Women Who Thrive retreat review: ‘I unleashed a happier version of me!’
Our Design Director, Nicky Acketts, reviews her stay at the Women Who Thrive retreat – a wellness weekend where fun meets transformation…
It felt serendipitous when the opportunity arose to take part in a three-day workshop promising a profound journey of self-discovery, healing and empowerment – set in the beautiful Norfolk countryside.
My mind had recently been in overdrive, trying to process a chain of challenging events from the past 10 years; a harrowing, drawn-out dispute with the neighbours from hell, followed by the onset of menopause, breast cancer, then Covid. My mother’s diagnosis of ovarian cancer followed in Christmas 2021, leading to her painful and traumatic death 18 months later, just six months after the death of my father. Throw on top of that a family house move, and saying goodbye to my daughter when she fled the nest and went off to university… I really felt like a deer caught in the headlights and in need of some strength to carry on.
Discovering Women Who Thrive
I now realise that resetting your mental and physical health sometimes requires more than a sweaty HIIT class or a 15-minute at-home yoga session.
Making changes often means doing away with long-held habits and shifting your mindset — which is easier when you can step away from the daily grind. Enter the Women Who Thrive retreat – a break designed exclusively for – and led by – women to help discover a better you.
Run by Sharon Mckenna-Daniels, the retreat utilises her method, Uncover, Recover, Discover. This practice is all about becoming your best you and letting nothing hold you back, with a combination of therapy and therapeutic practice, hypnotherapy and visualisation therapeutic group work.
Sounding like the perfect place to unravel my current state of mind, it was time to head to Norfolk and put it into practice.
Heading to the retreat
The day before the retreat, Sharon telephoned for a brief chat, to make sure I knew what I was letting myself in for and offering any support. Her friendly tone immediately put me at ease and I already found myself feeling a little lighter.
In desperate hope of some gold at the end of the retreat rainbow, I hoped I wasn’t disappointed as I drove in anticipation through storm Babet the following day to reach my destination.
Set at the grade II listed Christmas Barn on the Loddon Hall Estate, accommodation was luxurious with high-vaulted, beamed ceilings, yet homely with plenty of cosy corners to unwind.
I took some time settling into my room with a cup of tea. Here, I was greeted by thoughtful welcome gifts from the local area – Harris & James artisan chocolates, a bag of Guinot beauty goodies by The Lawnes Beauty Clinic and carefully curated crystals chosen by Women Who Thrive co-founder and crystal healer, Guainné McKenna-Daniels.
Although tempted to try on the fluffy robe and slippers, it was time to begin the first workshop.
Forming new bonds
Four other guests joined me on the retreat and, considering we were complete strangers, I quickly felt at ease in their company. It became clear that everyone was there to heal in one way or another and it felt easy to be my authentic self with this micro-community of like-minded women.
The first day was spent focusing on ‘Uncovering’ – realising our strengths, qualities and forming a deeper relationship with our inner child, adolescent and historical adult.
We explored our childhood memories (good and bad) and how they may have impacted our adult lives. The aim was to hear, understand and quieten our inner critic, all with the help of Sharon’s Inner Mentor Guidance System.
This process helps to identify, manage and remove any triggers that might be causing negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours. These triggers may have been brought on by trauma, or may have been the result of unhelpful messages received from others.
To do this, we were encouraged to create a list of words to describe how we see ourselves. Over the course of the day, we were eventually able to create daily affirmations as a reminder of our self-worth.
Learning to let go
Wrapping up that day, Sharon’s powerful visualisation sparked a much-needed emotional release for all. I felt an incredible sense of relief and calm. For the first time in a long time, I realised that I needed to believe in myself more. I’d allowed others to damage my confidence and self-worth for too long.
To enhance the therapy, the retreat included a soothing, evening therapeutic massage with aromatherapy oils. There were other options on offer, too. From reiki and reflexology to angelic healing – a tranquil way to promote wellness and bring guidance to your life.
Feeling more centred than I had for a long time, I found my way to dinner where in-house chefs, David and Kevin (founders of the award-winning Gnosh Catering and winners of channel 4’s ‘4 In A Bed’) had prepared a splendid Asian feast. We tucked into sharing dishes of roast duck, pickled watermelon salad and seabass with green Nam Jim (Thai dipping sauce). It was such a thoughtful meal, created so that the group could get to know each other some more.
Day two on retreat
The next morning, I managed a brisk walk in the surrounding countryside before a hearty breakfast of poached eggs, smoked salmon and sourdough toast.
Day two revolved around ‘Recovering’ – offering a chance to reflect on the previous day, with further group therapy work and visualisation.
The aim of the day was to learn how to let go of the negative impact of the triggers we’d identified the day before. We discovered how to utilise our inner mentor, as well as learn methods for being more kind and compassionate towards ourselves.
While everyone embraced the exercise, l I felt that even the most hesitant guest could have found sanctuary and healing in Sharon’s hands. Being able to share our most inner concerns and self-doubts with a small group of like-minded woman was freeing and liberating.
For dinner that I evening I chose the scallops with a cauliflower pureé and Pedro Ximenez raisins to start, then guinea fowl supreme with wild musrooms, fondant potato and a Madeira wine gravy. Conversation was easy and filled with laughter. A good night’s sleep shortly followed.
The final day
Moving naturally to ‘Discover’ – the last day of the retreat. We brought together everything we’d covered over the previous sessions, while also learning how to let go of the past, our inner demons and how to gain a deeper connection to our consciousness. I felt I’d emptied unwanted parts of me that had hung around for far too long. I also felt more confident in recognising and dealing with other people’s behaviour.
Famished after such an emotional morning, we stopped for our final bountiful meal, a Sunday roast lunch of local Blythburgh pork or vegetable wellington with roast potatoes and all the trimmings. With our hungry hearts quite satisfied, we returned to the final leg of the workshop.
This afternoon was especially empowering. I felt stronger in mind, liberated, loved and determined to carve out a new groove in my thought patterns using the life-altering tools Sharon helped us create.
We were asked to write each other notes, recognising what we’d learnt of each other over the three days. The warm words I received from all four of my companions were honest, loving and moving, and brought me to tears. I’d not felt so loved for just being me in a long time.
Now, when life throws me a curve ball, instead of taking the mindset of least resistance, I have some valuable tools of self-worth, self-love and strength to help guide me through. I truly unravelled my emotions and unleashed a lighter, happier version of ‘me’.