Right about now, we could all use a break from the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic. But until it’s safe to disconnect on a weekend—or weeklong—wellness retreat, the next best thing is to create one in your own home.
So we reached out to the experts at hotels and spas around the world (and threw in a few ideas of our own) to find out how to recreate a spa experience anywhere. All it takes is some reorganizing, a few little luxuries, and some spare time. Here’s what you need to turn your home into a wellness retreat:
Step 1: Make one room your sanctuary
“Designating one room in the house for bringing about calm is so helpful to me,” says AFAR deputy editor Jennifer Flowers. “I try to ensure that my bedroom is my relaxation and sleep sanctuary—which means I’m not allowed to work or watch TV in that room.”
The experts agree. Kemper Hyers, creative director of the Auberge Resorts Collection, which brings guests recipes and rituals for at-home wellness through the #AubergeAtHome series, recommends orienting the sofa or chairs in your relaxation room toward the windows. “You get a little perspective, plus an open view leads to an open heart and an open mind,” he says. Also, the ideal relaxation room should be carpeted and have insulated windows and dimmable lights.
Plants, flowers, and greenery
Just a simple vase of flowers or a potted plant can make your space feel special and boost your mood. Emmanuel Arroyo, director of wellness at the Rosewood Mayakoba, notes that plants also “help clean the air we breathe by absorbing toxins and acting as little oxygen factories.”
AFAR staff accountant Erika Stallworth, whose plant family is the envy of many in our office, sources many of her plants from Josh’s Frogs and Steve’s Leaves, saying both do a good job packaging their plants properly and carefully for shipment. You can get an air-purifying peace lily or spider plant for five dollars or less.
Arroyo recommends bringing as much natural light into your space as possible. “Our bodies respond to daylight to release serotonin, which is a hormone related to lifting our spirits and helping us concentrate,” he says.
“Choose your favorite aromatherapy candle or incense to encourage you to breathe in and assist to transform your mood,” says Arroyo. We love P.F. Candle Co.’s Golden Coast reed diffusers, which will transport us to Big Sur with eucalyptus, sea salt, redwood, and palo santo.
Buy now: P.F. Candle Co’s Golden Coast reed diffuser, $24, pfcandleco.com
Lee Woon Hoe, executive director of well-being at Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, recommends using a calming lavender pillow mist at the end of the day. It’s a great extra touch for your at-home retreat.
Buy now: Lavender Bergamot Sleep Enhancer, $21, essentials.banyantree.com
The perfect robe
Nothing will make you feel more like you’re at a spa than donning a robe between an evening epsom salt bath and a nighttime meditation session. You probably already have a favorite robe, but if not, Under the Canopy’s soft, unisex Fair Trade Organic Cotton Kimono Robe is a perfect light but warm option.
Buy now: Fair Trade Organic Cotton Kimono Robe, $50, underthecanopy.com
Step 2: Find your favorite yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices online
Right now, many hotels, spas, and yoga studios around the world have free online yoga classes and guided meditations. Here are a few we’re excited about:
- Six Senses is offering regular Facebook Live meditation and stretching sessions with experts as part of its At Home With Six Senses program.
- The wellness experts at Aman properties offer short and easy tutorials on their social media accounts. Practice morning sun salutations with Amanyara in Turks and Caicos, or explore the asanas of yoga and meditation with Amankora in Bhutan.
- Mii Amo, a destination spa in Sedona, Arizona, is running a free, limited time, weekly four- to six-minute meditation series on its Instagram from now to Monday, April 27.
- Belmond has introduced Digital Care Packages across its social media platforms, which include guided meditations by its wellness experts.
- Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has also released a series of expert-led wellness videos usually available in its hotel rooms that include yoga classes, meditations, Pilates, and more. (Sign up for the Fans of M.O. guest recognition program for free to get 60-day access to the videos.)
Some of our favorite local yoga studios have also gone online for free (but, if you can, consider donating to support the instructors). Yoga Vida in New York now offers daily live classes on Instagram at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and Yoga to the People, which has locations in California, New York, and Arizona, holds four live-streamed online classes daily.
If you’d prefer to meditate on your own schedule, Headspace and Calm are two popular subscription apps that offer guided exercises, videos, and even calming soundscapes. Currently, Headspace has released a selection of its exercises for free, with New York’s crisis in mind.
And if you’ve never tried a sound bath (or even if you have), now is your chance to experience one in your own home. The audio company IRIS has free streaming sound baths from Ibizan sound healer Jeremie Quidu.
Step 3: Arrange some at-home spa treatments
Take it from the experts—you can easily create pampering foot scrubs, face mists, and more with products you probably already have in your refrigerator or cupboard.
Easy face mist
Capella Singapore’s Cucumber Mint Face Mist is quick and easy. Vitamin C in the cucumber soothes and revitalizes skin, the lemon promotes even skin tone, and mint has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Juice one cucumber and add in juice from half a lemon.
- Steep one bag of mint tea in a half cup of distilled hot water for five minutes. Allow to cool.
- Combine the cucumber-lemon juice and cooled tea together in a spray bottle.
- Store in the refrigerator.
D.I.Y. face masks
Kemper Hyers recommends an easy Children’s Chocolate Facial (works for adults, too!) from the Auberge property Esperanza in Los Cabos, Mexico. It’s a simple mix of coconut oil, cocoa powder, and cucumber slices for the eyes.
Tammy Dent the director of training for spas at Six Senses also uses cocoa powder, along with yogurt, honey, and essential oils to create a face mask from Alchemy Bar at Six Senses Douro Valley.
Ljiljana Matic, the corporate wellness and spa director at Lošinj Hotels & Villas in Croatia, explains that regular exfoliation helps to increase blood circulation, promote new skin cell reproduction, and heal ingrown hairs. She offered a few easy recipes for face and body scrubs:
Grind two to three tablespoons of rice into a powder in a mortar and pestle or blender and mix that with three to four tablespoons of coconut oil or olive oil. Gently exfoliate your face in circular motion with the mixture and rinse it off with warm water.
In a small glass or ceramic jar, mix:
- two tablespoons of honey
- two to three tablespoons of olive oil
- two to three tablespoons of sea salt
- one to two drops essential oil (optional, add this last)
This mixture should have the consistency of a granular paste. Warm the bowl up for 60 seconds in the microwave before using, or keep the bowl in hot water for 10 minutes. It should be warm. Leftover scrub paste can be kept in a tightly closed jar for up to 30 days in a cool and dark place.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai offers a simple how-to for the Hualalai Spa Apothecary Body Treatment in its Instagram stories (11th slide). The nui (coconut) bath treatment includes a body scrub, a bath, and a refreshing drink, all of which are created with coconut products and a few other common household ingredients.
Even if you don’t go for a full treatment, Matic says that adding about four tablespoons of epsom salt to a bath can purify the body and relieve it of toxins.
She also recommends a shower ritual to detoxify and reduce muscle inflammation: “Shower with warm water for one minute, then with cold water for 30 seconds. Repeat the cycle several times.” The warm water will expand blood vessels and increase circulation, while cold water will contract the blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Start from the feet and move up when switching from hot water to cold, or cold to hot.
The spa diet
Anantara Hotels, Resorts, and Spas recommends you drink three quarts of room-temperature mineral water every day, so go ahead and prepare yourself a large pitcher of cucumber lemon water and set it out on a counter or table for the duration of your retreat.
Fresh, energizing foods
Hyers recommends starting the day with “a healthy smoothie or juice like Chef Chody’s Vitamin C Smoothie, which is packed with healing and grounding ingredients like vitamin C, turmeric, ginger, and beets.”
Six Senses has put together a guide to superfood herbs that you may use regularly. It offers suggestions on how to cook with them in everyday meals: You could poach roasted carrots in a turmeric ghee to get that herb’s anti-inflammatory benefits, or make a sage pesto to help boost your cognitive function.
Tonics and elixirs
We also like to batch immunity-boosting tonics to sip throughout the day. The Anantara the Palm Dubai Resort’s cinnamon-lemon-honey immunity shot is easy to make and offers a refreshing zing of energy. A more complex recipe, the Six Senses’s Rocket Fuel takes much longer—four to six weeks of infusing apple cider vinegar with onions, citrus, herbs, ginger, and garlic—but the resulting liquid can aid digestion, energy, and immunity.
Really committed to wellness? Try recreating the fish oil and ginger shots that the Retreat at the Blue Lagoon offers each day at breakfast. The fish oil, available at your local drugstore, is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which can boost the immune system and help with seasonal affective disorders (especially important during Iceland’s long winters). The ginger shots, which you can juice on your own or find at many grocery stores, help to build immune systems with its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.