Mental health and wellbeing

There is compelling evidence that being in nature can have a positive effect on our mental health. Studies have shown that people who don’t spend much time in nature experience higher levels of depression and anxiety, mental fatigue and stress.  

Regular contact with nature and the outdoors can play an important preventive role in mental health by reducing stress and increasing quality of life. The mental health benefits of physical exercise are well known and exercising outdoors in natural settings provides a wide range of psychological and cognitive benefits. Whether it be a gentle mindfulness walk in your local park or a hike through rugged terrain, spending time in green spaces will leave you feeling happier and healthier. 

Mindfulness is the act of remaining engaged in the present moment, which can help decrease stress and anxiety, improve concentration and a sense of calm. Natural settings are great for mindful practice! 

The Japanese mindfulness concept of Shinrin-yoku or ‘forest-bathing’ is the act of immersing yourself in nature to improve health and wellbeing. Japanese doctors often recommend this for its restorative effect on both the mind and body.  Whether you are in an urban park or national park, the key is to stay in the present moment and experience the natural environment using all your senses – sight, sound, smell, touch.  

Listening to sounds in nature, including birdsongs, and observing animals in nature has also been shown to promote wellbeing, reduce stress, improve mood, and reduce attention fatigue. Natural aromas from wood and plants have calming effects too. 

 

So how can you improve your mental health in parks? 

  • Take a self-guided mindfulness walk using these tips, or join one of our guided mindfulness walks.
  • Slow down to the pace of the river on a canoe trip through one of our beautiful parks.
  • Soak in the scenery with a horse ride in one our peaceful parks, reserves, and forests across Victoria. 
  • Connect to others to improve wellbeing. Try volunteering or joining a regular guided walk
  • Take a break from modern life and camp in the wilderness. 

 

Things to do to support your mental health and wellbeing

Here are some things you can try that may help to look after your mental health and wellbeing.
Two women follow the path through scrub up Mt Bogong with mountain views in the distance.

Walking

Whether you’re after a gentle stroll or something long-distance, there are walking trails to suit all levels of fitness and ability.
Two women in activewear follow a path through tall mountain ash trees.

Mindfulness walks in nature

The health benefits of spending time in nature are now widely accepted. Mindfulness walks take this a step further and help you slow down and focus on the present moment - each step, each breath – feeling calm and relaxed.
Father and son bird watching on boardwalk

Bird watching

From bushland to wetlands and everything in between, parks provide habitat to an abundance of common and rare bird species. Go for a wander and see how many you can spot.
A couple watch the sunset at a picnic table on the edge of Lake Catani at Mount Buffalo National Park.

Sunrises and sunsets

Spectacular sunsets from the summits and to west, and picturesque sunrises in the east , top-and-tail your day the perfect way.
A man with an afro wearing a leather jacket follows a woman wearing a cream knitted jumper up the garden steps and into an opening in the Dandenong Ranges Botanical Gardens.

Botanic gardens

Stroll through magnificent gardens that promise to delight all year round. Make sure you return to see the treasures that come with changing seasons.
Stargazing in the Murray Sunset National Park.

Stargazing

Escape the city lights to remote nature locations to see the spectacular starry southern night sky.
A couple in their thirties take in the view along Dead Timber Track.

Hiking and bushwalking

Witness breathtaking natural scenery at some of Victoria’s most iconic places when you lace up your boots and take to a hiking trail.
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