Health and Wellbeing Day gives students a day to discover
Health and Wellbeing Day gives students a day to discover

Santa Catalina held its first Health and Wellbeing Day on January 22, giving students the opportunity to explore areas of mind, spirit, and body that interest them.

The day began with different forms of exercise, including yoga, hiking at Jacks Peak, running, strength training, and a HIIT workout. Then came a keynote speech by Dr. Pamela Ebstyne King of Fuller Theological Seminary, followed by time for reflection through meditation, journaling, Tai Chi, stretching, and prayer.

King's speech, "JoyRide: Thriving on the Road to Joy," explored the meaning of joy and the ways we pursue it. Thriving is about living toward God's purpose for us, she said, and the trick is discovering what that is. If you find your spark—the things that light you up—you become more of your unique self and you experience joy that endures.

King explored this process more in depth in her afternoon breakout session on spirituality. It was one of seven sessions that students could choose from, each focused on a different dimension of Catalina's Wheel of Wellbeing.

Personal Development

Psychotherapist Barclay Braden '59 introduced students to her practice of "depth journaling." After taking 10 minutes to jot down some thoughts about what they were feeling in the moment, they wrote down questions they would ask their future selves. Then, taking their pen into their non-dominant hand, they wrote the answers.

The process was beneficial for some, forcing them to slow down their thoughts or to consider their future in more real terms. For others it was frustrating because they couldn't write down everything they were thinking. Whatever the result, Braden encouraged the students to explore their feelings. Journaling, after all, is about becoming better in touch with yourself.

Relationships and Communication

This session with Upper School counselor Gabrielle Snowden came with a little pre-homework: a personality test. "It's best to know yourself first before you can form relationships with others," she said.

Snowden organized two activities that grouped students by personality type. In the first, they were grouped by their self-management style—"judgers," who are ordered and organized, and "prospectors," who are loosey-goosey—and were told to make a house of out M&Ms. Sure enough, different groups came up with different interpretations.

In the second activity, based on whether students were considered "thinkers" or "feelers," they were asked to answer questions based on the show Survivor. What would their team name be, why would they be voted off, what's their motto? These questions yielded some surprising results, proving another of Snowden's points: Personality tests, while illuminating, are not the be-all, end-all. When working with others, appreciate not only your similarities, but your differences.

Exercise and Movement

Students packed into the Lower and Middle School Assembly Room to learn about mindful movement from Olava Menczkowska '74. In a series of Pilates-based exercises, they worked their cores while focusing on their mind-body connection.


King walked students through the "JoyRide" of her speech. In the journey toward joy, you need four things: a GPS to guide you, a peloton of riders to help you, fuel to motivate you, and training to get you there. The students in her session reflected on all of these things. What do they enjoy doing, or what skills and passions to they hope to develop more? (GPS) Who do they have relationships with, and what roles do they play? (Peloton) What gives you the energy to pursue your interests? (Fuel) What are some physical, mental, psychological, or spiritual practices that can support you in your journey? (Training)

Environment (Physical)

What is your happy place? That's the first question Virginia Reeves Apple '89 asked of the students in her session. (The most common response: their rooms.) Knowing not only where their happy places are, but what feelings they get from being there, can help students find and create spaces that support joy, productivity, and balance. "If you're stuck in a negative emotion, and you need to get to a positive emotion, go find your happy place," she said.

Apple, who worked for more than 15 years as an interior designer in New York, gave students tips for decorating their personal spaces, such as organizing like items together, putting your favorite colors in your line of sight, and weaving in photos or objects that represent your interests and hobbies. "A strong environment will help you feel strong," she said.

Nutrition and Hydration

Food may be one of Catalina girls' favorite topics, and they came armed with questions for nutrition and wellness coach Jen DeVilliers. What foods can I eat to help me resist the temptation of junk food? What foods best support me as an athlete? What can I eat to help me focus? DeVilliers taught students that it's not only about what they eat, but when, suggesting they write down the timing of their meals and snacks to help them feel balanced throughout the day.

Time for Rest

Santa Catalina parent Dr. Jim Bennett acknowledged that students have probably heard a million times that they need to get more sleep, so he wanted to make sure they knew why. "Sleep is a powerful biological process that we need to respect and take care of," he said.

Bennett, a pediatrician, broke his talk into three sections: the science of sleep, the health benefits of sleep, and tools to help students improve their sleep quality. On the science side, he delved into our circadian rhythms (it's natural to be sleepy in the afternoon!) and the chemical reactions in our brain that are vital to the sleep process. He explained that sleeping is a way for the body to restore itself and that it can help consolidate memory, making it an important part of studying. He advised powering down from phones and computers an hour before bedtime, getting around nine hours of sleep a night, and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. "When it comes to sleep," he said, "think quantity and quality."

To see more photos from the day, visit our SmugMug gallery.

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