By: Natalie Clark

The definition of “Thrive” is most simply put as “to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.” This definition embodies the true meaning of McMaster’s first ever Thrive Week, beginning Feb. 4.

Thrive Week is a week-long series of events focusing on improving and maintaining good mental health of students, staff and faculty on campus.

Events include yoga, Zumba, meditation circles, stress management workshops and various panels for students to get information on a variety of topics such as career planning and suicide awareness.  

Although Thrive Week is new to McMaster, the wellness event has been a part of many schools around Canada for the past 10 years.

 

“Thrive began at [University of British Columbia] in 2009 and since then, a number of Canadian colleges and universities have adopted the spirit of Thrive,” mentioned McMaster wellness educator, WilPrakash Fujarczuk.

“The wellness education team decided to join these schools for a number of reasons…  one reason is to connect students to pre-existing services on campus… we know that there are a number of departments that promote mental wellness in ways that may not be so obvious,” said Fujarczuk.

Fujarczuk mentions “Sketching Thursdays” at the McMaster Museum of Art, which is a weekly event that allows students to distance themselves from their devices and work on mindfulness and creative expression.

Thrive Week is intended to promote events similar to “Sketching Thursdays” on campus and add additional resources and events throughout Thrive Week for students to participate in to further their mental health journey.

“Thrive is also an opportunity to bring in community partners to showcase the valuable expertise that Hamilton community resources have to offer,” mentioned Fujarczuk.

Some of the community partners that are taking part in Thrive Week at McMaster include Healing Together Yoga, The AIDS Network and Asian Community AIDS Services.

 

Body Brave, another Hamilton-based organization, will also be taking part in the event to introduce students and staff to their off campus support system. Body Brave’s main purpose is to address the major gaps in resources for eating disorders, raise awareness and reduce the stigma around eating disorders, particularly with those who are over the age of 18.

Kelsea McCready, a McMaster student who holds the position of secretary on the board of directors at Body Brave, mentions the barriers that individuals may face when struggling with an eating disorder and are looking for help.

“Programs within Ontario as a whole have a limited capacity which means that many individuals who are struggling are left on long waitlists without any kind of specialized support,” mentioned McCready.

McCready notes that although Body Brave is not a direct replacement for professional specialized support for eating disorders, the organization offers a variety of affordable treatment programs such as workshops, individual treatment and support groups.

“It is a priority for Body Brave to engage more with the McMaster community as an off-campus support in addition to on-campus services,” said McCready.

Body Brave’s involvement in Thrive Week is important for those who may be suffering from an eating disorder and are wary to seek out support. Thrive Week introduces programs and organizations to the McMaster campus that are similar to Body Brave in order to make these services more accessible to students.

“Given that it’s our first year running Thrive, we are hoping to use it as an opportunity to evaluate programs and build on for future years,” said Fujarczuk.

While Thrive events will only be taking place for a week, the path towards bettering the mental health of the McMaster community needs to be addressed and explored on a consistent basis. Thrive Week is the first step towards shedding light on the services available on-campus and in the community.

 

Thrive Week will be running on campus from Feb. 4 to Feb. 9. More information about the event can be found on the Student Wellness Centre’s website, which includes the Thrive Week schedule and other mental health resources found year-round on campus.

 

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Fitness trends go in and out of fashion. Jane Fonda and Russell Simmons created an aerobics frenzy and Billie Blanks knocked us on our butts with his Tae Bo. The home exercise tape that focused on your individual performance was where it was at. But a whole new wave of fitness trends have reset where our fitness priorities now lie.

It’s no longer about just breaking a sweat. It’s about having fun while doing it, or looking sexy or reflecting on your daily life. Whatever it’s about, it’s definitely about more than just getting fit.

Zumba

I was recently introduced to Zumba and hot yoga, both of which I am slowly becoming addicted to. When it comes to Zumba, it’s important to acknowledge that I was the first person to chide or mock my friends who initially jumped on the Zumba bandwagon. I was partially right; you can definitely take a Zumba class and end up looking goofier than your 5 year old cousin doing the hokey pokey, but just because your hips don’t lie (and move) as sexily as Shakira’s , that certainly doesn’t mean you should write off Zumba.

Zumba was first developed in the ‘90s by Alberto Perez, and became mainstream in the US in 2001. It was developed as a dance-fitness program that sought to integrate moves from samba, salsa, merengue and even Bollywood and belly dancing. My first experience with Zumba confirmed that it truly is a smorgasbord of dance styles rolled into one class.

My first class was packed with female attendees and as soon as the instructor and the music started booming, it was hard to not get into it. Zumba instructors are well known for their over-the-top energy and shouting that reminds you to have fun and let loose. While this ambience can be a lot at first, the music is the best of soca and reggaeton and keeps you smiling through the surprising amount of soreness you feel after “getting low” so many times you’re about to fall over.
Still not convinced Zumba is worth a try? Baring the dance skills you will inevitably have picked up and the smile that will be plastered on your face as you leave the class, it is worth noting that most people burn between 500-900 calories during a one hour Zumba class. But really, as its motto states, it’s less about exercising and more about “joining the party.”
Maybe you don’t feel comfortable breaking it down publicly? Or maybe you just seek more serenity in your workouts? Then hot yoga might be the exercise trend you should try out.

Hot Yoga

During my first time in hot yoga, I quickly learnt that it is completely acceptable and expected that by the end of class you will be dripping sweat from every pore.
Hot yoga is typically affiliated with Bikram yoga, a practice pioneered by Bikram Choudhury. Choudhury aimed to replicate the hot, humid conditions of India in yoga studios in order to increase the flexibility of participants while they moved through poses.
In hot yoga (specifically the Moksha variation) the room temperature is typically kept at 40 Celsius with 35% humidity. While city-dwellers might gawk and compare this to an average summer day in downtown Hamilton, I would challenge them to exercise vigorously for up to 90 minutes in this weather.
Hot yoga provides participants with the opportunity to vastly increase or enhance their existing flexibility while also developing a significant amount of muscular strength required to hold poses for long periods of time. Hot yoga also promotes proper breathing techniques to enhance your workout and help you efficiently exercise.
So while you may be petrified of sweating profusely in a room full of people, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Seasoned pros cover their mats with towels to absorb sweat so they don’t slip and most people also bring a small face towel to wipe away those pesky pearls of sweat. The instructor’s soothing voice helps guide you through the exercises even when you just want to give up and fall over.
One of the best (and most crucial) parts of yoga is its focus on meditation and providing a calming experience for both your body and mind. Hot yoga is no different, except the warmth provides a comforting environment for your body, especially in the winter. But in my experience I also found that while the heat is merely an external constraint, you are so focused on your practice and moving through the heat that it becomes very difficult for your mind to wander, and thus it is much easier to think and be in the moment.
If this seems too much like new-age mumbo jumbo for you, I would implore you to rethink your preconceptions of yoga. As students, we’re often totally immersed in campus life and constantly interacting with classmates, friends and housemates, but how much time do you truly have to reflect on yourself and your decisions?
So while you may not buy into the spiritual component, or may not be interested in increasing your flexibility, having a refuge from a busy, crazy world is something that every student could do with.
As the weather gets colder and we move closer to exams, it becomes easy to hide away in your house or the library and forget to exercise. But in the winter you should do just the opposite. You might not be able to exercise outside, but you can certainly find a way to get warmed up. My recommendation, join the Zumba party or sweat up a storm at hot yoga, either way, you’ll feel the heat.

By: Amanda Watkins and Jamie Hillman

 

Whether it’s excessive stress and anxiety from school, a crush on your best friend, or personal insecurities, everyone has a secret.

In response to this reality, the Student Wellness Centre has developed the “MacSecret” program. Based on the online phenomenon “PostSecret,” the initiative is going into its third year.

The program is designed around the sharing of personal secrets via hand-written postcards revealing anonymous concerns or insecurities. As outlined on the MacSecret posters, the goal of the program is to “raise awareness about the many challenges students face, and to provide an outlet to share these concerns openly, yet anonymously.”

“Having the anonymity is helpful when dealing with things that are more challenging to address,” explained Pearl Mendonca, a Wellness Education Coordinator at the Student Wellness Centre.

By offering MacSecret as an outlet of expression, students are able to open up about issues and ideas that they may not otherwise be comfortable sharing. In an effort to create a safe and comfortable environment, the Student Wellness Centre strives to offer services that cater to a variety of concerns, such as stress and life issues, mental health, relationships, academic concerns and identity struggles.

In discussing the values of the MacSecret project, Khadeeja Sheikh, a Mental Health Team Leader, expressed the rewards of the program. “The fact that students can share [these secrets], helps relieve stress…We were surprised at how sincere the secrets were and [how the program] allowed them to write something really private.”

MacSecret has 10 locations around campus that provide blank postcards for students to fill out and boxes where they can be submitted. Currently, boxes are situated in Mills, Innis and Thode libraries, DBAC, SHEC, the north and west quad Residence Service Desks, the Student Success Centre, Student Accessibility Services and the SWC.

The coordinators find it interesting that “Depending on where the boxes are, the secrets are often geared towards those locations and who uses them,” said Melissa Fernandes, Wellness Education Assistant. For instance, the boxes in libraries often housed academic concerns, whereas boxes in residences usually held secrets about relationship struggles and identity crises.

The program was first run in the 2010-11 school year by the SWC. Despite the fact that the boxes and postcards were available for the entire school year, the program only received around 150 postcards.

This year, the coordinators are looking to change that and have more students submit messages about their concerns, fears and personal thoughts, as it is an effective way of expressing pent up emotions and stress-inducing secrets.

The boxes have been available since Nov. 1 and will be up and running until the end of the month. Already in this month alone, the SWC has gathered around 60 postcards and are hoping to increase that amount exponentially as the month nears its end.

Once the cards have been gathered, the coordinators will be posting scanned secrets online via the SWC’s Facebook page, and will be putting them up on their bulletin boards.

Similar to the initiative of PostSecret creator, Frank Warren, the Student Wellness Centre hopes that by displaying the secrets, students will be able to relate and connect to one or more of the secrets and help them understand that they are not alone in their struggle.

The organization also hopes to use the web, much like Warren, to make the postcards and ideas more accessible. The initial PostSecret website, www.postsecret.com, was developed in 2005 as “an ongoing community art project,” according to its webpage. But within two years, the site received over 2,500 postcards and became far bigger than initially anticipated. The site grew into a web-based community that allowed anonymous strangers to post secrets from all around the world without feeling judgment or alienation.

Initially, a comment section was enabled to allow viewers to connect to one another, but it was eventually removed as it defaced the original judgment-free mandate.

And even though many secrets are hard-hitting and stress-inducing, some deal with more trivial matters. As stated at his March 2012 presentation at Western University, Frank Warren revealed that the most common secret he receives is admitting to peeing in the shower.

The representatives from the SWC explained that many of the secrets they receive are usually related to mental health and academic concerns, but the project welcomes postcard messages of all natures.

So drop off your secret, and help yourself while helping others.

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