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The Power of Community

Staff Blogger, Sally Flynn Assistant Dean of Learning – Inclusive Practices

Recently I listened to the first episode of a new Podcast called Higher Ground. I’ll admit that the main reason it caught my eye was because it is Michelle Obama’s new project but as I listened to the first episode I realised that it tapped into a personal interest in the power of community as an underrated but essential component of wellbeing and happiness.

As Michelle and her first guest Barrack Obama discussed the differences between their upbringing in the 1960s and 70s in comparison to the experience that many children have today, you have to wonder, is it just nostalgia and an extraordinary set of circumstances that has us all looking backwards?

The Obamas are far from the only people who are advocating for the positive effects of close relationships and strong connection to our communities for all of us at every stage of life. Robert Waldinger in his TED Talk: ‘What makes a good life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness’ is clear that the biggest predictor of a long, happy life is indeed the quality of our face to face human connections. Similarly, Susan Pinker who also turned her research into a TED Talk: ‘The secret to living longer may be your social life’, backs up the Harvard research with her study of ‘Blue Zones’ where longevity and good health prevail.

So what does this mean for our boys?

An obvious answer is to join one of the many and varied clubs, teams or service groups offered by the College. The less obvious answer from the research, is outlined in my new favourite book ‘Together’ by Vivek Murthy:

• Spend time each day with those you love.
• Focus on each other. Give the other person the gift of your full attention.
• Build a stronger connection with yourself. Meditation, prayer, art, music, and time spent outdoors are all great suggestions.
• Help and be helped. Service is a vital form of human connection that gives us purpose in life.

The modern inclination to equate success with earning more and owning more, is proving less popular in 2020 than ever before. Perhaps while we are experiencing a moment when our usual routines have been interrupted, we have also been presented with an opportunity to join our boys in having a positive impact on our communities. It is conceivable that the most disruptive year for our young gentlemen is also the teachable moment we didn’t know we needed.

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