By Nico Salvatori
April 4, 2013
Wednesday night in Price Auditorium, comedian and motivational speaker, Matt Bellace P.h.D., spoke to a room full of students, outlining– through humor, skits, and scientific evidence– his method for achieving natural highs: healthy alternatives to drug and alcohol use.
Through his “How To Get High Naturally” tour, Bellace entertains students while informing them of the lifelong dangers of substance abuse, and the way he has avoided them throughout his life.
Bellace’s message is made up of four key principles: 1.) Lean on healthy people for support 2.) Express yourself in healthy ways 3.) Achieve natural highs, and 4.) Don’t be afraid to take a stand.
Bellace spent most of his time on stage discussing how to achieve natural highs which, he frequently emphasized, lead to the same type of brain activities that occur during drug use. Bellace’s scientific background–he has a P.h.D. in clinical psychology–was the foundation upon which his method rests. Dopamine, a chemical that is released in the brain while an individual is high on cocaine, can also be induced simply by laughing, stressed Bellace. Laughing is just one way to achieve a natural high. Others include exercising and healthy ways of expressing oneself such as through music.
At one point during the show, Bellace asked a student to come onto the stage to demonstrate the natural high that music has on individuals. He played Adele’s “Someone Like You,” and rapped along to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” while the student described the emotions the musicians expressed in their songs. “Channel anger in a more productive way,” said Bellace, just as Eminem does through his music, a healthy outlet for all emotions, according to Bellace. “No matter how down you are, you’d be surprised how music can change your spirits in a short time.”
Near the end of the night, Bellace brought up a slide depicting the deteriorating effects alcohol and marijuana have on the brain. The human brain does not stop growing until an individual is around the age of 25, said Bellace as he informed students that drug use before the brain has finished growing can have lifelong consequences.
Despite the academic basis of the Bellace’s message, he kept things light, interspersing scientific jargon with humor, tapping into cultural touchstones to keep the audience alert. When discussing the potential fatal effects of drug abuse, Bellace brought up Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, and “Charlie Sheen’s career,” after which the audience burst into laughter.
Though laughter and exercise are great ways to achieve natural highs, Bellace put a special emphasis on love. “Love makes people want to be better,” he said, once again drawing a connection to the states of the brain while feeling love and while on drugs. “But you can love too much”–he warned–”just to talk to Tiger Woods.”
At another point during the show, Bellace asked four volunteers to discuss their methods of getting high naturally, many of which were related to exercise. Asked whether Bellace’s methods were applicable to her life, one student, Sabrina Evers, said “Absolutely. As a soccer player, I can really relate.”
Another student, Alex Wahl, described Bellace’s performance as “amazing” and “really inspiring.”
Bellace ended the night with a slideshow of pictures juxtaposed with his overall message. One slide showed him as a boy. “Look,” Bellace said,” someone put a bowl on my head and gave me a haircut.”