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From the Principal – February 2024

Thu, 22/02/2024Posted by:

Special welcome to the new faces in our community and as I have said many times before, ours is a place that will encourage you to flourish. As new members of our community, be assured that we will do everything we can to help you to be the best, you can be. We are immeasurably enriched by your presence amongst us and grateful for the god given gifts that each of you will bring into our lives.

It remains our duty to instil in our students a sense of purpose and to then encourage them to be inspired by this sense of purpose to participate in a variety of constructive, life-enhancing pursuits and to introduce them, as often as we can, to those glimpses of the eternal that might occasionally lift their gaze and broaden their horizons. Belonging to our College family and having our beautiful sense of community where our values bind us, our mission and vision give us purpose we can’t help but flourish.

At the beginning of the academic year, I shared a book with our staff: “The Blue Zones: Secrets for Living Longer” by Dan Buettner. The term “blue zones” was first coined by Buettner, a National Geographic Explorer and Fellow and journalist, during an exploratory project he led in 2004. After an expedition to Okinawa, Japan in 2000 to investigate the longevity there, he set out to explore other regions of the world with reportedly high longevity.

National Geographic, Buettner, and his team of scientists and demographers travelled the world in search of communities where people not only lived longer but also enjoyed a high quality of life in their old age. After analysing demographic data and interviewing numerous centenarians, they identified five regions that stood out for their extraordinary longevity and vitality: Loma Linda (California); Nicoya (Cost Rica); Sardinia (Italy); Ikaria (Greece); Okinawa (Japan). Now I am not suggesting we all wish to live to be centenarians, but the research is compelling about healthy living and mental health. Buettner encourages us to apply nine healthy lifestyle habits.

By chance, it has coincided with the publication last week of the world’s biggest-ever study into the correlation between exercise and depression. The evidence is now indisputable that physical activity has an enormous impact on mental health and is well superior to antidepressant drugs on their own.

The study led by Australian researchers from the University of Queensland and published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that exercise has about double the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs on depression in the short term and that even gentle forms of exercise were effective.

The BMJ paper was the first such study to delve into the relative effects of different types of exercise on easing depression and to compare a range of physical activities with pharmacological treatments. Perhaps not surprisingly, the researchers found that the more vigorous the activity, the better the mental health gains. But interestingly, it was an unlikely form of exercise that topped the list in helping to lift low mood – Dance.

Dance was found to be almost five times as effective in lifting mood among depressed people, and walking or jogging was three times as effective. There were significant differences between men and women and also between age groups in terms of which exercise was the best.

“In isolation, the most effective exercise modalities were walking or jogging, yoga, strength training, and dancing,” the study said. “Although walking or jogging was effective for both men and women, strength training was more effective for women, and yoga or qigong was more effective for men. Yoga was somewhat more effective among older adults, and strength training was more effective among younger people.”

To our parents, I leave you with Dan Buettner’s quote: “Drink without getting drunk, love without suffering jealousy, eat without overindulging, never argue, and once in a while, with great discretion, misbehave.” His emphasis on simple habits, and meaningful social connections, make the lessons accessible to individuals seeking to improve their health and wellbeing which we all want for each other.

I am very much looking forward to connecting with our community on Friday evening at the St John’s Principal and P&F Welcome Event.

Mrs Maria McIvor