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Wellness Getaways Leave the People Who Need Them Most in the Dust

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Zen balanced stones stackGiven the breakneck speed of modern society, and the ever encroaching effect of technology in our lives, it is little surprise that more and more Americans are reporting stress. But what is, for some, a dire medical epidemic is, for others, a business opportunity.
Spiritual retreats are a growing fad among Americans. Already the revenue has exploded to $563.2 billion, up 14% from 2013 earnings($494.1 billion). Making it the fasted growing tourism niche, expanding twice as much as any other niches according to the Global Wellness Institute.
Part of the reason for the success of these wellness retreats is the prevalence of camping and other “nature getaways,” already popular in the United States; camping, for instance, is enjoyed by at least one person in six out of every 10 households.
Now, a recent study from Religion, Brain and Behavior, by scientists from The Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at Thomas Jefferson University suggests that these spiritual retreats can effectively cause changes in the brain of retreat patients, especially in regards to dopamine and serotonin functions – two neurotransmitters that have long been tied to positive emotions.
To accomplish this, wellness retreats focus on achieving a spiritual transcendence through techniques like yoga, meditation, and contemplation, all to the backdrop of some lavish locale. That might start to explain the second big distinction from more traditional getaways: the price. A week-long wellness retreat can easily run upwards of $2,000 or more for a week.
“Not everyone is able to access or afford to attend a spiritual retreat,” says freelance writer Cindy Lamothe in a piece for the Washington Post.
But what of the people who can’t afford it? The ones that Lamothe glosses over in favor of examining the latest in a line of middle-class cure-alls for stress, (anyone remember those $25 adult coloring books?)
The fact is that people in poverty face the greatest burden of stress, with some researchers even theorizing that the specific form of stress associated with poverty can cause serious changes to the way people think.
“When you’re very lonely, or when you’re hungry, or when you’re poor, a large portion of the day is spent entertaining thoughts related to the source of your scarcity. If you’re lonely, you spend a big part of the day worrying about how to make social connections, which is actually distracting you from other things,” Eldar Shafir, a Princeton psychologist said to NPR back in 2014.
For them, Lamothe has the following advice, “a growing body of research has found that a daily practice of mindfulness meditation at home can also help reduce anxiety and bolster good health.”
And while there is a long history of using meditation and communing with nature to alleviate the symptoms of stress — some 60% of people prone to anxiety who practiced meditation for six to nine months saw an improve the anxiety levels — low-income people fail to have the total access to comprehensive wellness care that many more fortunate people enjoy.