During the Havergal College Day 9 on February 15, Senior School students had the opportunity to discover healthier habits for exponential health and well-being. In a presentation guided by wellness experts Dr. Greg Wells and Dr. Ellen Choi, students learned physical and mental activation techniques to help reach their peak performance, while practicing mindfulness and self-compassion.
Dr. Greg Wells’ mission is to solve a billion-person problem by helping people combat chronic stress and exhaustion through simple lifestyle changes. He has dedicated his career to understanding human performance and the body’s response to extreme conditions. His book The Ripple Effect: Sleep Better, Eat Better, Move Better, Think Better teaches life-changing techniques for improved health and well-being.
Using the professional athletes that he coaches as examples, Dr. Wells captivated Havergal students by showing the intrinsic link between optimal performance and mental well-being. “When you feel good and are in a positive, relaxed mindset, you’re going to perform better than when you are stressed, tired and unhappy,” he says.
Growing up in a high-achievement family, where a 98 per cent test score was seen as a failure, Dr. Choi understands the toll academic pressure and perfectionism can take on mental health. “It’s not only about performing better, but developing the attitudes to bounce back and understand that being ‘perfect’ can look different to each person,” explains Dr. Choi.
As a meditation coach and researcher, Dr. Choi taught Havergal students exercises to help manage stress and adversity through breathing techniques and self-love. Apart from formal exercises, she emphasized that schools can also support mental health informally, by cultivating a culture of awareness and empathy.
“Movement and a positive mindset are so incredibly connected,” says Dr. Wells. From participating in a sport to sneaking in a brisk walk or stretch between classes, he encourages students to “rediscover the joy in movement.” His research shows that regular exercise affects the brain beyond helping mood; for example, a high school class in Chicago reported higher standardized testing scores after running stairs before class for a semester, showing the connection between physical activity and learning.
The food we eat also has an impact on the neurotransmitters in our brains, and Dr. Wells suggests a diet full of protein, healthy fats and antioxidants for peak mental and physical performance. The students’ engagement in the topic showed their deep understanding and value of proper nutrition.
According to The National Sleep Foundation, less than half of Canadians are getting enough sleep each night. This is especially concerning for students, as sleep is integral to learning. To ensure quality sleep, Dr. Greg Wells suggests implementing a sleep routine to let our internal clock know when it is time for bed; limiting social media and screen time; setting devices to night mode after 6 pm and writing in a gratitude journal, can all contribute to a good night’s sleep. “I learned that even committing to a little bit more sleep can have a huge effect on your health and life, overall,” says Lea Laslavic, Grade 11.
Dr. Wells acknowledged that lifestyle changes can often be overwhelming, so he encourages students to “do anything to make yourself better for 15 minutes a day and be consistent.” He refers to this as the “1 per cent investment.” “We all have a lot of potential,” says Emma Andison, Grade 11. “What we learned today will help maximize our performance to be limitless,” she says.