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June 2015 News

Volunteering leads to better mental health

  • Written by  Elissa Dowling
DDCS Principal Adrian Fitzpatrick with Dr Tim Jennings Photo: Elissa Dowling

Become a volunteer. It’s good for you.

Adults who are “altruistic” have been shown to suffer less depression, have fewer cases of dementia and even live longer, according to well-known American psychiatrist and international speaker, Dr Tim Jennings, who visited Darling Downs Christian School last month.

Studies have also found meditating on a God of love was shown to lead to better memory and reduced anxiety, Dr Jennings said.

“People who pray are better at coping and adjusting than those who do not,” Dr Jennings said.

“It really is a case of perfect love driving out all fear.”

More than 200 people gathered to hear the master psycho-pharmacologist, lecturer and author, speak on “The Developing Brain”, as part of Dr Jennings’ Australian tour. 

He highlighted four main areas of influence on a child’s brain – human DNA, parents, media, and spirituality. 

He said from birth to the age of 8, a child’s brain undergoes “massive re-modeling”.

“What happens in early childhood is very important in the development of the brain,” Dr Jennings said. “There are also a couple of other vulnerable periods – around the age of 11 in girls and 12 in boys.”

Dr Jennings highlighted that in utero, a mother’s thoughts, stress levels and nutrition can have a positive or negative impact on not only their children, but also their grandchildren’s brain development and structure. 

However, with the brain in a “constant state of growth and flux”, the starting point for a child’s brain didn’t mean they were ever “stuck” where they started.

The family environment a child is brought up within, the amount of media they are exposed to and whether they believe in a loving, approachable God would further influence their brain’s structure, Dr Jennings said. 

Dr Jennings encouraged parents to limit the amount of TV children watched; pointing out the strong link to delayed language development and an over-development of the mood circuits within the brain, often leading to violence and behavioural problems in teens. 

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