By Gabriela Rey
Students spent a rainy afternoon celebrating healthy lifestyle choices at the THRIVE: Wellness Expo on Wednesday, April 4 in the Student Recreation Center.
The event, hosted by the College’s division of Health and Wellness, featured more than 25 on and off-campus vendors that promote healthy living, including TCNJ Dining Services and Body Zen, which provided complimentary massages to anyone feeling stressed.
The Expo is “focused on creating a culture of wellness at TCNJ, at home and in the world around us” and coincided with National Public Health Week, according to the event’s page on Lion’s Gate.
THRIVE focuses on every aspect of wellness at the College, according to Olivia Ortelli, a freshman math and psychology double major and peer educator for THRIVE. This year, THRIVE is developing a peer educator program and has been present at various events on resiliency, sexual health and alcohol education.
“I like to think of health and wellness as a lifestyle because I think it’s getting a little trendy,” Ortelli said.
THRIVE’s table at the Expo focused on environmental wellness. The organization potted complimentary lemon balm plants for students’ dorm rooms, since lemon balm is known to help reduce anxiety.
“Environmental wellness is, yeah, the earth as a whole, but also, your dorm is like your personal environment,” Ortelli said.
Mental health was the focus of many of the popular tables of the day, including Attitudes in Reverse, a non-profit organization that specializes in mental health awareness and suicide prevention through the use of therapy dogs. Tricia Baker, who works with the organization and has visited the College in the past, says that simply looking at a dog causes the brain to release oxytocin, known as the “cuddle hormone,” and petting a dog releases serotonin and dopamine, chemicals that relax the mind.
“I see big smiles – all of the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ is that flood of oxytocin happening in their brain,” says Baker. “A lot of students come back multiple times because they know they can get their doggy fix here.”
Another table that seemed to receive significant traffic at the Expo was doTERRA Essential Oils. Students lined up to create their own mini roller bottles of essential oil blends, which facilitate alertness. Susan Walker, a doTERRA advocate and oil educator, holds classes to teach people about the benefits and appropriate uses of each essential oil.
“Peppermint is like a wake-up oil and can actually help increase oxygen levels in your brain,” Walker said. “Internally, it helps to ease nausea, digestive issues and it’s also a natural histamine for allergies.”
Across from the Essential Oils table was the College’s Alcohol & Drug Education Program’s station, which also drew in big crowds with their go-kart race course. Jess Ayres, a junior public health major who works for ADEP, explained that the station focused on New Jersey’s 911 Lifeline Legislation, which provides amnesty to students who seek emergency attention for a peer who is intoxicated.
The course featured red, yellow and green signs with behaviors to avoid and follow, and promoted the program’s Human Education Resource Office Campaign for Designated Drivers.
The venue also offered other health-conscious stations like TCNJ Dining Services, which served healthy smoothies and aided students in making the most out of Meal Equivalency in the healthiest way possible.
Zumba and yoga classes, a game of “Are You Smarter than a Nursing Student” courtesy of the Nursing Department, raffles and miniature ponies that provided stiff competition for the therapy dogs were also offered at the Expo.
Students, overall, seemed to enjoy of all of the activities the Expo provided, as well as the free goodies everyone got to take home. But the tiny ponies took first prize for the most attention-grabbing station.
“The mini horses were definitely my favorite. I have horses at home so it’s like a little piece of home here, it’s nice,” said Cameron Tague, a freshman business management major. “Oh my god, and their little sneakers!”