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The phoneless retreat for the broken hearted

At breakup bootcamp, the first house rule is to digitally detox. No phones are allowed.The intimate gatherings...

Posted: Feb 14, 2018 2:17 PM
Updated: Feb 14, 2018 2:17 PM

At breakup bootcamp, the first house rule is to digitally detox. No phones are allowed.

The intimate gatherings, which average about 14 people per event, are set up to help newly single women "rewire their hearts." Retreats are held several times a year in upstate New York and Malibu, California.

Launched in 2017, Renew founder Amy Chan's mission is to help women mend their hearts through a mix of spirituality and science. A team of all female experts, from psychologists and behavioral scientists to energy healers, conduct group and one-on-one sessions.

Also on site: a chef to cook nutritious meals, and zen activities such as alpaca petting, yoga and meditation.

It may sound like a tall order to help people move on from former relationships in one weekend, but Chan said the goal is to teach attendees how behavior may assist or detract from that process.

"After a breakup, some people go into inspector gadget mode trying to find clues and information to fill an insatiable void," said Chan, a relationship writer and researcher turned entrepreneur. " But it's a mental trap. When constantly checking an ex's Instagram, instead of neural pathways weakening, you're just strengthening the old bonds."

"No digital devices are seen," she said.

On average, adults are spending two hours and 51 minutes on their smartphone every day. Digital connections, like a partner returning a text message or sending an emoji, result in dopamine boosts, and it makes for complications when it comes to severing ties.

"We're in withdrawal from that dopamine shot," said Dr. Naomi Arbit, who specializes in positive psychology.

Renew works with experts like Arbit to help women on the retreats heal. She is focused on teaching the women self-compassion.

According to Arbit, the best way to stop the cycle of seeking dopamine boosts from an ex is to "not continually revisit those pathways."

Chan came up with the concept for Renew after working through her own breakup about five years ago. Since launching the retreats, it has attracted attendees ranging from women in their mid 20s to their 60s.

The retreat costs between $1,500 and $3,000 (pricing varies based on single or shared rooms). Chan plans to launch a scholarship application program for future retreats to make one slot available each time.

SelfHackathon founder Patrycja Slawuta, another expert at Renew, said that eliminating phone usage during the retreat is important to become present with feelings.

"Lack of technology allows attendees to process their emotions and form meaning," said Slawuta. "[During my session], deeply-held sadness, fear, and aggression started popping up for women."

Slawuta said Facebook and Instagram are such addictive platforms because "they speak to the primal need of belonging." Renew can provide an alternative form of connection and a sense of belonging away from the phone, Slawuta added.

"People can have epiphany moments when they go through a profound experience and find the inspiration and commitment to change their lives going forward," said Arbit. "That's the hope."

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