Being close to nature, indulging a hobby or seeking out some quiet time – try a mind, body or spirit holiday and let your cares float away. Claire Gervat shares her favourites
We all know of the benefits of exercise for our general wellbeing, and anything that gets us moving – at home that could even be housework and gardening – is a good thing.
For those who relish the discipline and camaraderie of fitness classes, Pilates is worth considering.
Developed in the early 20th century by the German physical trainer Joseph Pilates, it is a deceptively gentle series of exercises combining stretching and breathing that’s suitable for all ages.
Using tiny, slow movements and the minimum of kit, it helps make you stronger and more flexible, with better posture and better breathing – which is also excellent for managing stress.
If you haven’t tried Pilates before, a themed break somewhere relaxing in the UK or further afield is the perfect introduction. And it’s just as suitable if you’ve tried it but are a bit rusty, or like the idea of a few days based around a favourite activity.
HF Holidays (020 3424 6162; hfholidays.co.uk) has a seven-night Pilates break to the four-star Athena Beach Hotel in Paphos, Cyprus, departing 30 April 2017, from £979. This price includes flights, half-board accommodation and tuition from an expert leader.
There are also short breaks in the UK, from £319.
It’s official: being outside in beautiful countryside has been scientifically proven to strengthen our immune system and raise our spirits. And it’s all the more enjoyable if you catch a glimpse of the local wildlife while you’re out and about.
To boost your chances of spotting something, it helps to be in the right place at the right time, of course – and that can just as easily be a crisp winter morning as a fine evening in summer.
Armed with books, binoculars and a willingness to wait patiently, you could create your own wildlife break by booking a place to stay near one of the UK’s bird or nature reserves.
Going on a group trip in the company of experts, however, means you’re likely to see more, and understand what you’re seeing – and you could even make some new, like-minded friends.
Naturetrek (01962 733 051; naturetrek.co.uk) arranges wildlife holidays around the world, including a five-night break to Spain’s Coto Doñana National Park, known for its abundant birdlife, from £995.
This price includes flights, all-inclusive accommodation and the services of an expert ornithologist. There are also various three-day breaks in the UK, from £295.
Scents of wellbeing
There is something wonderfully soothing about the aroma of bread and cakes cooking, so it’s no surprise that supermarkets are happy to let the warm, scented air from their in-house bakeries waft through the store.
If you want to create the same effect at home, with the bonus of knowing exactly what’s in your loaf and saving money in the long run, a short course at a cookery school makes a mood-enhancing focus to a holiday.
There’s a world of choice: everything from discovering the magic of making sourdough bread to mastering the Chelsea bun or even turning out perfect pizzas.
Not only is it therapeutic to spend a few days breathing in delicious smells, kneading dough and comparing results with your fellow bakers, you’ll also leave with new skills you’ll be able to use on a daily basis.
The School of Artisan Food (01909 532 171; schoolofartisanfood.org) is a not-for-profit institution on the Welbeck Estate, near Worksop, Nottinghamshire.
It offers a range of one- to four-day courses to suit all skill levels and artisan food interests.
The two-day Introduction to Sourdough Baking, for instance, costs £320, which includes refreshments and lunch; there are lots of B&Bs and self-catering accommodation in the area.
A quiet mind
In our ever more hectic world, it can be difficult to find time to slow down, turn down the volume on the never-ending mental to-do list and really appreciate the world around us.
That’s where mindfulness comes in. It’s a very simple form of meditation where you learn to deal effectively with negative thoughts and be more compassionate with yourself.
It’s been shown to have many beneficial effects, from making it easier to deal with life’s problems to boosting memory – and what’s not to like about that?
It’s perfectly possible to learn the techniques from a book, the internet or even a smartphone app, but altogether more life-enhancing to pick up tips from encouraging experts on a mindfulness retreat in a glorious part of the country.
Choose your destination wisely and you’ll find not just tranquillity but also delicious food and plenty of home comforts.
The Sharpham Trust (01803 732 542; sharphamtrust.org) offers a three-night Mindfulness for Beginners retreat at Grade I-listed Sharpham House, overlooking the River Dart, near Totnes, Devon.
Prices start at £315, which includes accommodation, all (vegetarian) meals and scheduled activities.
Bobbing about in naturally heated water is a time-honoured way to relax tense muscles and a balm to the spirits, especially on colder days.
The Romans, famously, were big fans of the healing hot springs, and many of the places they developed are still spa resorts.
Since then, there has been a wealth of research into the benefits of the minerals in their waters, which can help everything from rheumatism to skin complaints.
As a result, there’s a huge range of modern thermal resorts to choose from – whether you have a specific medical issue or just want to unwind – catering to all budgets.
One destination to consider is Slovenia, which is rich in mineral springs – and its scenic spas are excellent value for money.
A five-night break at the four-star Hotel Vila Higiea at Terme Dobrna in Slovenia, 50 miles north-east of the capital Ljubljana, costs from €198 (around £179) half-board – flights not included.
This includes a medical consultation and unlimited use of the thermal pools. For booking, and details of other spa breaks in Slovenia, visit en.slovenia-terme.si.