Friday, December 19, 2014

Last Food for Thought for 2014

Dear all,

Thank you for a fantastic semester and a real buzz around the School. I think that we are really walking the talk with our mission, and by doing so creating a wonderful learning environment for our students. It has been the best part of my day walking around the school and observing you teaching. Now you all deserve a fun and relaxing vacation.

I promise I will not be bombarding you with Food for Thoughts over the vacation, just best wishes for the festive season and a Happy and Healthy 2015. I thought that sharing this piece of research on the “importance of giving hugs” fits very well with the festive season, the culture we are trying to build at ISHCMC and is a reminder of our need as humans for closeness and attention.

Amanda Richards via Compfight cc

You Might Be Surprised How Much a Hug Helps Fight Illness, Stress and Depression

Psychologists go to surprising lengths in new study to show how much a hug can help. Being hugged reduces the deleterious effects of stress on the body, according to new research which intentionally exposed people to a cold virus. Hugging acts as a form of social support and protects people from getting sick and even reduces their illness symptoms if they do get sick.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, asked 404 healthy adults how much social support they perceived they had from other people (Cohen et al., 2014).
They were also asked about how often they were hugged and how often they came into conflict with others.
Participants were then exposed to a cold virus in the lab (they were well paid for this: $1,000 each).
Their condition was monitored in quarantine to see if they developed a cold and how severe their symptoms were.

Professor Sheldon Cohen, who led the study, explained its rationale:
“We know that people experiencing ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses.
We also know that people who report having social support are partly protected from the effects of stress on psychological states, such as depression and anxiety.
We tested whether perceptions of social support are equally effective in protecting us from stress-induced susceptibility to infection and also whether receiving hugs might partially account for those feelings of support and themselves protect a person against infection.”

The results showed that people who were hugged more often or who perceived they had greater social support were less likely to catch the cold in the first place. Those who did get a cold had less severe symptoms if they were hugged more and felt supported socially.
Professor Cohen said:
“This suggests that being hugged by a trusted person may act as an effective means of conveying support and that increasing the frequency of hugs might be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress.
The apparent protective effect of hugs may be attributable to the physical contact itself or to hugging being a behavioral indicator of support and intimacy.
Either way, those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection.”

And here is a short video about giving hugs:

Have a great vacation,



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Food for Thought: What makes us happy?

Dear all,

Firstly, thank you for Thursday’s Celebration of Pedagogy. It was an excellent snapshot of the fantastic activities and ideas that you are sharing with your students. I hope that you found it useful and that it enabled you to think about additional ideas for your own classroom.

This week’s Food for Thought is focused on the word happiness. We are about to break for the winter vacation and will be wishing each other, our friends and families a Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year. It sounds wonderful but what is happiness? What does it mean to be happy? How do we achieve happiness? Researching this topic, along with positivism, it becomes clear that happiness which we all seek and wish for, is far more difficult to attain than one might at first imagine. Hence the question, how happy are you and what are you doing about being happier in your life?

These two TED’s will not provide an absolute answer to these questions but they might make you think and have an impact on your new year resolution.

#1 When are humans most happy? To gather data on this question, Matt Killingsworth built an app, Track Your Happiness, that let people report their feelings in real time. Among the surprising results: We're often happiest when we're lost in the moment. And the flip side: The more our mind wanders, the less happy we can be. (Filmed at TEDxCambridge.)

#2 What is happiness, and how can we all get some? Buddhist monk, photographer and author Matthieu Ricard has devoted his life to these questions, and his answer is influenced by his faith as well as by his scientific turn of mind: We can train our minds in habits of happiness. Interwoven with his talk are stunning photographs of the Himalayas and of his spiritual community.

Thank you for all your hard work that has contributed towards a wonderful semester.

Wishing you a Happy Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year,


Before I sign off for 2014 I’d just like to share this very short video that could be used in any class as a provocation for discussing privilege and opportunity.