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Life is full of distractions, not all of them good. Checking Facebook when you’re out with friends, a Netflix session that drags on for hours, or an afternoon that disappears faster than you can scroll. In the ever-engulfing world of technology, it’s good to squeeze in a bit of mental escapism that doesn’t involve a screen. In this edition of Get the hell outta here, we are helping you escape with a few activities that won’t require you to refresh your feed.

Meditation

You might be familiar with the practice of meditation, whether as something already ingrained in your daily routine or perhaps practised at the end of your yoga or Pilates class. Or, maybe it’s a concept you’ve heard a lot about, but have never really explored. So why practice meditation? Aside from the fact that meditation requires little more than your physical self, regularly entering a meditative state can help improve focus and clarity. It can also teach us to feel calmer and cultivate more positive over negative thoughts. This can be a wonderful way to counteract the daily stressors of life or the tension that can build throughout the trimester.

Interested but not sure how to start practicing? There are plenty of online resources and apps that can help guide you through meditations and teach you how to switch off, including an app from Headspace. You can also find classes on offer all over the Gold Coast or at most yoga studios that will help you better understand correct breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. Otherwise, just start by trying some simple practices, like closing your eyes, focusing on your breathing and becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings, for a few minutes a day.

Paint & Sip

Seeing the abilities of talented creatives can make the averagely-skilled artist feel quite intimidated, like drawing and painting is a forbidden activity for those who lean more towards the amateur side. But art can equally be about personal expression and the catharsis of the activity, not just the finished product. And Paint & Sip nights are all about that, just relaxing and enjoying a drink with a canvas and brush. Even our own Student Guild are offering a Paint & Sip night on the 25 July.

Otherwise, Brush and Barrel in Surfers Paradise hold regular sessions where you can create a masterpiece under the guidance of an experienced artist. If you like the idea, but want to make it a more private gathering, why not get a group together, pitch in some cash for supplies and a cheap bottle of red, and host a night at home. Or, if you want to really expand your horizons, step it up a notch and try life drawing. HOTA offers a workshop every second Thursday of the month and Dust Temple (down in Currumbin) has a session on the first Thursday of each month. With a brush in hand, you’ll likely be too distracted to worry about picking up your phone.

Give a little

There’s a whole body of scientific research that supports the correlation between giving and happiness. But most of us already know that from personal experience. Volunteering and giving a bit more of our time and self to others is an easy way to cultivate mental happiness through simple action. There are easy ways you can partake in activities and they don’t have to be overly time consuming. You could head down to your local animal shelter one morning a week and do some dog walking, combining a wonderful thing (dogs) with an easy way to get outdoors. You might be familiar with #Take3forthesea, an initiative designed to encourage people to pick up at least three pieces of rubbish every time they visit the beach.

Take this further and join a community beach clean or dune restoration at your favourite local. The next time the Red Cross mobile donor van appears on University Drive, make an appointment to donate blood (don’t forget you earn a free cookie when you do). You could volunteer with Rosies who have outreach programs on the Gold Coast and Brisbane, offering food and conversation to those living on the streets. Or maybe you have a family member or friend who is doing it a bit tough and could use some unexpected help. Take your grandparents out for lunch, shout mum a night at the movies or even do something as simple as grabbing your friend a coffee without being asked. The best part about giving? It’s a naturally rewarding activity, so you can skip the status update and just enjoy how the act makes you feel, rather than how many ‘likes’ it might get.

The mixed bag mental escape

Maybe you just need a bit of motivation to do something different, an activity totally device-free. With that in mind, we’ve thought up the ‘mixed bag’, to help you feel inspired the next time you need a quick way to get out of the house or away from your laptop screen. You could test your knowledge with a trivia night. Even if you don’t have the biggest brain capacity for fun facts, trivia nights are always a good time, win or lose. You can find one at the Nobby Beach Surf Club every Tuesday night or at the Ashmore Tavern every Wednesday night. Trivia will also force you to cut down screen time, as mobile devices aren’t allowed out at these events. Tired of wasting your talented vocals on an audience of none? Then get yourself to a karaoke bar, like Tune Up in Surfers Paradise or E-Star Karaoke in Southport. Making a fool of yourself or proving to your friends how tone deaf you really are makes for good, clean fun and no one forgets a karaoke night quickly.

Heard of bike pub crawls? To put it simply, get a group of friends, a bike (these can be easily hired nowadays), choose a spot to meet and have your first drink, then cycle wherever the wind and your wheels take you. You could start at Aloha bar in Broadbeach and make your way down to Justin Lane in Burleigh, with a stop at Bonita Bonita in Mermaid Beach and Bine in Nobby’s in between. And, for fear of being liable for any injuries this activity might incur, I compel you to don appropriate safety gear and drink responsibly. And if the drinking does become irresponsible, lock up the bikes somewhere secure and come back for them the next day.

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