“Stress” has become increasingly recognized as playing an important role in a number of diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and various psychiatric and neurological disorders. An increase in stress-related disorders is believed to be a byproduct of our modernized, industrialized, and urbanized lives. A number of lifestyle approaches and relaxation techniques have been proposed to counteract the ill effects of stress, and many have been incorporated in new visions of personalized and preventive healthcare.
The course “Classic and Contemporary Approaches for Stress Management” aims to introduce ancient wisdom lifestyle approaches for promoting health to students of the modern era, through observing traditional practices and undertaking experiential activities. Students will have the opportunity not only to study but also to observe and experience the concept of the "Bios Pythagorikos" (the Pythagorean Way of Life) in Greece, a holistic way of living that has been implemented for thousands of years. Students will also be able to compare and contrast these ancient lifestyle approaches with modern interventions for stress management.
- Become familiar with the concept of the Pythagorean Way of Life, a holistic way of living meant to help a person better understand their universe and their purpose within that universe.
Your Host Country: Greece
The program will take place in Greece, where "Bios Pythagorikos" was introduced by Pythagoras of Samos, an ancient Greek philosopher, as a lifestyle approach for stress relief and management. Greece is the cradle of Western civilization, and the birth place of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature, historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama, including both tragedy and comedy. In addition, Greece is the home country of Hippocrates, a physician who lived during Greece’s Classical period, and is traditionally regarded as the father of medicine. His famous quote "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" is the cornerstone of current integrated and lifestyle medicine. Although small, Greece is huge in its cultural and natural diversity, being a cultural crossroad of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and encompassing landscapes that remain incredibly vivid and of unrivalled beauty; the country provides the opportunity to explore numerous cultural sites, over 5,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, and mountainous mainland with a breath-taking scenery.
The program offers a unique opportunity for students to familiarize with ancient wisdom lifestyle approaches for promoting health, as well as study and experience the fundamental principles and components of stress management from both classic and contemporary perspectives. Classical Greek approaches included a healthy vegetarian diet, regular daily vigorous exercise, spending time outdoors, being involved in some type of social activity where social connections were made, and participation in philosophical group discussions (dialectical discussions) that were meant to help a person better understand their universe and their purpose. These will be compared with contemporary interventions ranging from cognitive-behavioural to pharmacological therapies. During the 2-week course, some days will be devoted to theoretical lectures and discussion sessions on the scientific and cultural themes of the day combined with workshops, experiential activities or studying. Other days will be devoted entirely to field trips and interactive educational activities, including visits to monumental sites, demonstrations of Mediterranean lifestyle practices by local community members as well as collective sports activities in nature.
Tentative 2017 Syllabus
During the first week, the program’s educational activities will take place in Athens, the capital of Greece, one of the world's oldest cities. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state, a centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, and it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely because of its cultural and political impact on the European continent. In modern times, Athens is a large cosmopolitan metropolis and central to economic, financial, industrial, maritime, political and cultural life in Greece. While in Athens, students will visit monumental sites and archaeological places, where they will become familiar with ancient Greek practices for health promotion and dietary and exercise regimens for stress management, as well as experience other opportunities that the city has to provide.
The second week of the program will take place in Samos Island, the birthplace of Pythagoras. While in Samos, students will have the opportunity to walk in the steps of Pythagoras and learn about his life and philosophical work with emphasis on the "Bios Pythagorikos" (the Pythagorean Way of Life). Educational activities will focus on the relationship between stress and chronic diseases, on the biological ways the human body responses to stress, on the history and evolution of stress management as part of modern lifestyle medicine, as well as on the commonalities and differences between ancient mindfulness practices and modern relaxation approaches. Students will also have the opportunity to practice stress relief techniques as a mean to obtain skills on implementing lifestyle approaches for stress managements, and to experience stress relief themselves.
- Kardaras, N. (2011). How Plato and Pythagoras Can Save Your Life: The Ancient Greek Prescription for Health & Happiness. San Francisco, CA: Conari Press.
- Portfolio (provided).
- Athens-Attica Guide, Ministry of Tourism, Greek National Tourism Organization (provided).
- Articles and research papers relevant to the course's learning objectives (provided), e.g., Toobert D.J. et al. Biologic and quality-of-life outcomes from the Mediterranean lifestyle program: A randomized clinical trial. Diabetes Care. 2003; 26(8): 2288-93.
- Textbook: Foundations for a Healthy Lifestyle, edited by Labros Sidossis.
Students will have a portfolio of evidence in which they will record all the information necessary to demonstrate completion of the specific objectives and any other relevant information. More specifically, students will describe and evaluate their experiences in Greece, as well as undertake short educational activities associated with the program’s topics, in order to help cover the program’s main learning objectives and assess the knowledge, the skills, and the competencies they obtained.
The portfolio will be completed through the PAL (Peer Assisted Learning) educational method. The term PAL essentially means that each student will work in collaboration with at least one other student in order to develop their knowledge and skills.
For undergraduate students: Students are expected to work in small groups (4-5 students) to prepare a 15-minute presentation. The topic of the presentation will be “My journey to the the Bios Pythagorikos and its relation to contemporary approaches for stress management”, and students will be required to present their experiences in Greece related to the course’s learning objectives.
For graduate students: Students are expected to complete an individual written assignment (2500 words) and a 10-minute formal presentation related to the course’s learning objectives. The written assignment topics will be assigned before the end of the course in Greece.
Accommodations and Meals
Accommodation and most meals are included in the program’s fees. In Athens, students will stay at a hotel close to the center of the city, while in Samos Island students will stay in local traditional rent rooms or guest houses. Meals will be either offered in the selected accommodations or provided by local establishments as part of the program’s educational activities. If students want to purchase extra foods or snacks, there will be opportunities for them to visit local supermarkets (not included in the program’s cost, as applies to any other personal expenses). In all locations, bedding (sheets, pillows, blankets if necessary) will be provided, although students are welcome to bring their own equipment if they prefer.