How to make your outdoor retreat a stress-releasing zone

A retreat is a place where you can go to get away from the hubbub of a harried life. Also referred to as an oasis, the backyard retreat becomes a beckoning destination whether a patio, gazebo or the family deck. The best quality outdoor furniture and privacy panels to block unwanted views, however, may not be enough to make your outdoor retreat a place to reduce stress. You can transform your retreat into a stress-releasing zone with inviting sights, sounds, scents, and personal touches.

Tea for Two - If you share an outdoor retreat with a loved one, the ultimate living space would have room for each of you to lie down for a nap or to read. Take a lightweight blanket and pillow with you or keep them in a water proof chest at your retreat to be ready for that nap or for warmth on a chilly evening.

Exercise - Simple stretches or yoga can help the body unwind as the exercise relieves tense muscles. Perform yoga daily and in your outdoor retreat, weather permitting, to include the sounds of nature in your relaxation exercises.

Soothing Music and Sounds - Bring out a portable CD player to listen to soothing music, like classical music or recorded sounds of a trickling brook or gently lapping waves. Music can also help to drown out traffic sounds or other sounds that might interfere with your relaxing, stress-free zone. The sound of a softly clinking wind chime or a bubbling fountain may also help to soothe your mind.

Mood-setting Light - Set the mood for quiet evening relaxation with candles. Place tea lights, which are small candles in a metal dish, inside clay flower pots filled two-thirds full with sand, gravel or small decorative glass balls. Use a pot about 6 inches across for one tea light candle; large pots could display more candles for additional brilliance or even a mock fire pit. For added reflection, line the top inside half of the pot with aluminum foil, folding the foil over the top to the outside lip of the pot. Instead of foil, try white, silver or gold paint. Place the illuminated flower pots along a walk or beside chairs. Add one or two scented candles on the table next to your seat. Lavender, spice, and sandalwood are relaxing scents. You may choose a scented candle that reminds you of a pleasant place you visited or a wonderful time of year, like coconut scent reminding you of sun tan lotion and an island vacation or a cranberry scented candle may remind you of a happy Christmas.

Pleasurable Sights - When your landscape falls short in providing a spectacular view, create your own visual impact. Surround yourself with potted plants or shrubs (potted or ground-planted). The shrubs could be strung with small twinkle (Christmas) lights that can be turned on year-round. Obtain a picture of place that fills you with happy memories or is of a place you'd like to visit, like a cabin in the woods or a stretch of pristine ocean beach. Mount pictures to a gazebo or pergola upright post, or rest a small pictures on a side table. Stare at the picture and imagine the scents and sounds, and then close your eyes and let your dreams carry you away.