Matt Bellace led a presentation on how to get high naturally that incorporated comedy and audience participation at Elizabethtown College on Sunday, Oct. 26.
Bellace began his presentation by asking four female audience members and four male audience members to approach the stage and sit on chairs. He positioned the chairs so that they formed two circles and the women sat in one. The men sat on the other. The students all faced outward so that when they leaned back they would be resting their heads on the other participants. Bellace said that the exercise was about supporting one another. He then took a chair away from each group until the members were each fully supporting one another. “I do it because I like to know how supportive the audience will be,” Bellace said.
The exercise was to demonstrate the importance of having people you can lean on, who will not let you fall. “It’s hard for you to be happy and mentally healthy if you don’t have lots of positive support,” Bellace said. He added that it is important to find positive people to lean on.
Bellace explained that his brother got into trouble with drugs and alcohol when he was in high school, so before Bellace entered high school, his mother sent him to a one-week leadership camp the week before school started. “That camp she sent me to changed my life forever,” Bellace said. He met his four best friends at that camp, all of whom are extremely positive and gravitated toward natural highs rather than drugs and alcohol. Bellace said his first tip for the audience was to have healthy friends.
He also demonstrated a relaxation technique. Bellace had the audience close their eyes, rest their hands on their stomachs and breathe for 30 seconds. “This will change your nervous system. It will change the way you handle stress,” he said. Individuals who meditate for five minutes a day tend to make better, less emotional decisions under stress.
Bellace’s second tip was to express emotions. He explained that neither of his parents were good listeners. His father had difficulty empathizing with others and his mother would always cut him off when he was talking and try to help him solve the problem. Bellace said both of his grandparents, however, were great listeners, and he could talk to them when he felt the need to express emotions.
When Bellace was in eighth grade his grandfather died of cancer. His brother, a first-year in college then, buried his emotions and began partying harder, and before Thanksgiving break, his brother moved backed home after being kicked out of school. On the other hand, Bellace channelled his emotions into playing sports. He said that he became captain of the wrestling team, captain of the baseball team and quarterback of the football team in high school. Although Bellace lost his grandfather, he reconfigured all of his painful emotions and made it constructive. Bellace said one ability he learned was “the ability to go through pain or loss and keep going.”
At one college Bellace spoke at, a student became very angry during his presentation and confronted him in the parking lot afterward. Bellace said the student had to be taken aside by an administrator in order to calm down. The next day that student was expelled from the college.
“One big difference between your generation and mine: the consequences are so much greater,” Bellace said. He explained that students are usually punished more severely than they were when he was in school and when students turn to drugs and alcohol, the consequences of choosing to do can be harsh.
“Every drug that’s ever been made is meant to mimic a natural high,” Bellace said. One brain chemical that makes people naturally high, Bellace explained, was oxytocin, which is the chemical involved in the emotion of love. This is the same chemical mothers release to help them bond with their children.
“I think one of the purposes of love is to inspire you to be better,” he said. These chemicals that create natural highs can also help individuals achieve higher levels of success both in their personal and professional lives.
Bellace’s final piece of advice for the audience was to not be afraid to take a stand. At his own college he began a group, called C.a.l.v.i.n. & H.o.b.b.e.s., that focused on helping to create those natural highs. For instance, the group once taped a girl to the wall after she agreed to the joke in order to entertain students walking by in the residence hall. The group still exists in a residence hall on his campus.