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 Jack Craig, a 26-year-old Wodonga Bulldogs Cricket Club legend who now lives in Melbourne. He works as an electrician and plays Victorian Premier Cricket with the Melbourne Cricket Club.
We were made aware of Jack’s commitment to GEM through his sister Renai, who shared his RUOK? Day Facebook post with us last year. What really stood out to us from the get-go was Jack’s blatant honesty and vulnerability – we all know how it feels to be in a bit of a rut, and Jack’s simple motivation and dedication to bettering himself and others is a testament to him.
In Jack’s own words, read how practising GEM has helped him build confidence, be a more grateful friend and an “all-round better person”. We also hope Jack’s “60 second rule” is as helpful for you as it was for us.
How were you introduced to GEM?
I was first introduced to GEM through a really close friend of mine. She noticed that I had no energy and that I was talking really negatively. She just knew I was going through a tough time and gave me Hugh’s book. When she gave it to me I thought; what are you doing? I hate books!
How has GEM helped you?
I was socially anxious — I would worry about what other people thought about me when I made certain decisions. I was physically unfit. I had no idea what gratitude was. I was definitely a bit self-centred and didn’t think about how my actions were affecting other people.
Reading Hugh’s book has really put me on a path to self-development. I got the journal and started setting good habits like increasing my exercise and eating more healthily. I’ve really stuck with it and when you go to write in your journal about what you have done through the day, you don’t want to put in a dreaded zero! The process of writing down what you are grateful for each night turns into something much bigger.
I am now grateful for so much, especially the people and friends that I have in my life.
I had no confidence in my looks or in my ability to have conversations with people I didn’t know. I didn’t know what empathy was. Now I have lost 14 kgs and I am totally different. I am happy to meet people and I really want to listen to other people’s stories. I now understand that to have a real, empathetic conversation, you have to really listen to people – that’s how it works!
Have you been able to use GEM to help others?
I talk the talk with GEM and really try to walk the walk too. The thing about practising GEM is that it’s not just about your mental health. It’s how you portray yourself as a person. If you are regularly practising GEM, you are going to be a great all-round person. If someone wants a hand, you are more likely to give it.
For example, I work as an electrician and am always up on roofs. A lot of the time I am doing work for older people and there is no way they are able to get up on their roof. So while I’m up there, I might clean out their gutters or something like that. They are always very grateful. You become a person other people want to be around.
Can you tell us about one of your favourite GEM experiences?
I really like the way GEM has affected my life on the cricket field. I now know that mindfulness doesn’t necessarily have to be about meditation. I use mindfulness now when I go out to bat. I forget about everything and try to just focus on one thing — protecting my wicket!
Now I don’t even hear it if they try to sledge me. I am so much more confident in myself that a little remark on the cricket field now means bugger all!
I have moved to Melbourne now and am playing for the Melbourne Cricket Club. In the past, I would have never introduced myself to people I didn’t know. Now that I’m in a new city and new club, I go up to people and straight up say “G’day, I’m Jack!”
How are you feeling right now?
I feel awesome! I still have a long way to go, but definitely feel I am closer to my real self. The thing about GEM is that it has made me more self-aware. I still have my bad days, whether at work or on the cricket field, but I now have the tools to deal with them better – to work through the tough times. After a bad day, if you go to your journal and straight away write down what you are looking forward to tomorrow, all of a sudden your focus is on tomorrow –not what went wrong today.
Please tell us your advice for others. What is one thing you think other people could do right now to support their wellbeing?
There are two pieces of advice that I stand by and would like to pass onto others. The first one is: If it takes 60 seconds, just do it! I mean, it takes less than 60 seconds to make your bed –so make it. Pick up that jacket from the floor. After a while, if you keep doing lots of little things like this, you keep on top of things and mentally it makes you feel happy.
The second one I live by is: The only person you are running against is yourself. The only person you need to compare yourself to is who you were yesterday, not to what someone else is today.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Jack’s story (thanks so much for so generously sharing it with us Jack!).
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 [email protected] or through a Facebook message.