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The Scarlet & Black

Wellness Lounge has its grand opening

Under the stress of juggling tasks inside and outside the classroom, maintaining well-being is not easy at Grinnell. Some go surf the Internet or work out in the gym and others read books to relieve their stress. However, a group of students proposed a unique approach to more holistic wellness. On the west side of the second floor of the JRC, they opened the Wellness Lounge, a new nexus for cultivating a better understanding of health.

“The basic idea is that we wanted Grinnell to have an intentional space for wellness,” said Samantha Schwartz ’14, who is in charge of the project.

Through her trip to Scotland with a Positive Psychology class, she came to see the need of a centralized location on campus that is devoted to encouraging well-being. The model of the Lounge derives from a Danish concept of wellness, called “hygge,” which means coziness and togetherness. Based on psychological studies, the Wellness Lounge is intended to fulfill five components of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement.

“If it relates to wellness, we’ll have it. If we don’t have it, tell us and we’ll have it,” said Eric Mistry ’14.

The Lounge has and will have many features to help students relax. In addition to a massage chair, two iPads are set up as kiosks for relaxing puzzle games and applications, as well as general browsing. They will start loaning “fitbits,” electronic devices that can track fitness. They are also planning to offer art supplies, planting activities and meditations. Furthermore, they will install a bulletin board that can connect one student with another for a gym time, because going to Zumba alone is not a pleasurable experience.

All of these are supported by the Innovation Fund, which provides grants for promis-ing ideas from faculty, staff and students to enrich the community. The Wellness Lounge project received 27,000 dollars from the fund.

But the group hopes for more than simply financial support.

“What we need more than anything else is … more student input, more discussion about this,” said Anya Vanecek ’14. “We need what the Wellness Lounge represents to be something that gets committed as a value of the community.”

On the path to their goal, however, lie challenges regarding self-governance and sustainability. Except for the iPads, none of their goods are chained or nailed to the floor. This may make it difficult to prevent losing or missing some items. Yet Mistry believes in the student body.

“We think if we show enough respect for the students not to steal the stuff, they will treat the space with care,” Mistry said.

Another concern is about how to keep running the Wellness Lounge and improving it. The entire board of directors, who founded the project, is graduating this year. The Wellness Lounge project will accept “wellness interns” and train them to fill future positions.

Photo by Shadman Asif
Photo by Shadman Asif

Driven by entrepreneurial spirit, the Wellness Lounge has already come up with new plans. Starting next Wednesday, they will host a Wellness Wednesday Lunch, where they will have fresh fruits, crackers and vegetables delivered to their meeting. In terms of raising the awareness of well-being, they are planning to start a speaker series next year.

“This is the resource and I want people to figure it out,” Vanecek said.

Students can email the staff and let them know any suggestions and concerns. This space is truly open for any mind and anybody.

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