We’re constantly inspired by the stories we hear from people who have been able to improve their wellbeing through gratitude, empathy and mindfulness (also known as GEM). As we know community and connection are so important to mental health, we wanted to share some of these “Everyday GEM” stories with you too.
This month, we are humbled to talk with Wayne Hill from Orange, NSW.
Wayne’s commitment to the community’s mental wellbeing, supported by the Orange Aboriginal Medical Service and Orange City Council, resulted in $150,000 being secured, enabling seven local schools to adopt wellbeing programs into their curriculum.
Wayne is a small business owner, father of three, and coach of several rugby league and touch football teams in the area.
Wayne, hearing about your incredible mission to help young people with their mental wellbeing, you surely must have attained local legend status by now?
Well, really I’m just a general Joe. I’m quite prominent in the sporting community of Orange, but it’s hard to put into words how I feel about getting this attention. I feel quite special to be asked to share my story and share my experiences with GEM and The Resilience Project.
How were you introduced to GEM?
I was fortunate enough to be employed by the NRL as a game development officer and saw a presentation in 2016 by The Resilience Project’s Martin Heppell at an NRL Coaching Conference in Sydney.
I really took a lot away from what Martin said, it really resonated with me especially the simplistic strategy of applying GEM in your life. I initially thought how amazing and how simple GEM was. From there, I jumped on the TRP website, researched even more and the GEM strategy really hooked me.
How has GEM helped you?
The simplicity of being grateful for what you have and not focussing on what you don’t is, I think, pivotal every day. Just being able to practise GEM has made me more reflective. I reflect on my working life, my relationships, and this has assisted me in being grateful for the connections I have – especially my relationships with my wife and three children.
With mindfulness, I think I practise it a little differently. I do a lot of self-reflection, but I don’t do it by journaling. I’m a constant thinker. I listen to music in the car and that is a form of mindfulness for me. Also, I go for a walk with my wife which I love – when we walk we connect on a deeper level. We will talk and listen to the sounds around us.
I don’t meditate but I understand the value of it. I like to just be present, with whomever I am with and wherever I am during the day. I feel by doing this I am giving the best version of myself to my wife and kids, and to the sporting teams that I coach.
Have there been any challenges to starting or keeping up your practice of GEM?
I think having a busy lifestyle is the biggest challenge. I am often juggling work and sporting commitments – running a small business, coaching and assisting other coaches – on top of being a father and husband. With this, the biggest challenge is having the time to reflect. When you are so busy you really have to make time to reflect and think about things like What did go well for me today?
It’s been a long journey for me with GEM. I initially started with the 21 day journal five years ago in my NRL role and then I constantly upskilled, researching further things to read that Hugh would recommend on the website. Now after so much practise, taking time out to practise GEM does come naturally to me now.
I have always been a very positive person, but once I came across GEM it has helped even more.
Have you been able to use GEM to help others?
Initially I used the 21 day journal with some kids that I was coaching in sports. I worked with some of the kids using the GEM principles to help them with coping skills for handling things like disappointment of missing selection in representative teams. I also had a couple who had severe injuries and the practicing of GEM helped them get through that.
From there, I came to the realisation that I needed to bring The Resilience Project (TRP) to Orange. I touched base with TRP to work out what programs would be best and focused on the school partnership and immersion programs. Once it was obvious that resources – especially money – was needed, I leant on some key business contacts. One key contact and amazing person was Jamie Newman from the Orange Aboriginal Medical Service. He was sold on the idea almost immediately and got us $50,000. After a couple of months of very positive liaisons with the Orange City Council, they informed me they had lodged an application on our behalf with an NSW government funding stream which targeted mental health initiatives and we successfully got $100,000.
We started with Orange High School, who were looking to implement wellbeing strategies, and are now in another high school and five primary schools in the area.
It has been a massive commitment but an incredible experience with great buy in and support from amazing people across the community.
Can you tell us about one of your favourite GEM experiences?
I do have a few but I think my favourite GEM experience was what I experienced and witnessed when Martin and Antony from TRP came to Orange for a launch week of presentations to teachers, students and parents and the Orange community.
Seeing all the different emotions and how people were affected after hearing Martin’s messages, I felt an incredible empathy towards them as I remembered back to my first presentation. I thought that for some of them, this week will change their lives. I saw gratitude coming from teachers, student and parents; I could see they really understood how important GEM was in their daily routine.
Two weeks after the TRP week, I had a mother approach me to say her eight year old daughter asked for a diary so she could write three things down that went well for her each day, and right there is why I did all this to begin with. To make a difference and change people’s thoughts on a daily basis into positive ones.
Please tell us your advice for others. What do you think other people could do right now to support their wellbeing?
What I would say to others is find out what works for you. A lot of people think that journaling and diary entries is not for them and that is fine, you don’t have to write things down.
Just take some time out. Walk with a loved one. Listen to music that you enjoy.
You can practise GEM in your own way, it doesn’t have to be the same for everyone.
Take time out to self-reflect. Times have changed and it’s really important for us all to take time out for ourselves and practise these things.
Lastly, when you are chatting to someone give them the best version of yourself. Every conversation presents an opportunity; there’s always a message to find in communication and connection.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Wayne’s story (thanks so much for so generously sharing it with us Wayne!). If you have also had a positive GEM experience – or know another “Everyday GEM” – we would love to hear from you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or through a Facebook message.