Solo Nature Excursions: 6 Things You Need to Know for Safety and Enjoyment

Extensive research has been conducted on the wellness benefits of immersing oneself in nature, whether that means simply spending time outdoors during work breaks or taking prolonged weekend hikes or retreats. One study involving 20,000 participants, conducted by the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter, found that those who spent at least two hours per week in natural environments were much more likely to report positive signs of physical and mental health than those who did not meet the two-hour threshold.

Additional research on the effects of spending time in nature has uncovered benefits including decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes, enhanced cognitive function, and a better-performing immune system. Going on extended solo hikes is a particularly effective way to take advantage of these benefits, in addition to building self-confidence and independence. Below are six tips and activities to help solo hikers ensure that they have a safe and memorable journey.

1. Pack the Basics and Know Your Surroundings

Hiking alone requires consideration of a range of safety measures. First-time solo hikers should only travel on well-marked trails, in areas with which they are familiar or that they have learned about from others. It can be easy to get lost in expansive wooded areas that are not properly marked.

Moreover, conduct a thorough study of the area in order to avoid coming across unexpected and potentially dangerous wildlife. For example, areas with high bear activity should be avoided by those hiking on their own.

Pre-hike preparation, while always essential, proves particularly important for solo hikers, as they have nobody else on which to rely for supplies. Above all else, make sure to pack enough food and water. Assuming moderate temperatures and activity levels, it is generally recommended that individuals consume roughly half a liter of water per hour during a hike. However, consider bringing more water in case of an emergency; for instance, if you are planning a four-hike hike, bring at least two liters of water.

Other vital supplies include a map, a compass, a first-aid kit, sunscreen, extra clothing, and a flashlight.

2. Alert Others to Your Plans

Regardless of the intended difficulty of a solo hike or nature excursion, it is important that you tell others, whether it be friends or family, of your plan. Inform them of any expected stops and the duration of the journey, and then stick to the plan, unless you have a way to alert others to changes in real time.

3. Organize a Photo Scavenger Hunt

While simply roaming through green spaces and trails is enough to receive some of the physical and mental benefits associated with spending time in nature, you can make your hike more rewarding by turning it into a photo scavenger hunt. Before you start, make a list of items typically found in the wild; then, seek these items out and photograph them as you hike. These items may be specific plants or wildlife, types of trees, or things of a specific color.

4. Pack the Fixings for a Meal

Rather than just bring small snacks to maintain energy levels during a prolonged solo hike, consider first stopping at a local farm or orchard to pick suitable ingredients for a meal. As opposed to purchasing food from a supermarket, this fosters a greater connectedness with nature as well as an appreciation for the farmers and workers who grow and pick the food.

In addition, taking time to stop and rest while you eat presents an opportunity to become immersed in the beauty of your surroundings.

5. Record Your Observations

Another way to make a solo hiking experience more enjoyable and memorable is to record observations in a journal. This can involve detailed written descriptions of not only natural surroundings but also the emotions you experience during this time. Making sketches of these observations is another effective way to connect with nature.

“The practice calms your mind and increases your attention to detail and appreciation of beauty,” writes Paula Peeters in her book Make a Date with Nature: An Introduction to Nature Journaling. “It improves your recognition of different animal and plant species, and your understanding of where and how they live. With time, it also improves your ability to observe, to draw and to write.”

6. Make a Natural Souvenir

Souvenirs serve as reminders of one’s travels. Although you may think of souvenirs as items you purchase in local markets or at airports, they can be acquired without spending a cent. You can collect souvenirs in nature as long as you make a point not to damage or disrupt the environment.

Consider making a personalized souvenir by gathering natural items such as sticks, petals, and leaves. Fashion these items into a unique keepsake that can serve as a conversation starter in the future.

6 Personal Goal Setting Books You Need to Read ASAP

Many of the most successful people in the world share at least one thing in common: they set clear and defined goals, directing their actions toward achieving those goals. By setting clear and attainable life goals, you can go through your day-to-day life with a sense of purpose and clarity. The beginning of this process involves determining the goals that will not only motivate you but inspire you to act. These six books can help in that regard.

1. Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide (Caroline Adams Miller and Michael B. Frisch)

Life coach Caroline Miller and Dr. Michael B. Frisch take a science-based approach to self-discovery and outline 16 areas that are central to helping readers achieve their goals and aspirations. The 290-page book is filled with dozens of interactive quizzes and exercises, such as “100 Things to Do Before I Die” and a Web of Influence Map,

prompting readers to identify their wishes, ambitions, and needs.

Originally published in 2010, the book pioneered an evidence-based approach to setting and achieving goals and has maintained its status as one of the premier books in this area. It builds upon Miller’s studies in applied positive psychology and weaves the science of happiness with Locke & Latham’s goal setting theory.

2. Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals (Michael Hyatt)

Similar to Miller and Dr. Frisch, Michael Hyatt adopts a research-based approach to helping individuals find purpose and establish meaningful goals. However, as evidenced by the title, he prompts readers to imagine their best year ever and outlines ways they can overcome daily struggles to achieve their potential. Not only does it provide a framework for goal setting, but the book also discusses motivation, confidence, and the importance of positive, goal-oriented habits. Most importantly, Hyatt discusses how attaching habits to goals can make them easier to pursue and attain. For instance, if your goal is to run a marathon, you’re first going to have to get into the habit of running several times per week.

A Wall Street Journal Bestseller, Your Best Year Ever is one of four books recommended by mindset and productivity coach Liz Huber, who claims to have read hundreds of goal setting and achievement books. It is also endorsed by Tony Robbins. In addition to science-backed methods, Hyatt incorporates some of his real-life experiences in the book.

3. Nine Things Successful People Do Differently (Heidi Grant Halvorson)

A social psychologist specializing in the science of motivation, Heidi Grant, PhD, is the associate director of Columbia University’s Motivation Science Center and global director of research and development at the NeuroLeadership Institute. In her book, she goes into detail about the habits and attributes of successful people and outlines the following nine things readers can do to achieve their goals:

  • Be specific
  • Seize the moment
  • Know the endpoint
  • Be a realistic optimist
  • Focus on getting better as opposed to being good
  • Commit to long-term goals
  • Improve willpower
  • Don’t tempt fate
  • Focus on actions to achieve those goals

Published by Harvard Business Review Press in 2011, Nine Things Successful People Do Differentlywas named to Thrive Global’s 7 Books to Help You Reach Your Goals in 2020 list and Entrepreneur magazine’s list of 12 Books for Goal-Oriented Entrepreneurs.

4. Essentialism (Greg McKeown)

Essentialism is another of the four books recommended by Huber. This book is particularly impactful for those unable to find time to focus on achieving their most cherished goals. Author Greg McKeown discusses how essentialism (i.e., ignoring distractions and focusing solely on what matters most) is the key to sustained success and happiness.

“Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter,” writes McKeown.

5. Rewire Your Brain (John B. Arden)

In Rewire Your Brain, John B. Arden offers a comprehensive, science-based approach to overcoming mental blocks that might otherwise prevent you from achieving your goals. Arden explains the science behind changing one’s thinking in a way that can be understood by all readers. He also introduces its four-step process, known as FEED (Focus, Effort, Effortlessness, and Determination).

The essence of Arden’s argument is that through repetition, we can reprogram our brains as desired. For instance, you might not immediately be fully motivated to exercise daily, but your brain can be re-wired to enjoy and anticipate it via repetition.

6. The Magic Lamp: Goal Setting for People Who Hate Setting Goals (Keith Ellis)

Like some of the aforementioned books, Keith Ellis offers a useful acronym to help readers set and follow through on their goals in The Magic Lamp. He uses the acronym LAMP (Lock on, Act, Manage your Progress, Persist) to motivate readers and does so with a relatable, down-to-earth approach.

7 of the Best Companies for Alpine Climbing Instruction and Tours

A multi-disciplinary sport, alpine climbing generally involves scaling rock and ice faces and hiking long distances while carrying heavy backpacks filled with a range of practical and safety items. Commonly-used items include hiking shoes or boots, camalots, pitons, ice axe and screws, gloves, and a helmet.

Experienced alpine climbers have already invested hundreds if not thousands of hours of training and preparation into the sport. Those with little to no experience should pursue a comprehensive safety and training plan that includes practice at a climbing gym. They should also look into services similar to those provided by these seven reputable training and tour companies.

Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.

An iconic Washington landscape, Mount Rainier extends more than 14,000 feet above sea level. As the most glaciated peak in the continental United States, it presents a challenging and adventurous journey for experienced climbers. Those lacking experience but still seeking the thrill of ascending the mountain range should sign up for the Expedition Skills Seminar offered by Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.

The six-day seminar is led by experienced guides and teaches participants crucial climbing skills while climbing the mountain. Based in Ashford, Washington, the company also leads expeditions in the Himalayas, Alaska, and other parts of the world.

Colorado Mountain School

Colorado Mountain School offers an affordable two-day weekend course that teaches individuals the basics of alpine climbing. This includes the proper form and techniques for using a mountaineering axe and belaying, which is a climbing process that uses a rope system to protect climbers from falls.

The second day of the course involves instructor-led climbing at Rocky Mountain National Park. The course is $599 and includes all group climbing gear as well as personal gear such as a harness, helmet, rock shoes, and ice axe.

Alpenglow Expeditions

Headquartered in Lake Tahoe, California, Alpenglow Expeditions was created in 2004 and has since become one of the world’s most innovative mountaineering companies. To that end, it employs a range of techniques and technology to provide high quality training and guided mountain tours.

In particular, its Rapid Ascent™ program leverages hypoxic training and precise logistics to ensure efficient and successful international climbing expeditions. Rapid Ascent™ expeditions, on average, are between 30 and 50 percent shorter than traditional expeditions, which can last upward of one month.

In addition to guided expeditions worldwide, Alpenglow offers a variety of training programs in California. Introductory courses focus on areas such as multi-pitch climbing, rock anchoring, gear placement, and self-rescue. The High Sierra Alpine Climbing Course, offered at $495 for one-on-one instruction and $100 per additional climbers, involves personalized guided trips throughout the High Sierra mountain range.

Chicks Climbing & Skiing

Launched in 1999, Chicks Climbing & Skiing is a woman-led instruction and tour company specifically for women. Striving to empower women, the company offers ice climbing clinics and back-country guided sessions in Colorado and Wyoming as well as at Mount Baker in Washington. It has 14 guides, all of whom are certified by the American Mountain Guides Association.

Exum Mountain Guides

Primarily focusing on rock climbing, Exum Mountain Guides is an ideal company for beginner climbers looking to improve their skills. Based in Jackson, Wyoming, the National Park Service authorized company offers a range of instructional programs, but its Multi-Pitch Climbing – Level I is best suited for beginners.

Instruction occurs on cliffs at Hidden Falls in Grand Teton National Park and covers core climbing fundamentals including rope management, rappelling, belaying, and equipment. Participants are prompted to complete Multi-Pitch Climbing – Level II before scaling the Grand Teton with guides.

Exum also offers a Snow School course for more experienced climbers seeking to embark on early season mountaineering trips when the Grand Teton is still covered in snow. The range itself can receive more than 400 inches of snow during the winter and often won’t completely melt until July.

Mountain Madness

Based in Seattle, Washington, and offering guided expeditions to all seven summits, Mountain Madness caters to the more experienced alpine climber. The company has been in business for more than three decades and, in regard to training, is known for its eight-day Alpine Climbing Course.

Taking place in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, the course goes beyond introductory instruction to prepare mountaineers with the necessary skills to climb ranges all over the world. Topics covered include advanced route finding and crevasse rescue training. Participants can even complete an optional four-day extension course through which they can lead their own expedition.

Outward Bound International

A global operator with schools in 35 countries and six continents, Outward Bound International has been in business for 80 years. It operates under the philosophy of promoting self-confidence, compassion, resilience, and environmental responsibility.

As opposed to the aforementioned companies, it focuses on comprehensive outdoor education via a blend of adventurous and experiential learning activities. It does, however, lead mountaineering trips worldwide. Selected trips include expeditions in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, and Maine.

Spotlight: the Wim Hof Method and Its Amazing Benefits

Wim Hof is an extreme athlete from the Netherlands who has earned the nickname “The Iceman” for his incredible ability to withstand freezing cold temperatures for extended periods of time. Over the years, he has established 21 Guinness World Records and achieved feats such as swimming underneath ice for 66 meters, completing a half-marathon above the Arctic Circle while barefoot and only wearing shorts. He has also spent nearly two hours in an ice-cube-filled container.

Despite his bone-chilling accomplishments, Hof doesn’t consider himself an extraordinary person. Instead, he is of the belief that everybody can unlock their inner potential and control their body and mind by adhering to his proprietary Wim Hof Method. This involves physical and mindfulness elements and, in essence, is a system that helps individuals become stronger, healthier, and happier.

Cold Therapy

The Wim Hof Method helps practitioners achieve the aforementioned benefits through a three-pillar system. The first of those three pillars is cold therapy. While followers of the method aren’t expected to spend 112 minutes submerged in ice, they are prompted to increasingly expose themselves to cold temperatures.

Whole body cryotherapy is an effective way to do this, but can be expensive and inaccessible for many. A cheaper and easier alternative is to incorporate cold showers into one’s daily routine. Ice baths are another form of cold therapy that can promote recovery and contribute to several other health benefits.

There have been numerous studies that have proven the benefits of cold therapy. In a study conducted by researchers at Radboud University, Wim Hof Method followers and non-followers were monitored closely after being exposed to a pathogen. Practitioners of the Wim Hof Method exhibited fewer symptoms of diseases than non-followers.

Breathing

Breathing is another central element of the Wim Hof Method. Recognizing that the amount of oxygen one inhales is directly correlated to the amount of energy released into one’s body cells, Hof has created his own deep breathing technique to maintain control of his body in extreme conditions. It’s a relatively simple practice that can be performed at any time or place.

To start, one should situate oneself in a comfortable meditation posture, whether lying down or sitting on the floor. With closed eyes, focus and try to connect with each breath. Inhale through either the mouth or nose, but exhale strictly through the mouth, and repeat this pattern for at least 30 short, powerful breaths.

When coming to the final breath, inhale deeply and stop breathing as long as possible after all the air has been let out. This is followed by a large recovery breath, in which one should feel their chest and belly expand.

This entire cycle should be repeated at least three times without pause for maximum effect. It should also be done with an empty stomach. It’s not uncommon to feel side effects such as dizziness and a tingling sensation in the extremities.

Commitment

Cold therapy and the Wim Hof Method deep breathing practice requires a high level of commitment and self-control. Some people are perceived to have more willpower than others, but Hof is of the belief that individuals can work at increasing these characteristics.

This can be achieved simply by following the first two pillars of the program as they require and instill dedication. Moreover, these practices bring about several other benefits that can boost one’s willpower.

Benefits

Because it incorporates meditation, breathing exercises, and cold therapy, the Wim Hof Method is associated with a range of physical and mental health benefits backed by scientific research. Specifically, practitioners of the Wim Hof Method are known to have more energy, better sleeping habits, and lower blood pressure. It has also been associated with benefits including migraine relief, asthma management, arthritis relief, and improved sports performance.

In regard to mental health benefits, the Wim Hof Method may help individuals manage stress, prevent burnout, enhance creativity, boost endorphins, and more effectively cope with depression.

Courses and Other Activities

Those interested in following the Wim Hof Method can engage in cold therapy and self-guided breathing activities on their own. However, there are several guided video courses on the Wim Hof Method website. These include the Classic 10-Week Video Course and a free mini course to give individuals an idea of what to expect. Courses are offered in multiple languages and feature “The Iceman.”

Those who are more experienced and seeking a greater level of adventure can sign up for events such as the WHM Weekend or WHM Fundamentals Workshops, the latter of which regularly take place in cities throughout the US as well as several in European countries.

Featured Image courtesy Farhad Sadykov | Flickr

A Look at the Top Attractions in the Hudson River Valley

A designated National Heritage Area, the Hudson River Valley is a 150-mile area in New York State. Steeped in history, it encompasses a range of natural attractions in addition to wineries, fine dining establishments, shopping centers, and historical sites. Many fairs, festivals, and Civil War reenactments are also held in the area.

Below are seven of the premier attractions in the Hudson River Valley.

1. Catamount Adventure Park

Located in Hillsdale, Catamount Adventure Park is an aerial forest adventure that features 12 aerial trails with dozens of ziplines and 180 challenge elements. Courses vary in difficulty level and feature obstacles including ladders and bridges.

The park meets the Association for Challenge Course Technology standards and is open to individuals ages 7 and up. Climbers are equipped with secure safety harnesses and guided along by park monitors. They also receive thorough instruction prior to venturing onto the trails.

2. Walkway over the Hudson

The Walkway over the Hudson is a one-of-a-kind attraction in that it is the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge. Situated more than 200 feet above the Hudson River, it measures 1.28 miles in length and is open to walkers and bicyclists.

Beyond offering unmatched views of the Hudson River and surrounding areas, the Walkway over the Hudson connects 10 different discovery zones, each of which has a variety of amenities and attractions. These include Highland Hamlet, Franny Reese State Park, Union St. Historic Neighborhood, and Poughkeepsie Waterfront.

3. Bear Mountain State Park

Located along rugged mountains near the Hudson River’s west bank, Bear Mountain State Park offers a range of outdoor recreation activities including hiking, biking, lake and river fishing, and swimming. In the winter, visitors can take advantage of its cross-country ski trails and outdoor ice rink, which is typically open from late October to mid-March. The park also has exhibits dedicated to Native American heritage, the Revolutionary War, and natural history.

One of the more unique attractions in Bear Mountain State Park is its merry-go-round. The carnival ride features more than three dozen hand-carved and painted seats of animals native to the park, including black bear, wild turkey, raccoon, Canada goose, and bobcat.

The park’s Trailside Museum, meanwhile, features a zoo with many of the animals commonly found in the region. Another popular attraction is Perkins Memorial Tower which, at more than 1,300 feet above the Hudson River, offers spectacular panoramic views.

4. Motorcyclepedia Museum

Motorcycle enthusiasts would be remiss if they didn’t check out the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh while staying in the Hudson River Valley. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday to Sunday and 5-8 p.m. on Thursdays, the museum features more than 600 motorcycles, some of which are more than 100 years old. It also houses various bike-related posters, photos, machinery, and memorabilia. Selected galleries include Harley-Davidson, Chopper City, Police and Military, and Indian Timeline.

5. Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site

One of the most notable locations of historical significance in the Hudson River Valley is the 272-acre Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site. A battlefield during the Revolutionary War, it now features several monuments and interpretive panels commemorating and detailing the victory of the American forces led by Brigadier General John Stark. The American troops successfully defended the area during a two-hour battle against invading British troops, led by General John Burgoyne, arriving via Canada.

A summary of the battle compiled by the American Battlefield Trust contends that the “defeat put a major strain on Burgoyne’s army, which, in addition to the casualties suffered, never secured the provisions the British commander needed.” It adds, “Burgoyne’s Native American allies lost confidence in him and his mission and left his army to fend for itself in the New York wilderness—deprived of its best-scouting forces.” The battle was also the first of three successive losses by Burgoyne’s army, which ultimately shifted the momentum of the war to the Americans.

6. Playland

Those who enjoy history and amusement parks can find excitement at Playland in Westchester County. Regarded as America’s oldest amusement park, it has been open since 1928 and offers a range of rides suitable for families and adults including bumper cars, a grand carousel, Zombie Castle, The Flying Witch, and House of Mirrors.

There is also a small museum that highlights the lengthy history of the park. Beyond its selection of amusement park rides, Playland has a miniature golf course and a 0.25-mile boardwalk that offers striking views of the Long Island Sound. Visitors can also take a boat ride around Playland Lake and Edith Read Wildlife Sanctuary.

7. Martin Van Buren National Historic Site

Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the US, lived in and managed both of his presidential campaigns from his mansion in Kinderhook. He also entertained numerous celebrities and politicians at this house during the 1840s and 1850s. The site is open from 7 a.m. until sunset year-round and features the 1.5-mile Kinderhook Dutch Farming Heritage Trail that connects to the Luykas Van Alen Historic Site.

Why You Need to Visit These 5 Salt Caves

Despite advances in modern medicine, there has been a boom in complementary and alternative therapies in recent years. Valued at $55.2 billion in 2018, the global market for this health segment is expected to reach in excess of $160 billion by 2025. These natural and holistic treatments, which include meditation, acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, and sound baths, can be applied to support physical and mental health.

Another emerging alternative therapy is salt therapy, also known as halotherapy. Popularized in Europe, this practice involves immersing oneself in a salt cave with walls adorned entirely with Himalayan salt and various other therapeutic elements. Salt particles are believed to help decrease inflammation. Breathing in the anti-bacterial microns in these caves, then, can potentially alleviate symptoms of allergies, cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and even provide an energy boost.

Below are five popular salt caves.

1. Louisville Salt Cave

Based in Louisville, Kentucky, the Louisville Salt Cave has been in operation since 2015. It is led by a team of four women including founder Nicole Bartlett as well as two other certified Reiki practitioners. Bartlett, who is also certified in Reiki I and II, is a proponent of holistic healing. She launched the business to provide Louisville residents with alternative preventative health options.

The salt cave itself was constructed with 5 tons of pink Himalayan salt crystals that are more than 250 million years old and contain in excess of 80 trace minerals. As many as six people can be in the cave at one time, but communication isn’t encouraged.

Instead, rest-inducing music is played and visitors are encouraged to practice mindfulness with deep-breathing exercises or meditation. They can even sleep. Individuals must be at least 10 years old to sign up for these sessions. Louisville Salt Cave, however, does offer a Kid’s Play program for children younger than 10.

2. Roslyn Salt Cave

Featured on LA Unscripted in January 2021, Roslyn Salt Cave in Los Angeles, California, offers 45-minute sessions in rooms filled with 5 tons of pink Himalayan salt. Visitors sit in a zero-gravity chair covered in a soft blanket for the duration of the session and are asked to do no more than simply focus on their breathing.

One of the unique features at Roslyn Salt Cave is its living Himalayan salt water cascade. This contributes to a higher concentration of salt air which, in turn, allows the body to more efficiently absorb saline for the purpose of strengthening the immune system. In addition to the salt bricks that make up the walls, the salt cave floor consists of large grains of salt.

Roslyn Salt Cave was also featured on George to the Rescue. In the episode, Wendy Shulman takes host George Oliphant on a tour of the facility as part of his research to rehabilitate the Lavender Room for COVID-19 front-line workers at Northwell Health’s North Shore University Hospital.

3. Indianapolis Salt Cave

The Indianapolis Salt Cave and Halotherapy Center was launched by Stephanie Patterson after she experienced the benefits of a salt cave while on a family trip several years ago. Now in business for more than three years, it offers not only halotherapy but also infrared sauna sessions as well as hand and foot detox, the latter of which purportedly alleviates joint pain and arthritis via heated salt blocks.

Like other facilities, the walls of the salt cave are decorated with pink Himalayan salt and visitors sit in zero-gravity chairs. There’s also a pair of water cascades which contribute to creating a calming and peaceful environment.

“You’re breathing those salt particles deep into your lungs and what they’re doing is they’re breaking up, drying up any gunk, any mucus that you have in your airways,” notes Patterson. “It’s also falling on any skin that you have exposed and killing bacteria that causes things like eczema, psoriasis—rosacea even.”

4. Salt Room LV

There are at least five halotherapy facilities in Nevada, one of which is Salt Room LV. This business is a little different in that it goes beyond normal halotherapy sessions to also offer maderotherapy, a message technique that incorporates wooden instruments, as well as Dead Sea salt glow body scrubs, facials, and even yoga and meditation classes.

5. Salt Mine in Ukraine

Outside of the US, a natural salt cave once part of a gypsum mine in Ivanhrad, Ukraine, is a key contributor to the Eastern European nation’s booming industrial tourism industry. The tunnels in the former mine are upwards of 6.5 meters high and between 7 and 12 meters wide. Another popular industrial tourism destination is the salt mine near Soledar.

Rather than spending 45-minute sessions in a manufactured salt cave, visitors to the salt mine’s “salt symphony” often spend weeks in the cave to glean the benefits of halotherapy. There are beds in the cave and visitors often spend time during the day watching movies, playing table tennis, or doing group exercise. There’s also a bar in the cave.

What You Need to Know about These 4 Psychedelic Spa Experiences

The use of hallucinogens for healing and self-care is not a new phenomenon. These psilocybin mushrooms are legal in countries such as Jamaica and the Netherlands, where individuals have long been known to ingest them as part of a spiritual journey. However, interest is growing in the scientific community about the medical applications of these types of drugs.

Similarly, a new health and wellness business model has emerged in recent years: the psychedelic spa and retreat. These facilities and sensory-focused experiences allow individuals to feel the healing powers of these drugs in a controlled and safe environment with direction from specialists.

Many of these facilities feature medical screening and an exhaustive application process to ensure prospective visitors can safely take psychedelics such as ketamine, psilocybin mushrooms, and ibogaine. Below are four psychedelic spa and retreat experiences worldwide that tree everything from depression to addiction or.

Mindbloom (USA)

Mindbloom, located in New York City, became the city’s first legal guided psychedelic therapy facility when it opened in March 2020. Seeking to help individuals manage common mental health conditions including depression and anxiety, Mindbloom’s clinical protocols were developed by prominent psychedelics researcher Dr. Casey Paleos.

Visitors must undergo an extensive screening and psychiatric evaluation before being approved for the guided ketamine therapy. Sessions occur in an upscale, spa-like setting and cost between $150 and $250 per person. Participants complete four one-hour sessions to achieve desired results and take ketamine via sublingual tablets or intramuscular injection.

Dr. Paleos, who also acts as Mindbloom’s medical director, has researched the use of ketamine and other psychedelic drugs in academic and clinical settings for more than a decade. Individuals who are depressed or chronically anxious often experience negative, repetitive thoughts due in part to a diminution of the density and quantity of synaptic connections between nerve cells in the brain, he explains in a video on the company’s website.

Ketamine, when taken under medical supervision in controlled environments, can help remedy this. “Within a couple hours of treatment, a reversal of the withering of those [brain synapses] that we see in depression and anxiety [occurs],” said Dr. Paleos. “You get back to this healthy state of kind of a robust web of interconnections that sort of restores the available paths that a neural impulse or circuit has to go down.”

Truffles Therapy (Netherlands)

In contrast to the hour-long sessions offered by Mindbloom, Truffles Therapy in Amsterdam, Netherlands, delivers a comprehensive spiritual healing retreat. Guests participate in group therapy sessions, yoga, guided sound bath sessions, and outdoor recreation.

Coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, and sexual intimacy with fellow guests are all prohibited. However, the mushroom “truffle,” which grows beneath the soil and contains high levels of psilocybin, is fair game. In fact, it’s a critical component of the psychedelic retreat.

Guests first microdose these truffles before taking a handful of truffles in a controlled group setting. The retreat lasts three days and starts at €1,200 per person. In a blog post for City A.M., Steve Dineen describes his experience at Truffles Therapy and how he and many of those in his group have since noticed improvements in mood and lowered anxiety levels.

Synthesis Retreat (Netherlands)

Another popular psychedelic retreat in the Netherlands in Synthesis Retreat. Founded by Paul Austin, the business also utilizes the truffle part of magic mushrooms to help individuals deal with mental health conditions but takes a different approach in doing so.

Rather than outdoor sessions, it offers transformational experiences at one of four retreat centers: Venwoude, De Hoorneboeg, Herberg, and Zeeveld. Ensuring visitor comfort is a priority for Synthesis Retreat and, to that end, it offers warm and inviting accommodations and quality food. Visitors also receive private coaching and post-ritual screening to ensure maximum efficacy and safety.

Retreat outcomes range can include heightened states of creativity, the ability to process childhood experiences, intellectual epiphanies, and synesthesia, or the ability to see sounds. Visitors take the truffles under medical supervision and only those who pass a thorough health screening can participate. Moreover, Synthesis maintains a partnership with the Psychedelic Research Group of Imperial College London to further ensure its programs are as safe and effective as possible.

Clear Sky Recovery (Mexico)

Derived from a plant in the African rainforest, ibogaine is regarded for its ability to fight opioid and methamphetamine addiction, although there are varying accounts of the drug. It’s true that it can alleviate intense withdrawal symptoms of these drugs, but only for a short period of time, i.e., one or two weeks. It can, however, be useful in detox centers. This is the agenda of Clear Sky Recovery in Cancun, Mexico.

Launched by Dr. Alberto Sola, Clear Sky Recovery is a peaceful and luxurious facility at which guests generally stay for one week and receive three ingestable doses of ibogaine hydrochloride. The drug halts cravings and withdrawal symptoms and gives those who take it dreamlike visions. In addition to the natural effects of the drug, guests participate in post-treatment psychotherapy, yoga, and nutraceuticals.

4 Therapeutic Benefits of Salt Caves

Spending a spa-like afternoon in a salt cave can provide a relaxing retreat. In addition to lowering your stress level for a few hours, dry salt therapy offers some amazing health benefits. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what salt therapy—or halotherapy—is and what it can do for you.

A look at salt therapy

Basically, salt therapy is an alternative medicine technique that involves spending time in a salt cave, salt room, or salt grotto that has a high concentration of salt in the air. These environments can be either active—wherein a halogenerator is used to grind up dry salt and disperse it as an aerosol into the room—or passive, wherein a salt cave is replicated by filling a room with large slabs of salt.

According to the Salt Therapy Association, this type of therapy has a long history. Its origins date back to mid-19th century Eastern Europe, where salt miners in Poland were found to have achieved health benefits. In particular, the salt-infused air underground appeared to help their respiratory system and improve the appearance of their skin. Subsequently, salt therapy was introduced, and salt caves spread quickly throughout Europe.

As a natural medicinal alternative, salt therapy has been shown to have many health benefits. Certainly, some people are drawn to salt caves as a way to relieve the symptoms of various ailments. For others, it’s preventative medicine and part of a regular health regimen. The following are some of the primary therapeutic benefits of salt therapy.

Eases breathing

Salt is extremely absorbent and has both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. When you breathe in salt, it can help to reduce congestion and break down mucus, making breathing that much easier. The airways are cleansed of unwelcome bacteria and toxins. By absorbing such foreign substances, lung function is improved, as is the overall health of your respiratory system. You may find that you’re not as short of breath, have fewer coughing spasms, and become less likely to reach for your inhaler to open up your airways.

It’s not difficult to see that regularly spending time in a salt room can prove therapeutic for common conditions that impact breathing such as asthma, allergies, and bronchitis. Salt therapy can even provide relief for people with more severe illnesses such as cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Plus, if you’re simply experiencing the effects of a cold or flu, you may breathe easier after a salt cave session and recover just a little faster, as the air clears out some of the bad bacteria in your respiratory tract.

Helps to improve oxygen intake

Increased lung capacity can result in improved oxygen intake. The body requires a proper exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide for optimal functioning. Every breath you take is necessary to support mental clarity and improved muscle function, as well as a healthy digestive system. In addition, oxygen is essential in order for your cells to absorb nutrients from food.

More oxygen flow throughout the body helps to raise your energy levels, enabling you to feel better in general, and encourages a more active lifestyle. Moreover, the antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory attributes of salt can help you to fight off illness and boost your immune system.

Alleviates skin conditions

Skin conditions, including acne, eczema, and psoriasis, can be improved by incorporating salt therapy into your health routine. Since salt is an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, it can help to alleviate these conditions. Moreover, the salt used in salt caves contains magnesium, which is known to have therapeutic benefits for your skin.

However, salt has many more helpful minerals. In fact, it has over 84 of them. These are absorbed by the skin and provide nourishment and healing, as they moisturize, strengthen cells, and improve the skin’s microcirculation. Furthermore, salt therapy restores the skin’s normal pH balance, aiding healthy skin growth. When skin problems slowly clear up, you’ll enjoy less itchiness and discomfort, and discover that you may not need to rely on pharmaceuticals.

Improves mood

In addition to improving the condition of your skin, time spent in a salt cave can help to enhance your mood. You may find it beneficial to relax in a pleasant space surrounded by healing salt with soothing music playing in the background. Making a trip to a salt room as part of a weekly or monthly self-care routine can also have some long-term positive effects on your mental health.

You might notice that you achieve more restful sleep and have more energy during the day. When you feel healthier physically, it stands to reason that you’ll achieve better mental health, too. In short, more people are discovering how salt caves can support your overall well-being. These days, you don’t have to look far to find this complementary therapy.

6 Qualities That Archery Can Help You to Develop

Archery is among the world’s oldest arts with roots that extend back to Ancient Egypt and perhaps even as far back as the Stone Age. Commonly adopted back then for hunting and warfare, it is still practiced regularly today, but instead has application as a hobby or competitive sport. In fact, archery was included at the Olympic Games in 1900, 1904, 1908, and 1920. Following a 52-year hiatus, the sport was reintroduced to the Olympics in 1972 and has remained a part of its program.

Whether you decide to take up archery for recreational or competitive purposes, the sport promotes several valuable life lessons. While it involves the relatively simple task of pulling back and letting go of your bow, it can take a lifetime to master. Here are six qualities that archery can help to instill in those who regularly undertake this pastime.

Focus

One of the most valuable skills you need to become successful in archery is focus. People who master the sport are able to use a laser-like focus to hold steady and hit their desired target. Simply practicing archery on a regular basis will help to instill this level of focus, as there are several considerations necessary to take to make the perfect shot. Archers also often need to overcome outside distractions.

In addition to honing in on their target, archers need to ensure that they are not only in the correct stance but that they maintain stability and balance throughout the shooting motion. Controlled breathing is another element that contributes to success in archery. All of these require immense concentration. Improving your abilities in archery can help to enhance your ability to focus and overcome distractions in your life.

Patience

Speed is an asset in many sports, including football, soccer, and ice hockey. The opposite is true in archery. A good archer exhibits patience in their approach and follow-through. Rushing, or trying to hit a target without ensuring proper form, balance, and focus, will only result in inaccurate shots.

Moreover, it can take several years—if not a lifetime—to truly master the art of archery. Pursuing greatness in this sport is a practice in patience in itself. One famous Japanese archery master, Awa Kenzo (1880-1939), developed the archery form known as Shado, or the “Shooting Way.” His philosophy was that archery is more than a pastime and sport. Rather, it’s a way of life. He also viewed it as a spiritual event that helped archers to connect with their inner being.

Confidence

Since archery takes so long to master, it can also instill confidence. Unless an archer is participating in a competitive archery event, they are generally their own greatest opponent. However, noticing a gradual progression can help them to gain confidence that can be carried over to other aspects of their lives. In archery, results are easily measured based on your score. Consequently, it isn’t hard to notice improvement in the sport. This is particularly true for youths who take up archery.

“As [kids] begin learning the technique of shooting, they realize it’s not like some of the cool movies they’ve watched, where the hero is shooting a bow any and every which way,” notes Coyote Hill archery instructor Josh McCaskey. “They have a lot of fun learning the sport. The first few times they shoot, the arrow goes off to the side or over the target. But once they start hitting the target, they feel incredibly accomplished having learned a skill. It’s a really big confidence booster for them.”

Responsibility

Athletes who participate in team sports can sometimes afford to make mistakes knowing that their teammate might pick them up. While archery can at times be a team sport, it is primarily an individual pursuit. Archers who make mistakes or miss targets then have nobody to blame but themselves. They not only learn from and improve through their mistakes, but understand the importance of personal responsibility, which is an important virtue in business and other aspects of life.

Persistence

In addition to exercising patience in order to improve their shooting abilities, archers must be persistent in their drive to master the sport. The saying “practice makes perfect” is particularly true for archery, and achieving proper muscle memory to excel in the sport requires regular practice.

Discipline

Archery by nature also requires discipline. Athletes in other sports can excel with different abilities and movements, whereas archers need to be particularly disciplined when going through precise movements in order to reach the goal of hitting their target. Everything from their stance to breathing patterns need to be precise. Moreover, proper stance is not only about your foot position. Archers also need to engage their head, shoulders, back, hips, and knees to perfect their stance. Archers also need to ensure that they hold their bow with the proper grip and have their bowstring fingers in one of the three commonly accepted positions.

Spotlight: 8 Goals You Can Set for Personal Growth

We are shaped during our formative years by the people we encounter, the places we explore, and the events we participate in. These experiences help to determine the type of person we will become as we grow from childhood to adulthood.

Personal development, however, should be a lifelong process through which we aspire to be the best version of ourselves. While this can involve major goals and aspirations—getting a promotion at work, for instance—it can also be achieved on a day-to-day basis by adhering to simple suggestions. The following are eight easy-to-accomplish personal development goals.

1. Learn More

Similar to personal development, the act of learning and seeking out knowledge shouldn’t be suspended once you reach adulthood. Not only does learning support professional development efforts, but it also promotes critical thinking and equips you with the proper tools to understand and manage life challenges. Fortunately, acquiring knowledge isn’t difficult given the abundance of educational resources available online. You can also learn more by allocating more time to reading and not being afraid to ask questions.

2. Listen Better

Learning to be a more active listener is an easy way to expand your knowledge—all it requires is paying more attention when others are speaking. Also, by being a better listener, you can show yourself to be more trustworthy and compassionate. To get started, be sure to remove or ignore any distractions when in conversation with others. Display engaging body language and ask open-ended questions. Generally speaking, good listeners make good friends and communicators, as they make others feel cared for and validated.

3. Wake up Early

Many people promote waking up early as the secret to success. Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes up before 4 a.m., while other successful early risers include Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. Although there’s much more to becoming successful in business, waking up early can promote overall productivity due to the simple fact that there is more time in the day to achieve your various tasks and goals. Research has also indicated that those who regularly wake up early are happier and healthier than those who sleep in.

It can be difficult, however, to establish an early-rising routine. One of the most effective ways to do this is to follow a sleep schedule. Aim to go to sleep—and wake up—at the same time every day regardless of your schedule and plans. If falling asleep early is challenging at first, consider putting away all distractions such as phones and laptops and avoid drinking caffeine within at least six hours before bedtime.

4. Be More Compassionate and Empathetic

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion,” is a famous quote by the Dalai Lama. Being compassionate is integral to experiencing happiness, as it allows us to feel more connected to one another by emphasizing commonalities as opposed to differences.

Make it a point to verbally and non-verbally communicate compassion in your interactions, and encourage others to do the same. Moreover, you should show compassion to yourself by forgiving your mistakes and taking the time to be proud of your successes.

5. Be Proactive

Being proactive means considering any possible challenges before they happen, allowing you the opportunity to handle and overcome them head-on should they arise. Being reactive, meanwhile, means having to respond to obstacles as they occur.

Shifting your philosophy to being more proactive can be achieved by looking toward the future, taking personal responsibility for your success, thinking through possible scenarios, and focusing on what you can control. 

6. Get Along Better with Others

Trying to get along better with others can be beneficial to your personal and professional life. In your career, it both helps with networking and promotes organizational success. Though you and your coworkers will have different perspectives on certain topics, trying to get along with them regardless can enhance productivity. To assist in efforts to get along better with others, try to listen without arguing and ask questions that might provide more insight into their point of view. Moreover, be aware of emotions, but don’t let them permeate dialogue.

7. Become More Mindful

Being mindful refers to slowing down and living in the present as opposed to focusing on the past. Put more simply, it means focusing on the positive instead of the negative. Meditation is one exercise that can help you become more mindful—and it doesn’t necessarily have to be an hour-long session. You can also try taking a minute or two for deep breathing exercises or stretching for short 10-second intervals every hour.

8. Volunteer More

The satisfaction gained from helping others is a benefit in and of itself. Researchers have highlighted volunteerism as a way to enhance mental health, as it alleviates stress and anxiety and protects against depression via regular contact with others. Other benefits include increased self-confidence and sense of purpose as well as improved social skills.