The Nature of Psyche

Mental health considerations for Spring Creek

Driving in to Torquay when I first moved here 30 years ago was a fond and transformative experience. Once clear of the encumbrance of dozens of traffic lights through Geelong the rolling hills of the rural landscape beckoned and the huge majestic pines lining the final kilometre into town stood like a guard of honour, giving a warm welcome into this quiet, wave filled wonderland…

The positive benefit to my psyche was real and profound, though now it is gone, forever. Today traffic lights extend closer and closer to Torquay and the famed final kilometre has been cleared to make way for the large urban development to the left and the industrial estate we now see to the right.

Gone too are the barrel filled surfs at empty Birdrock and solo sessions at pristine Bells. Population growth and development has impact. We all feel it. Deeply. Our souls sing in harmony with the rhythms of nature. The knowing of our innate wisdom rings true, as does our good old fashioned common sense – human health and vitality is inextricably entwined with the health and vitality of nature

Science has long been singing this song of our soul too and provides compelling evidence to consider in your submission on Spring Creek.

The Malthusian growth model arose more than 220 years ago from the writings of political economist and demographer Thomas Malthus and is regarded as the first principle of population dynamics. Malthus wrote that actual growth is limited by available resources and when population growth exceeds available resources…

“Among plants and animals its effects are waste of seed, sickness, and premature death. Among mankind, misery and vice”
Thomas Malthus, 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Chapter l.

Increasing misery and vice is a consistent observation in my local psychology practice and in more recent research. One of the largest studies in Sweden looked at population trends over a four year period and found that greater population density was associated with higher rates of mental health problems, specifically depression and psychosis, and as population density increased the prevalence of mental health problems increased.

Another study compared the incidence of mental illness and narcotic use in rural and urban areas and found a higher percentage incidence of both in the more densely populated urban areas. It was suggested that the high frequency of signals and stimulation in more populated areas activates the stress response and people seek relief either through melancholic withdrawal or drug use.

Population density effects all ages. In the UAE rates of depression among elderly residents in the densely populated city of Dubai were found to be more than double their counterparts in less populated surrounding areas. Among younger generations a study exploring Twitter data in the USA found that tweets from state’s with higher population density expressed more negativity, while tweets from state’s with lower population density expressed more positivity.

Investigations by VicHealth between 2018-2020 show that locally both increased population density and noise is associated with depressed mood. Conversely, living near green and blue space, such as rural coastlines and inland water areas, is associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety, and increased quality and quantity of green space is associated with positive mental health, particularly for children and adolescents.

Biological diversity is consistently found to enrich human happiness and provides a preventative buffer for sound mental health. A 2020 German study found increasing native bird species lifted life satisfaction as much as a comparable increase to income. In Victoria, where we currently spend $14.2billion annually on mental health, for every dollar spent on prevention we can achieve a threefold return on investment, so economically it clearly makes sense to invest in nature conservation.

Achieving tangible long term health, social, cultural, education, employment and economic benefits for whole regions like the Surf Coast is simply a matter of community choice and effort, as shown by our friends across the ditch with their Zealandia nature conservation project (see in a valley near Wellington NZ that showed many similarities to our local Spring Creek valley.

Click image to see brief clip of this beautiful little fella

Once nature is gone, so too are its benefits for our psyche. Making a submission on the Distinctive Area and Landscape (DAL) draft statement of planning policy for Spring Creek is your way to make your choice heard:

“Option 1” means losing the valley forever to urban development and higher population density

“Option 2” means gaining the opportunity to conserve the unique nature of Spring Creek valley to improve the mental health of our local Surf Coast community and the many visitors we welcome to our region

Deadline for submissions on the DAL draft statement of planning policy for Spring Creek is 4pm Friday 29th January and can be made at link below:

References available upon request

Free Live Surf Psychology Seminar

Thanks to Surf Clube de Viana Portugal for inviting me to share about Surf Psychology Live via your Instagram:


Lisboa – 9PM WEST Monday 27 April
Bells Beach – 6AM AEST Tuesday 28 April

Seminar will include sharing of practical ways to master the mind for improved performance in free surfing, competitive surfing and big wave riding, opportunities for personal and spiritual development through your surfing life and a Q&A…

Please feel welcome to tune in Live and submit your questions…

Free Guided Meditations

Dear Friends

Trust this day finds you well and being creative to adapt and serve oneself and community during this challenging time

Along with the physical health impacts of Covid-19 the associated changes to all elements of our daily life present significant vulnerability for mental health impacts. To assist our beautiful community to nurture sound mental health and wellbeing I’m offering Free Guided Meditation + Mindfulness Sessions via Facebook Live…

Mindful Monday – 10am-1030am
Thankful Thursday – 7pm-730pm
Soulful Sunday – 4pm-430pm

All times AEST

For more information and to tune in please see my Surf Psychology Facebook page:


Thanks for joining with me in mindful meditation over the last 6weeks… I’m gifting myself a little break and will be back with a new offering soon… in the meantime please feel welcome to re-experience one or more of the guided meditations shared and remaining freely available on my Surf Psychology Facebook Page

Soul Surfing Short Film

Soul Surfing is a state of being so whatever surfing you enjoy – free surfing, competitive surfing or big wave riding – the opportunity to ride n glide with Soul is omnipresent…

Please click on the image above to watch the short film and may your heart and mind be free for soul surfing and soul living…

Big Wave Riding and AFL Umpiring Webinar

What do AFL Umpires have in common with Big Wave Riders?
Free Live Webinar 12.30pm-1.30pm AEST Wednesday 18th September

Thanks to Deakin Alumni for teaming up to share about the similarities in psychological challenges, adversities and achievements among big wave riders and AFL umpires, along with how these insights can assist you to reach your peak in activities of passion and everyday life…

All Welcome – Please click link below to register for the webinar… 

For more information about the webinar please see article below…

What do AFL Umpires have in common with Big Wave Riders?

In September 1999 Performance Psychologist Richy Bennett published his first article titled “Overcome your fear: Why surfing big waves is all mind games” in Tracks Surfing Magazine. Rich soon went on to travel globally on the then Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour (now World Surf League) pioneering the field of Surf Psychology through surfing, researching and consulting with top competitive surfers, free surfers and extreme big wave riders.

Since publishing his seminal book “The Surfer’s Mind” in 2004 Rich has been sharing Surf Psychology insights and strategies with individuals and teams in a broad range of high performance settings, including summer and winter Olympic and Paralympic Games teams, extreme/adventure and artistic pursuits, military, emergency, healthcare, education, career and corporate settings.

This year Rich was appointed to the role of AFL Umpires Performance Psychologist and observes considerable overlap in psychological challenges for big wave riders and the AFL’s elite umpires:

“Like the ocean the play on the footy field is always in motion and situations and demands often change spontaneously moment to moment. So similar to navigating the line up and catching waves in big surf, ideal positioning and decision making is crucial”

One of the greatest fears in big wave riding is the wipe out as the consequences can be heavy, and while not potentially fatal, consequences of an error for AFL umpires can also be very heavy:

“Whether it’s 50 feet of white water pounding you or 50,000 unhappy footy fans screaming at you, both big wave riders and AFL umpires need to master the process of acknowledging their fear, seeking deeper understanding and responding with composure and confidence in the moment, and for the next wave or performance demand that’s on its way”

Rich has also observed a number of similarities between big wave riders and AFL umpires on a personal level:

“Big wave riders and AFL umpires share a deep passion for what they do and there is rarely any accolade. They are simply inspired by the personal challenge to perform on the edge and contribute to the greater good of their respective community and game”

Rich has teamed up with Deakin University to present a free live webinar from 12:30pm-1:30pm on Wednesday 18th September titled “From big wave riders to AFL umpires: 20 Years of High Performance Psychology”

The webinar is open to all so if you would like to learn more from Rich about the psychological challenges, adversities and achievements among world class athletes and AFL umpires as well as receive insights to help you perform at your peak in your activities of passion, professional and everyday life please go to the link below to register: