BELINDA SMITH: Gem of a concept for better mental health

C’MON and get happy … on the road less travelled.

This month I’ve invited a guest to join us on our road less travelled, because while it’s often a lonely road, it doesn’t mean we are always travelling alone.

Hugh van Cuylenburg is at the forefront of helping young Australians and our elite athletes be mentally healthy. Via his innovative and successful Resilience Project, he’s transforming the culture at the likes of Basketball Australia, Melbourne Storm and most recently our Newcastle Knights.

Having grown up comfortably in Melbourne, becoming a gifted cricketer and passionate school teacher, a trip to India in his 20s changed not only his life but his career trajectory forever.

For Hugh, a pull of the heart strings quickly manifested into a burning desire to understand why young people living in abject poverty in rural India were so naturally resilient compared to children in our own backyard. Fascinated with and moved by the dreadful statistic of 1 in 7 primary school aged children suffering from mental illness, Hugh has made it his life work  to share his learnings and his very simple tools for good mental health and happiness.

Gratitude. Empathy. Mindfulness. (I call them GEMs). They’re sexy at the moment, very on trend, and at risk of being  dismissed as the domain of hippies and new age evangelists.

Not so.

In just six weeks, practising these GEMs for five minutes daily is scientifically proven to increase your engagement, creativity and happiness, whilst simultaneously lowering your anxiety, stress levels and blood pressure.

Hugh’s advice is to keep it simple: note down what you’re grateful for (or where you’re getting wins), undertake a Random Act of Kindness for someone and take a few moments to be truly present at work, with your family or friends.

I’ve been fortunate to watch this in action this week with the Newcastle Knights NRL squad, who’ve just started working with Hugh.  They participated in a community activity, in support of the Mark Hughes Foundation. Clearly out of their comfort zone   this was putting these GEMs to work, and reaping the immediate benefits of meaningful work.

So back to our lonely road, there is much to gain from these GEMs.  Finding the strength within ourselves to build and maintain our resilience and keep our eyes on the path ahead, so even when  our hearts and minds are weary, we have sufficient fuel in the tank to keep propelling us forward towards our goals and dreams.

If you can emerge from the toughest times not just surviving, but thriving, then you are truly reaping the benefits of living life on the road less travelled.

Approved Provider

Victorian School Mental Health Fund Menu

Victorian School Mental Health Fund Menu

Victorian School Mental Health Fund Menu

The Resilience Project is an approved provider in several school mental health funding initiatives around Australia.

This means more kids, educators and families can benefit from positive mental health programs than ever before.