Nature retreat sceneThe benefits of meeting in a naturally beautiful environment may seem obvious.  Waking up to the sounds of birds and breezes, breathing fresh air and experiencing a sunset are just a few of the built in benefits.  But according to researchers at University of Michigan nature improves cognitive benefits in directed-attention abilities.  Just taking a walk can improve attention as restorative therapy. 

Choosing to host your next retreat at a retreat center can provide your attendees with the opportunity to experience nature, explore their environment and learn from it.  When planning your retreat, think about what you want to accomplish with your group and consider outdoor spaces or activities that improve your outcomes.   

Programming ideas being outdoors

  • Have a flag ceremony before breakfast to welcome the day and set day objectives
  • Plan a guided hike with a key message you want them to understand
  • Do breakout programming in the shade of a tree, gazebo or tree house
  • Conduct a worship service at sunset and include the benefits of nature in your message
  • Plan a team building event such as a scavenger hunt or capture the flag
  • Sing songs by a campfire
  • Have everyone gather outside and simply be quiet, together under the stars or to watch the clouds midday 

Being at a retreat center in a natural environment enhances the group by helping people to be together, not isolated. Try to have your attendee’s breathe in fresh air in order to eat, meet or greet.  Nature is a great equalizer and people that may be shy in confined spaces will shine once they are given sunlight.

Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., Kaplan, S. (2008). The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting With Nature. Association for Psychological Science, 19 (12), p.1207-1212.

By Debra Williams, Co-Founder, Retreat Central
Debra Williams was the Director of Sales and Marketing for Garrett Creek Ranch Conference Center, a highly successful meeting venue near Dallas/Fort Worth. Over a five year period her successes include doubling the company’s revenue and increasing its exposure in new markets across the country. Before that she was the owner of two successful hospitality venues in Dallas, Texas.

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