The Head's Study
What Can We Do To Improve our Health…
A great question that was at the heart of this year’s Festival of Ideas where Years 8 and 9 came off timetable to interpret, research and respond, culminating in the Festival Fair where House teams presented their ideas. Dr Bhatia, parent, GP and founder of ‘Humble’, challenged us all in his introductory talk to consider the small changes we can make to improve our health. Drawing the Festival of Ideas together everyone was asked to ‘delay send’ themselves an email of one miniscule change (a 15 second action was recommended by Dr Bhatia) they would make to improve their own health over the coming year.
16 seconds is roughly how long it will have taken you to read thus far. Add 3 more seconds (you have done that now) and you are at the median time that the average person focuses on one thing before being distracted and moving to something else. Put this into an office context where we are probably being paid to focus on something, and the average uninterrupted time an adult gets in an office is 3 minutes. Further research suggests it takes 23 minutes to get back to the deep focus needed for in-depth thinking.
What has this to do with our health? I was struck by how many key aspects of healthy living mentioned by Dr Bhatia are shared by Johann Hari in his book ‘Stolen Focus’ that explores how and why we have lost our ability for deep focus. This is not about blaming technology but about understanding why the tech companies have designed packages as they have and considering what is in our control to remedy this. As James Baldwin so succinctly put it – ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed until it is faced’. We must face the fact that we have lost our ability to focus.
So, it is very intentional that we move next week to our termly Reading Week with the topic of focus. According to Hari’s research, to improve the focus necessary for deep thinking and wellbeing we need to make small changes that are meaningful to us then push ourselves to the edge of our abilities with them. (I never asked Dr Bhatia why he had an extended cold shower before joining us to judge the Festival of Ideas presentations but maybe this is relevant.) Reading books is a good example of small changes/big improvements, developing our focus by committing to increase our uninterrupted reading time incrementally day by day.
So please encourage your daughters to immerse themselves in reading and focus next week. There will be events such as book picnics coupled with our speakers’ week, still on our theme of taking responsibility for our health, encouraging everyone to stop, relax and focus closely on one thing. Let’s see how much better everyone feels by Friday.
And as for changing habits, on 8 June 2024 all our then Year 9 and 10 pupils and several staff will receive the email they sent themselves this week with the small change to routine they hope to have adopted in the year ahead. Watch out for photos of Mr Briggs running the Bristol 10km as evidence that his incremental changes have worked.