A day for Body, Mind & Soul launched by Holly Bourne

In this year like no other, the importance of maintaining positive mental health, alongside physical health, has never been greater. Determined to ensure that pupils receive the best all-round education, despite the challenging circumstances, Sydenham High School masterminded a day of enrichment at the end of half term.

On Friday 12 February all pupils were taken off timetable to participate in a series of special activities to work the body, activate the mind and feed the soul. Critically acclaimed, best-selling author, Holly Bourne kicked off the day at Senior School with an excellent talk on positive mental health and understanding the context behind your feelings as well as how you can feel a sense of belonging through reading a good book. In this period of uncertainty, when we might be desperately trying to find coping mechanisms to rid ourselves of negative emotions, she reminded us of the importance of sitting with our feelings for a while, as a key part of the human experience, and the importance of self-care including getting enough sleep and being active. As her presentation drew to a close, and she had answered the many questions from her eager audience, she launched the Body, Mind & Soul day with a call to find our purpose, and what makes our soul shine – particularly encouraging getting lost in a creative process, be that art or writing.

Taking its name from the co-curricular programme at school, the Body, Mind & Soul day was an opportunity to develop new skills and learn in a different way, outside the classroom. Members of staff led sessions categorised into the three strands, showcasing their own passions from HIIT to Cryptography, stress ball making to letter writing. There was even a chance to learn how to change a bike’s inner tube and teach your dog a new skill, whilst others opted for meditation and happiness bullet journals. Pupils were empowered to choose their sessions for the day, and commented that “it was so lovely to have a day to just to slow down, reflect and gather our thoughts”, making the time to focus on something other than school work: “A really refreshing day and break from the seemingly never ending lock down life.” [Tiger, year 12]

With Guided Home Learning requiring pupils to be online for the duration of their lessons, this was a welcome change to proceedings, with some valuable time away from their screens.

The final session of the day was devoted to GDST Gets Active and pupils were encouraged to clock up those km to increase the Sydenham High school total as well as, of course, getting some much needed fresh air.

For our Sixth Form students, their A Level subjects can be very demanding in terms of content and skills. The Body, Mind and Soul Day was the ideal opportunity to take a step back and reflect on their hard work whilst trying something new that they would have otherwise not ordinarily engaged with. To be given time to practice mindful colouring, yoga and photography to name but a few activities allowed them to switch off from their challenging assignments and reflect on their own wellbeing. As a staff member, having the opportunity to share something that I enjoy and find relaxing with the students was also an amazing opportunity and allowed me to connect with a group of students I don’t always get the chance to teach.

– Miss Parrish, Head of Sixth

I absolutely loved the Mind, Body and Soul day! After weeks of fast paced days that feel like they merge into one (oh the joys of online learning!) it was so lovely to have a day to just to slow down, reflect and gather our thoughts. The meditation session about being grateful really did change my perspective on lockdown. I like to think I am a positive person but in the last week of term with an indefinite date of how much longer lockdown was to go on for, I began to lose that ‘hope for better days.’ However, this session reminded me that even in a lockdown, there are still so many things to be grateful for! We are so lucky to be surrounded by family, be able to go on walks in the fresh air, watch the sunset, have a roof over our heads, have hot showers and be able to call our friends as well as so much more. These are things (some could say little) that you can take for granted and forget on the not so good days. Mind, Body and Soul day taught me to keep finding joy out of small things like doing a little bit of origami or yoga and to keep on remembering for every negative situation, if you look hard enough, you can always find a positive!

– Caroline, year 12

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