On Thursday, September 27, the HCC took over the entirety of the RAWC for their massive carnival of Be Well UTM: Resource and Activity Fair. As part of their campus wide initiative to raise awareness for mental and physical health, they went above and beyond to crank the volume all the way up, with a well-executed strategy of shock and awe.

As a whole, this is UTM’s first community wellness event, compartmentalized into five essential components, each of which proved to be wildly popular with UTM students, staff and faculty.

The first component of this master plan was to imbue the audience with inspiration. This was delivered through a series of presentations by experts on how to best achieve health and happiness. The lineup included Cat Criger, Principal Ulli Krull, Professor Jennifer Stellar, Harriet Ekperigin of the Big White Wall Program, and of course the keynote speaker and the star of the show, Neil Pasricha.

Pasricha is an award-winning happiness expert, author of The Book of Awesome and a Harvard MBA graduate. As a master presenter, he led the mesmerizing keynote with sheer charisma. The most mind-bending fact was that Pasricha’s spouse had just given birth to their newborn baby boy at 2:33 am on that exact same day, and yet he was at UTM, pitch perfect and ready to present.

As an expert on happiness, his philosophies dictate that society has many of its core cultural norms backwards. One such is the notion that we work hard, get a job and consequently gain happiness. Another key norm is that if we can do something, and we want to do it, we do it. Pasricha says that these notions are backwards and understanding them in this reverse logic provides the true solutions to happiness. Moreover, his best tips for containing stress are to take nature walks, journaling and reading fiction. Although these may seem simple and unnecessary, according to Pasricha, they are supported by a plethora of research and reasoning that explain why they work.

The second piece of this event was information. Gym A/B was swarmed with legions of information tables where the HCC had invited organizations in the community to exhibit wellness resources and programs. This zone consisted of the Wellness Resource Fair where the HCC had stationed a variety of exhibitors including, Trillium Health Partners, Canadian Mental Health Association, Assaulted Women’s Helpline, Spectra Helpline and Good2Talk, along with a whopping 64 other organizations to present their services. Their message in this zone was clear: the opportunity for help is everywhere.

A third dimension added to this fair was the initiative for physical health. The Wellness Ambassadors had organized several heart pumping activities to get the participants moving. Some students joined biology professor Sanja Hinic-Frlog on a campus nature walk, while others attended the Introduction to Bhangra Dance class. Adding a colorful twist was the class for Introduction to Caribbean Dance by Carnival Spice, a fitness and entertainment organization that celebrates the Caribbean culture through lively spectacles. The rest of the event included RAWC tours, spin classes, 5-minute power walks and personal trainer consultations.

Second to the last layer of this fair is the creative wellness workshop, designed to awaken the dormant Van-Gogh within all of us. UTM’s registered dietitian, Kimberly Green led the way on a Build-Your-Own Breakfast, while UTM’s Lead Counsellor conducted the Introduction to Art as a Vehicle for Self-Expression class. Not to mention, the lobby of the RAWC was sprinkled with delightful stations for free manicures, massages, henna paintings, a high-tech photo-booth and the cuddly therapy dogs from St. John’s Ambulance. Of course, Hart House was there as well to immerse everyone into arts and crafts and bring out our inner child. It was a tribute to the age-old relationship humans have had with art as a form of self-expression and self-care; a true tonic for mental health.

The last component of this health marathon was the valiant effort to combat a soaring epidemic of loneliness, most keenly felt through UTM’s infamous lack of community. Almost a third of Gym A/B was dedicated to the CCR Community Cafe: an area designed to deviously lure students in with an endlessly free supply of coffee and tea, along with delicious chocolate chip cookies. People dropped by to chat with Wellness Ambassadors about achieving their wellness goals and filling out a self-reflection for their own mental and physical health.

Overall, the real crown jewel of this wellness fair was the free BBQ. Participants could visit the various zones in the fair and collect approval for their visits on the “passports” provided. After simply attending a specific selection of three zones, successful participants received a feast of free BBQ hamburgers along with brownies, lemonade, corn, watermelon and various other goodies. It is an HCC trade secret that nothing attracts undergrads better than free food, and this event just serves as testament to this insatiable appetite.

The HCC in conjunction with the Wellness Ambassadors plan to host various events throughout the academic year and have definitely started off with a bang. The singular message piercing every one of these efforts is a reminder to always prioritize your mental and physical well-being amidst the endless pursuit of the day’s to-do list.

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