get cell coverage for large parts of the day because we’re hiking in mountain landscapes.

Why are we hearing so much about digital detox these days?

Why is digital detoxing important?

So why are we hearing more and more about digital detox lately? According to the latest polls conducted by research corporation Ipsos, 40% of adults feel the need to ‘disconnect” and 71% of respondents claim they’re spending less time connecting with people face-to-face due to gadgetry. Aside from the negative social ramifications, this digital dependence also comes with health costs: digital screens can contribute to visual fatigue, headaches, and strain of the body from being stationary for so long. Also the intense white-blue back light of our screens raise our “wake-up” and stress hormone Cortisol, often overriding our sleep inducing hormone Melatonin. Other studies have found that technology contributes to higher stress, strains on relationships and family and attention disorders.

Why are digital devices so addictive?

Why are devices so addictive?

If you can’t help but check your smart phone immediately after waking up and then continually throughout the day every few minutes, you’re not alone. Our bodies actually crave the results of shared information via our screened devices – we’re hard-wired for it! This is why: hundreds of thousands of years ago when the ancestors of homo sapiens walked the earth they developed physical reactions to information. When knowledge was shared (or the promise of knowledge) that could make life easier and ensure survival, their brains were flooded with dopamine, the feel-good hormone.

The same is true today. Research shows that our prehistoric brains still flood us with dopamine when our smart phones “ping” to let us know there’s potential knowledge or survival tools waiting for us to discover. Each tweet, text or email is a little gift-wrapped packet that might make a difference to our survival. At the same time our Limbic brains are reassured that we’re socially connected. It’s the perfect formula resulting in us feeling “good” every time we receive a notification through our digital device.

Why is this addiction so dangerous?

Why is a digital addiction so dangerous?

The problem with this scenario is that our brain is actually being fooled: very few of us receive survival tools via our Twitter or Facebook feeds and, overall, our social media interaction is incredibly shallow. This leads to “solitarism” – a buzzword you’ll be hearing a lot more of in the coming years as people suffer loneliness despite being “connected” via multiple social media streams.

How does Mountain Trek support digital detox?

While there is WiFi in the Mountain Trek lodge, we ensure guests do not use their smart phones and devices in the common areas and we do not have a television, radio, nor any news media on site. This is because our aim is to lower the stress hormone Cortisol in your body so you can reclaim the health benefits of a raised metabolism. In other words, we want our experience to be all about you and your own health and that means there isn’t a lot of external stimuli pulling you away from your goals.

Here are our top 6 ways to enjoy digital detox during the days when you’re not enrolled in the Mountain Trek program:

Plan with intent

Having a plan in place sets yourself up for success. Be clear about what you’ll give up, for how long, and when. If you’re agreeing not to check email in the evening, be clear about exactly what hours and what days this takes effect. Going into this with clear intention will also allow you to monitor very clearly your own reactions to digital breaks, and plan for responses of how to deal with any jonesing. Develop your plan, and stick to it. As you tally your victories, you can expand your goals.

Start slow

If you’re checking your email every 10 minutes, a week away without your Blackberry may induce heart palpitations. If you’re going to your son’s soccer game, for example, make a point and a plan to leave your cellphone in the car with the intention of not checking it for those 2 hours. Start slowly, and gradually, and this will be the key to breaking any dependence.

Tell friends and family

You don’t want them to think you’re MIA – to avoid unnecessary worry and to enlist support, let your friends and family in on your digital detox plan. And who knows, maybe they’ll even join you on that walk in your National Park, and you can both go tech free for the afternoon!

Learn from your detox

The goal of a detox isn’t to see how long you can go without doing something, only to breathe a sigh of relief at the end and jump back into old patterns wholeheartedly. Use the tech detox not only to see that you can live without your gadgets and the world won’t stop, but also to learn about yourself, what you like doing when monitors and screens aren’t involved, and with this, you can integrate new hobbies and patterns into your every day.

Plan alternatives

When you decide to stop or reduce online time, you will create a void in your time. Filling the void with enjoyable activities is key to beating any gadget addiction. This is where our helpful hints list “7 Fun Things you can do Instead of checking Your Email” can be helpful.

Create a tech-free zone

Pick a space in your home, preferably in a public area like your living room. This will encourage more ‘live’ conversation, more gadget-free activities, and less ‘auto-pilot’ of entering the room and turning on the computer or TV. Alternatively, have a family agreement to turn off the modem or WiFi at a certain time in the evening.

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