Pilot program emphasizes wellness

by Jisu Song | 9/23/14 7:04pm

This fall, the office of student health promotion and wellness has introduced an eight-week pilot program to explore stress management, diet and sleep habits, among other aspects of health. Called “Thriving@Dartmouth,” the program is open to peer advisors, wellness living learning community residents and those who have been involved in Dartmouth on Purpose. The class has 12 participants.

Finding time to focus on wellness is important, especially in college, Presidential fellow Maria Sperduto ’14 wrote in an email.

“Students are guaranteed a few hours every week during which their attention is devoted entirely towards taking care of themselves,” Sperduto wrote, “which is something that not all students are always able to fit into their busy lifestyles.”

Sperduto, who cofounded Dartmouth on Purpose while an undergraduate to focus on wellness and successful living, will lead the pilot program along with assistant director for student health promotion and wellness Amanda Childress.

Last winter, nearly 400 students took a 21-day challenge, sponsored by Dartmouth on Purpose, to make or break habits and live more mindfully.

Hilary Lynch and Claudette Peck, who work in counseling and human development, will lead sessions on stress reduction and balanced eating practices, respectively.

The program was developed based in part on student feedback and a shift in department goals toward prevention and evidence-based intervention, Childress wrote in an email.

Jake Donehey ’17, a member of the Dartmouth chapter of Active Minds, a national mental health advocacy group, said the group worked with Thrive at a wellness fair at the beginning of the term. Since the event, he said, the organization have not collaborated much, though he said he hopes to work together more moving forward, noting that he thinks “Thriving@Dartmouth” will be a valuable program.

“The act of being physically healthy, being mentally healthy, all these things are hard in a fast-paced term,” Donehey said.

Enrolled students will meet twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays for two-hour-long evening sessions and will receive a physical education credit for their participation. Participants cited “sub-par” wellness and the desire to learn more about healthy habits as reasons for their enrollment in the program, Sperduto wrote in an email.

According to a study conducted in 2011 by researchers at the University of Cincinnati, less than a quarter of undergraduate students surveyed got seven to eight hours of sleep per night — the amount recommended for optimal brain functioning.

The office of health and student wellness “Refresh” program, also launched this fall, teaches sleep hygiene strategies and relaxation skills, among other things.

Sperduto wrote that if the “Thriving@Dartmouth” pilot is received positively, they will open the program to campus.

Though Dartmouth on Purpose and the course are not formally connected, Sperduto said that the two have similar goals.

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