Health People Stimulate and inform

Pausing to smell the roses

Photo: Kel Fowler

A life-giving programme which has been running in Otago companies, schools, local bodies, the prison and university for more than two decades may be adopted nationally, such is its success.

The Time to Live programme seems to provide a “sense of hope and health”, says the man who developed it, Dunedin clinical counsellor Peter Frost.

Time to Live is exactly about that – people don’t appear to have enough time left to live after tasks and work are ended.”

They are fooled into thinking that working hard will satisfy their needs, dreams and hopes and yet it can do the opposite and can destroy health, marriages and life, he says.

After participating in the programme, professionals report that they’ve changed their lifestyle and work-style, also that their careers have become more successful and satisfying.

Thirty years ago, Peter wrote and started presenting Time to Live. He began teaching it at the University of Otago 22 years ago and has taught it there every year since.

“Students said these were the best lectures they’d ever had and that ‘this stuff really mattered’.”

An expert team has been formed and the programme is being considered for all first-year University of Otago students.

Dunedin clinical counsellor Peter Frost

The Minister of Health Dr David Clark and others came to a Time to Live presentation and expressed interest, Peter says. He says the Ministry of Health may consider adopting a national six-hour community version at some stage.

The programme structure

The first part of the programme shows that hard work is killing genuine, well-meaning people, and sets out how that happens. It includes strong data about why human physiology and neurology can’t survive under the pressure of heavy workloads.

Having considered how people have viewed success and happiness over the centuries, Time to Live then looks at the effects of stress, neglect, abuse and harm.

It helps participants understand how and why people make decisions.

Next the programme examines dopamine production and what scientifically happens when people spend too much time using computers, cellphones or watching television late at night.

The blue light generated mimics sunlight and so the brain interprets this as daylight and switches on unwanted neurochemicals.

“It becomes a serious risk environment for everyone affected.”

The resulting over-production of stress hormones repeatedly at night can be “deadly dangerous”, he says.

Such use of technology which interrupts sleep patterns detrimentally affects dream cycles, eating cycles and melatonin production, which is a key element of mood management.

Having explained scientifically why rest and sleep patterns matter, the programme discusses this critical hierarchy:

  • Sleep, the most important element of survival
  • Recreation, with an emphasis on “re-creation” through eating; forming relationships; and doing things necessary for a satisfying lifestyle
  • Work

Peter says society orders this hierarchy differently.

There is an overemphasis on work, particularly to the detriment of sleep.”

Taking time to rest and not overwork is part of Time to Live. Photo: Kel Fowler

Providing tools to improve mental health

World Health Organisation statistics show that in New Zealand in the last eight years, there has been an 11 per cent year-on-year increase in anxiety emergency presentations and that in 2016-17, there was a 300 per cent rise in calls to emergency services about anxiety and depression.

When New Zealand’s mental health is discussed, the classic response is that relationship breakdown is a main cause, Peter says.

Time to Live looks at a way of altering this relationship breakdown problem, providing tools to avoid or overcome it.

“The programme develops all these things, which appears to carry people through an understanding of why things aren’t working well at the moment; where we’ve lost our way; what the alternatives are.

“It seems to provide for a sense of hope and health.”

He says programme participants retain what they’ve learned, do survive and live well and decades later, report that “it works”.

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For further information:

To find out about Time to Live tutorial-style community workshops, please contact Peter Frost at [email protected]


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