Imagine you’re floating in a cage deep in the Indian Ocean, surrounded by pitch black water. You know something is watching you but you can’t see it. You take out your GoPro and turn on your flashlight to see a 6-foot shark swimming right in front of you. Your focus immediately goes to the shark and nothing else in the world exists, including your sweet wife who is right beside you. It was this real life experience that drove home the idea for Dr. Greg Wells that “focus unlocks your ability to create memories.”
Dr. Greg Wells is a scientist, physiologist and human performance expert. He has worked with the Greenwood community in the past and still continues to ensure health and well-being are incorporated into all of our programs for both staff and students. We had the privilege of welcoming back Dr. Wells to start off our 2019 Mental Health Week.
One of the key lessons he taught students was the importance of Radical Attention and Radical Awareness. “In an era of unrelenting distraction, it is hard for people to focus their attention on just one thing” says Wells. Cellphones and social media play a huge part in day-to-day distractions and can affect a student’s performance in school and in everyday life. He describes Radical Attention as the ability to focus on one thing and one thing only. For example, when a baseball player is up to bat with a loud crowd cheering his name, the player must only direct his focus on the ball or else he will miss it. Dr. Wells believes “your ability to do great things depends on your ability to focus and not get distracted.”
Dr. Wells strongly encouraged students to stay energized while studying by sprinkling in physical activity throughout the day. He recommended 45 minutes’ worth of physical activity three to five days a week as a great way to achieve good mental health. Being energized will help students focus, do well in their exams and feel better both mentally and physically. He also added that listening to music every now and then can help students relax and regain focus.
On the other hand, Radical Awareness is being aware of your mind, body and surroundings. Dr. Wells believes it is very important to nurture your body and mind by exposing yourself to nature. “Greenwood is one of the most unique schools I have ever visited because of the importance placed on outdoor education,” says Wells. He describes that the fractal patterns – irregular patterns with no straight lines - in nature will stimulate the brain and decrease tension and stress. Surrounding yourself with nature has been proven to be very beneficial for mental health, which is one reason we take pride in our Outdoor Education program here at Greenwood.
Dr. Wells closed his talk with a story about Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette. Joannie was two days away from competing at the Olympics when her mom passed away. As she got on the ice, the crowd cheered louder than ever before and you could see the emotion in her eyes. She took three deep breaths and used 58 of the 60 seconds before the music began to compose herself before starting her routine. Her coach, who was also friends with her mother, knew this was an emotional journey for Joannie and she continued to smile and encourage her.
Dr. Wells left the students with an important message: “Take care of yourself and take care of others.”
What students learned from this story is that it is okay to take your time, take deep breaths and relax your body to calm your nerves. They also learned that it is important to help others, especially if you see someone going through a difficult time. Sharing encouragement, positivity and a smile can make a huge difference in a person’s life.