Health, Lifestyle, Popular Stuff

Ok, here’s 3 cracking tips to calm you the f**k down and actually make you happy

Melissa Imbesi by Melissa Imbesi
March 31st, 2020

If there’s ever been a time that requires us to show some serious resilience, it’s right now… and if there’s anyone who knows their shit when it comes to developing and practising it, it’s Hugh van Cuylenberg, found of The Resilience Project.

Monty and I had the chance to chat to Hugh for our Tell Me More pod the other day, and he gave us some incredible tips on implementing simple, but super effective mental health strategies that’ll show up as greater happiness in our lives – and build more resilience when the going gets tough. The timing could not be better with the current state of the world right now.

Listen to our pod chat with Hugh (post continues below)

The three basic principles Hugh outlined for us are based on his GEM acronym and are so easy peasy that they can be practiced daily by all of us – even the littlest people in our lives.

GEM stands for Gratitude, Empathy (or compassion and kindness) and Mindfulness and Hugh had some great suggestions for getting them into our days…


Hugh explains that while it’s fine to aspire to ‘things’ in our lives, we can get into trouble when we pin our happiness to them. Real happiness comes from gratitude for what we already have.

How to practise it:

At the end of the day, Hugh suggests recording three unique things that went well that day – NOT three things you’re grateful for, as this can get boring. This can be done in a journal or even verbally around the dinner table with your kids, but making it a part of your everyday routine can result in a positive mindset shift within one week and within three weeks, you’ll actively begin looking for the feel-good moments.


Also known as compassion or kindness, studies show that doing something nice or helpful for another person causes a release of the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, in the brain, which not only leaves us feeling great, but proves that we have infinite access to joy in our own minds.

How to practise it:

hugh in action
image: the resilience project

Hugh suggests we can accomplish this one by aiming to do something kind for another person during the day, or making a plan to do something nice for someone the following day. It doesn’t have to be anything major, with Hugh sharing one of his goals being to let five people into traffic a day. This one literally ticks every box, by making the beneficiary of your kindness feel good, YOU will feel great and it’s also ace behaviour to model for our kids, who are ALWAYS watching us.


Simply put, it’s the ability to be calm and present in the moment you’re currently in – not looking forwards or backwards. Hugh told us that on average, we spend a whopping 49% of our days looking towards the future and 34% of it spent thinking about the past. What a waste!

How to practise it:

Mindfulness can be tricky, particularly for those of us who get stuck in ruminating thoughts and suffer mental health conditions such as anxiety – but it’s also a terrific weapon to combat those issues too. Hugh told us that every morning, he goes for a 15 minute walk around the block with his three year old and during that time, aims to just pay attention to the sounds around him; the crunching of leaves, the birds, the cars, etc. If you learn to practice this daily, bringing your mind back to the present moment when it starts to worry about the future or think about the past will become easier and easier. The simple idea that ‘wherever you are, be there’ is a good one to remember.

Of course, Hugh sums all this up (and more) way better than we ever could, so get your hands on his book, The Resilience Project: Finding Happiness Through Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness and find out more about his work and public speaking tours at The Resilience Project site here.

You can also tune in to Hugh chatting with Ryan Shelton on their podcast, The Imperfects, here.