On RUOK Day, the RUOK charity emphasises the importance of mental health discussions and checking in on those around you, and what better setting for this than the great outdoors. Here at Cairns & Great Barrier reef, we recognise the pivotal role that nature plays in fostering mental well-being. Its undeniable effects, such as reducing stress, uplifting mood, and promoting mindfulness, are paramount. Join us as we explore some of our favourite serene spots and mood-enhancing activities.
Look deep into nature & you will understand everything better- Albert Einstein
We’d like to commend the important work of the R U OK? association. Their mission is to encourage meaningful conversations and connections, especially with those going through difficult times. R U OK? empowers individuals to be effective help-givers, aiding in suicide prevention by promoting early intervention through personal connections and informal support networks.
Inspired by R U OK, we’ve compiled a collection of activities aimed at enhancing mental well-being.
feel serene in green
Contact with nature generates an increase in positive emotions and feelings of vitality, and a decrease in negative emotions; it also provides relief from mental tiredness, and an improvement in our attention span (Lackey et al., 2019).
Nature uses in medical practice
Spending time in nature has a well-established positive impact on mood and mental health, a notion now embraced by medical professionals. “Nature prescriptions” are a rising healthcare trend, with doctors recommending nature exposure as a form of treatment. This approach acknowledges nature’s therapeutic benefits for physical and mental well-being, aiding in the reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Do as the Japanese do
Forest bathing, or Shinrin-Yoku, is a therapeutic practice involving immersive nature experiences. It entails mindful walks or quiet contemplation in a forest, harnessing the healing benefits of nature to reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance overall well-being.
Submerge yourself in the wonders of the Daintree & Cape Tribulation, a unique destination where Australia’s oldest, largest, and most expansive rainforest converges with the only living organism seen from space.
Experts suggest even spending just 30 minutes a day in nature can improve your mood. For a quick nature break, head to Cairns Botanic Gardens, a five-minute drive from Cairns CBD, known for its impressive tropical plant collection and tranquil atmosphere, perfect for enjoying tropical flora and horticulture insights.
Freshwater Swimming for a Clear Mind
There is a clear correlation between close proximity to a body of water and better psychological and overall health outcomes- Michael Depledge, chair of Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter Medical School.
Dive into refreshing swimming spots
Many research findings indicate that engaging in cold-water swimming in a natural setting can not only enhance physical fitness but also significantly enhance one’s mood while reducing tension, negativity, and depression.
Take a refreshing dip at Lake Eacham or Lake Barrine, relax in the shade, or explore the viewing decks for uninterrupted water views. These lakes are maars, a volcanic crater formed by explosive underground forces, now filled with water, and both reach a depth of 65 metres. Step into turquoise waters at Cardwell Spa Pool. Located in the coastal town of Cardwell, just 2.5 hours south of Cairns, is a geological wonder. The water’s colour changes from bright baby blue to milky blue, influenced by rock and sunlight chemistry throughout the day.
Get lost in the sounds of nature
In April 2021, a research review published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlighted the calming effects and potential health benefits of sounds like the wind rustling through the forest, birdsong, and the sound of waterfalls.When you find yourself in Tropical North Queensland, you’re spoiled for choice to experience natures music.
For a quick getaway, consider Stoney Creek, just a short 20-minute drive north of Cairns CBD. This locale is favoured by locals for its captivating waterfalls and inviting pools. Take a leisurely stroll along the Stoney Creek trail through the picturesque gorge, and you’ll uncover hidden swimming oases, ultimately culminating at the enchanting Old Weir Falls.
Have the time to turn waterfall chasing into a bigger trip? Explore the renowned waterfall circuit, seek out hidden gems, or venture a bit farther to experience a refreshing swim at Australia’s widest single-drop waterfall in the Atherton Tablelands.
TIP: Head to these swimming holes and waterfalls early for a chance to have them all to yourself
DIVE INTO CLARITY
Participants (in scuba diving) reported an improvement in levels of anxiety, depression and social functioning, and a reduction in insomnia, following their involvement in organised scuba diving activities. University of Sheffield Medical School in 2018
Scuba diving has numerous mental health benefits, such as stress reduction, improved mood, and increased mindfulness. The physical activity enhances well-being, while social connections and adventure add to the positive effects. It also provides a welcome break from technology.
Much like the practices of yoga and meditation, scuba diving also requires a strong emphasis on controlled breathing. By concentrating on your breath and monitoring the rhythm of each inhale and exhale, you can quickly attain a sense of tranquillity. This meditative state can have profoundly beneficial impacts on the mind.
Explore the underwater beauty of the Great Barrier Reef up close with scuba diving. Dive sites are scattered along the coast of Tropical North Queensland, offering spectacular experiences. Join daily reef trips from Port Douglas, Cairns, and Mission Beach for unforgettable dives.
BE A PART OF THE GREATER GOOD
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.– Mahatma Gandhi
Participating in conservation efforts can benefit mental health and can provide a sense of purpose, connection to nature, and a break from daily stressors. It fosters a feeling of accomplishment and community, reducing isolation and anxiety.
Mark Olsen, CEO of TTNQ, highlighted the increasing popularity of extended tours with scientists and wildlife volunteers, reflecting travellers’ desire for a deeper connection to their destinations. Finding these experiences in our region has never been easier. We have a plethora of opportunities where you can actively participate, ranging from reef conservation, to assisting injured animals.
Engaging with animals has been scientifically shown to decrease cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress, and lower blood pressure. When you pair this with the act of assisting and caring for animals in need, you’ll enjoy a mood-enhancing and gratifying experience. Visit Tolga Bat Rescue, known for its Advanced Ecotourism accreditation. Explore microbats and megabats and consider volunteering for one month during peak season or two weeks at other times. Another option is to offer your time as a volunteer at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre (CTRC), a non-profit, volunteer-driven organisation committed to rehabilitating sick and injured turtles. Alternatively, if you’re in the area for a short time, consider visiting the centre to witness firsthand the crucial work they undertake.
No matter how you discover your serenity, we hope our region can be a supportive presence in your journey.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please seek assistance by contacting your trusted healthcare professional or calling Lifeline on 13 11 14 .
If you are concerned for your safety or the safety of others, seek immediate assistance by calling Triple Zero (000) .
Disclaimer: Our website is not a mental health provider or a substitute for professional mental health services. The information provided here is for informational purposes only. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, please seek help from a qualified mental health provider or a healthcare professional. Head to RUOK to find a list of providers that provide support.