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Headmaster's Blog


Mental health and wellbeing has been a topic of much debate within the teaching profession for some years now. In Scotland, the Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) agenda places a particular emphasis on wellbeing and this has now become headline news again with the imminent introduction of a ‘Named Person’ for every child from August. And there is a reason for this…it matters.

According to research, how long we live is dictated 10% by our genes and 90% by our lifestyle. Being firmly in the second half of my ‘three score years and ten’, I have a particular interest in this. So what is the blueprint for living a long life? Well, about a decade ago a group of demographers (and one clinician) identified a number of areas in the world which have unusually high concentrations of centenarians.  These included Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Icaria in Greece and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. The authors of this research identified certain characteristics shared by the populations of each of these areas, namely:

  • Family was put ahead of other concerns
  • People smoked less than usual
  • The diet was semi vegetarian
  • Constant moderate physical activity was an inseparable part of daily life
  • People of all ages were socially active and integrated into their communities
  • Legumes were commonly consumed

Building on this research, American Author, Dan Beuttner, concluded in his book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest, that there are nine lessons learnt that we could apply to our own lives:

1.    Take moderate, regular physical activity
2.    Have a life purpose
3.    Reduce your stress
4.    Moderate your calorie intake
5.    Have a predominantly plant-based diet
6.    Enjoy a moderate alcohol intake, especially wine
7.    Engage in spirituality or religion in some way
8.    Make family life your first priority
9.    Be sociable and involve yourself in your community

So how, you might ask, does this relate to us here at school? I believe keenly that our purpose as a school is to prepare our pupils in the broadest sense for the life ahead of them. Our job is not to pursue the narrow definition of success that can be measured by SATs tests, rather, we are putting in place the building blocks for happy and successful lives. Therefore, I find this list both reassuring (many of these things we already do well) but also motivating as it shows clearly what we need to work at. I’m not proposing that we serve wine or eat legumes with every meal, but I am suggesting that we reflect upon the list above and...

...live long and prosper!

John F Gilmour

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