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November 16, 2023

SPS Fall Term LinC Day focuses on health, wellness and phone use.


During Fall Term LinC Day on Tuesday, Oct. 31, guest speaker Dr. Nidhi Gupta shared a sobering statistic: The average high school student spends five to seven hours on their phone every day. “The issue is not how much time is spent on the devices, but what else [we] could have [been doing] during that time,” Gupta, a pediatric endocrinologist and wellness coach, said.

LinC Days, facilitated by Fifth and Sixth Form student leaders with the support of SPS faculty in the Dean of Students Office, occur once per term and are part of the School’s Living in Community curriculum. The theme for the first LinC Day of the school year was personal health and wellness, a topic the LinC leaders chose as a way to address multiple interrelated issues that include phone use and overuse.

“Students at St. Paul’s are viewed as incredibly capable and held to great expectations,” LinC leader and Sixth Form Officer Isa Martinez ’24 says. “As intrinsically passionate, ambitious and motivated students, we strive to fulfill these expectations — along with those we set for ourselves — resulting in intense days with homework, studying and commitments. [We] thought it would be very beneficial to provide proactive and applicable measures that could help our community sustain our best selves.”

Among the health and wellness tips that LinC leaders shared with their peers were prioritizing daily physical activity, eating high-quality meals with plenty of protein and plants, and breaking down large tasks and assignments into smaller, more manageable pieces spread out over time to reduce stress. When it comes to sleep, they noted, students should avoid caffeine before bed, have a regular bedtime and avoid screens for at least 30 minutes before they turn out the lights.

Students present during the opening of LinC Day

Student LinC leaders shared health and wellness tips with their peers, emphasizing the importance of time management, good nutrition and physical exercise.

Dr. Nidhi Gupta explained the importance of making connections during her LinC Day Keynote

Dr. Nidhi Gupta, a pediatric endocrinologist and wellness coach, spoke about the impact of phone use on adolescents. 

Phone use was the primary focus of Gupta’s presentation. While serving as attending physician at Vanderbilt University, she said, she regularly treated children and adolescents with conditions like diabetes, sleep troubles, anxiety and depression, obesity and reproductive system issues that were largely side effects of device-centric lifestyles. Her young patients were spending so much time on their phones that they were sacrificing exercise, proper nutrition, sleep, schoolwork, family time and more.

Noting that an average person checks their phone upward of 200 times a day, Gupta explained that notifications on our phones are cues that give our brains a quick hit of dopamine, and when we open the text, email or social media app, our brain is rewarded — until the dopamine levels start to dip, starting the “trigger loop” all over again. What’s more, she noted, it takes 19 to 25 minutes to reorient to an interrupted task — meaning that the time lost to phone use isn’t strictly limited to the time spent on the device.

Following Gupta’s keynote, students participated in form-specific workshops where they discussed mindfulness and sleep hygiene, as well as healthy ways to navigate SPS-specific social situations and improve their time management skills. They also played a student-designed digital game that took them through a typical day at SPS and challenged them to make healthy choices along the way.

Throughout the day, when students were prompted to look at their phone analytics, some were surprised by (and a little hesitant to admit) their use statistics, especially on the weekends. LinC leaders suggested that students set their phones to gray scale, turn off notifications or set app and screentime limits as ways to reduce their phone usage and get that time back.”

“We aimed to make LinC Day a good balance of rest, learning and fun, and I think the mind/body connection workshop hit all three of those goals,” says LinC leader Char Machiels ’25, who helped facilitate the mind/body connection workshop and lead a yoga session in the AFC. Students also spent time on relaxing screen-free activities like making friendship bracelets and coloring.

Associate Dean of Students KC Hambleton says she’s incredibly proud of all the work the student leaders put into making LinC Day such a success. “They spent weeks planning the day and then showed tremendous leadership in both their opening presentation and their running of the workshops,” she says. “I saw them adapt on the fly to ensure that each workshop was running smoothly and effectively and that their peers were engaged and learning.”

After all, as Gupta emphasized, our brains produce serotonin and oxytocin — often referred to as “happy chemicals” — from real-life human connections.