Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and Gravity Initiative?
Will: I’m 25 years old and grew up in Melbourne. I’m currently studying a Masters of Chemical engineering at the University of Melbourne.
Em: I’m 22 years old and grew up in Geelong. I moved to Melbourne a few years ago for uni and am currently finishing off my last year of a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in psychology.
Aside from uni, we’re both passionate about being active, travelling, and going on new adventures.
Together, we started Gravity – a not for profit initiative that aims to improve student wellbeing at universities across Victoria. As students ourselves, we felt there were inadequate services available to university students that worked to encourage conversations surrounding mental health and provide students with preventative mental health approaches and a positive, supportive community.
How did the idea come about?
We are great friends and have a shared passion for mental health, so the partnership came around pretty naturally. I think we were studying late one night, cramming for our respective exams – and started chatting about mental health and throwing around some ideas as to what changes we'd like to see in the community - as a way to procrastinate from studying. From there, it took us a bit of research and a lot of meetings with mentors to fine tune our ideas and transform it into an achievable model. We settled on yoga, meditation, mindfulness and social connection, as it was what we enjoyed and had benefited from the most on an individual level and felt it could have the biggest impact. An added bonus is that there’s heaps of great research out there to back up the benefits of yoga, mindfulness and meditation in terms of mental health, so we knew we were onto a winning combination.
What does a typical Gravity event look like?
We run events weekly, alternating between Monash University and Melbourne University for anywhere between 50 to 100 students (depending on the venue we have available). The session consists of a 50-minute yoga class, followed by a group meditation, after which we usually just play music, chat and connect with everyone there. We’re passionate about de-stigmatising mental illness, encouraging preventative mental health strategies and promoting a more mindful community. We like to mix it up a bit, so each week we usually have a different yoga studio, instructor or sponsor involved.
Why do you believe it is important for students to be conscious of their health & wellbeing?
Uni can be a really stressful time with big workloads and assignments, in addition to it being a big period of change and personal growth - it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. Being conscious of your health and wellbeing and taking steps to improve it wherever possible can help students manage the stress of uni and life before it gets to a tipping point. Everyone can benefit from focusing on their health and wellbeing.
3 encouraging tips you can offer fellow students on how to bring balance into their every day – particularly while studying?
1. Make time everyday to do an activity that you love.
2. Start practicing mindfulness and meditation. ‘Smiling Mind’ is a great app to get you started.
3. Try to step away from technology every so often and connect with nature or your mates - free from distractions.
Have you always been conscious of your own health and wellbeing? If not, when did the change happen?
Em: I’ve always had a keen interest in psychology and mental health, however it wasn’t until a year or so ago when I stumbled across the field of positive psychology that I made more of a conscious effort to take care of my own health and wellbeing. I’ve found that focusing on promoting my own wellbeing has allowed me to navigate any challenges in life more effectively and enhanced my relationships and overall enjoyment.
Will: I’ve experienced some periods of severe depression over the past few years and this really inspired my focus on my health and wellbeing. I started practicing yoga and mediation daily, and found that it dramatically improved how I was feeling and made my thoughts much clearer.
What are the most important things you’ve experienced so far with Gravity Initiative?
The most valuable and loved moments we’ve had with our Gravity journey so far is bringing people together and creating a real sense of a powerful, positive community that’s working together to tackle mental health issues. We absolutely love connecting with like-minded people and organisations and have made some incredible friends along the way so far. If you’re reading this and like the sound of what we do – don’t hesitate to get in touch!
We’re got some big dreams to take Gravity Australia wide! We’d also love to see the Gravity Initiative running in schools, to encourage an open dialogue surrounding mental health from an early age and teach the kids some wellbeing and preventative tips. Stay tuned!
Em and Will x
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