There is very little in this world that rivals the toe-curling, spirit-lifting pleasure of an all-out spa experience
. The sensations, scents and tranquil surroundings are all designed to get you as close to transcendence as you can – without shaving your head, moving to Nepal and meditating on a mountain for ten years (I don't know about you, but I'd take a complimentary mini-mani over a packhorse any day of the week).
We're all pleasure-seekers
at heart, which is why the spa industry has become such a prosperous one – but ladies, there is absolutely no reason on earth you can't create a sensory sanctuary in your very own bathroom. Spa prices can be truly eye watering, so you'll save some bucks – plus you won't have to make (and keep) an appointment!
It's all about atmosphere
You don't have to play humpback whale sounds on your iPod, but some soothing, low-tempo music will encourage your mind to wind down and let go of stress and anxious thoughts. Classical, ambient and meditation music are all good options. Heck, even Josh Groban, if that floats your boat.
Dim lighting will help to signal to your brain that it's time to chill out and relax, so turn the harsh overhead lights off in your bathroom and light some candles instead.
Last but not least, you'll want to include some form of aromatherapy
. Scent has a powerful effect on our mood: the body's limbic centre (the part of the brain that controls your emotions) is directly connected to the olfactory system. You have several options: try an aromatherapy burner, a few drops of your favourite essential oil/s in your bathwater, or an aromatherapy candle (two birds, one stone).
While your bath is running, wash your face in the basin with a gentle exfoliating scrub, rinse, and pat dry.
Now dry-brush your entire body with a natural-bristle body brush or loofah, working towards the heart, to help stimulate lymph drainage and loosen dead skin cells.
Add either some moisturising bath milk or Epsom salts to the bathwater, and then slip into your lovely hot bath (which is hopefully not too hot – you don't want to short-circuit your blood vessels).
Apply a facemask
(the heat from the bath will help your pores to open up and absorb all those lovely active ingredients), pop a cool cucumber slice over each eyelid if you like, then lie back and soak for as long as it takes for you to get that wonderful 'Aaaah…' feeling. For me, this can take between five minutes and an hour if I'm reading a good book.
Rinse off your face mask after the time advised on the directions and pat skin dry. Keep a large, thirsty towel on hand.
Give your whole body a good going over with your favourite body scrub – the warm water will have softened your skin and loosened any dead skin cells, so don't scrub so vigorously that you remove your entire epidermis!
Wash as usual, and shave now if you're going to.
If you're feeling brave, jump in the shower and give yourself an all-over blast of cold water, which will do wonders for your blood circulation. If you're a chicken like me, just pat yourself dry and slather on your favourite body lotion and facial moisturiser.
Wrap up in a fluffy bathrobe and sigh, deeply and contentedly.
The delight is in the details…
Sip on a glass of hot water flavoured with a few slices of lemon to encourage your body to detox. It has the added benefit of a pleasingly virtuous 'cleansing' sensation.
Before you get into your bath
, pop your body lotion into a bowl of piping hot water. There's nothing quite like getting out of a lovely warm bath in winter and then slathering on equally warm lotion – it's a sensory treat.
If you want to take your relaxing spa experience to another level, do 10 or 15 minutes of yoga or stretching beforehand.