Caring Research, Health

Laughter and Your Immune System

Laughter and Your Immune System

While some may struggle with finding something to laugh about, it is important now with the current global situation more than ever.

Laughter isn’t called the “best medicine” for nothing. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, the short-term benefits are impressive. The upsurge in oxygen not only increases endorphins, but it can also soothe tension and relieve stress.

On the longer term benefits side, laughter offers a critical bonus to our day to day lives. Laughter can improve our immune system overall along with enhancing our mood and personal satisfaction. Believe it or not, even a fake laugh will have a smaller effect. But, that effect can easily grow stronger and more permanent as we learn to flex our giggle muscle and get serious about adding laughter in our day.

Do a search on “silly videos” and you will find a whole new world of things that make you laugh. From animals to babies to funny life situations where we could all find ourselves someday. There are plenty of cat videos to watch and laugh at for long moments at a time. One of our favorites is of babies laughing, for their laugh is pure comedy gold. Babies have a very contagious laughter and we highly recommend it when you are feeling blue to find one or two and laugh along with them!

With the current COVID-19 pandemic shelter at home order in effect, the Getty Museum has a challenge where you recreate a work of art with objects and people in your home. Trust us, the creative genius in some of the submissions is hysterical. There are many apps offered on smartphones.  Try “fun facts: laughter and learning” or one of the many laughter sound apps. It’s uplifting to just try them out!

One of our team member’s personal pledge is every January 1st is to find one million things to laugh about during the year. She sets herself up to find the funny everywhere. We can’t honestly tell you that in the last 15 years she has actually met her goal, however, she says it has been a lot of fun trying.

Giggle on, people!

We are all sharing!

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way! If you would like caring messages throughout the week, follow us on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter!

Health, Self-Care

Heart Smart

Heart Smart

With the beginning of the 2020 new year, we often have resolutions for more self-care to help improve our health. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) love sharing tools and caring resources to help members build healthy lifestyles for their bodies and minds. One of our favorite organizations that can help with this is HeartMath^™. HearthMath^™ has a new tool that is both online and can be found in a classroom to help grow caring children.

Smart Brain Wise Heart™

Smart Brain Wise Heart™ (SBWH) is a program that helps facilitate social and emotional learning. In the classroom, students learn are able to learn at their own pace. During this time, instructors are able to reinforce key skills that can help them regulate their emotional wellbeing. SBWH is a program that draws on the best of young peoples’ brains and hearts to help empower them to make smarter decisions. The results can range from gaining greater self-control and thus successfully navigate academic and social situations that life can bring.

How the Program Structure Works

The core of SBWH are eight short and engaging animation videos. These videos present key practices and ideas that are related to important social and emotional learning competencies. Instructors have ample support from a variety of activities. This allows the instructors freedom and flexibility to choose the type of course lessons that best address the diverse needs of the students. When each unit begins, there is a short video overview that is often followed by short vocabulary definitions, and then a video presentation. Below is a layout of the SBWH learn process.

The Smart Brain Wise Heart Learning Process

Want to learn more? Watch the video about the Smart Brain Wise Heart Social & Emotional eLearning Program on YouTube.

Smart Brain Video

Would you like to know more about Unified Caring Association? Check out our blogs on Shaping Your Heart, Appreciation Techniques: Heart-Focused Breathing & Heart-Lock In, and The Science of Kindness! Would you like to keep up with UCA activities? Check us out on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter for updates throughout the week!

Benefits, Health, Self-Care, Unified Caring Association

Moonbeam for Emotions

Moonbeam for Emotions

Moonbeam for Emotions

On the adventure of life, we have a slew of emotions that can be difficult to understand. Unified Caring Association (UCA) has a tool to help us all out: Moonbeam Feeling Pack. Moonbeam is a way for us to begin understanding and harnessing emotions, to reach goals, and to connect with others in new and enlightening ways that can fill out hearts with joy!

Moonbeam Feeling Pack

UCA has a wonderful and caring tool to help us identify feelings. Creative cards depict a range of emotions from sadness to happiness and stressed to enlightened. Moonbeam, the easy-to-remember name of the character, helps illuminate connections between emotions we are having. The deck of cards includes 144 emotion cards with Moonbeam images. This deck has 72 heavy emotions and the corresponding positive emotions to help the user learn how to transmute our emotions. To further assist the user, there is a feeling dictionary with definitions of all the emotions in this deck of cards. When we “face” our feelings, we can use them for good. We can find our way to better self-care, wellness, happiness, and wisdom.

Moonbeam
Moonbeam cards and book

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (E.Q.) is a field of study that can be thought of a lot like intelligence quota (I.Q.) in the sense that we can develop and train our minds to become increasingly smarter and our hearts to recognize emotions. One example  of E.Q. in action is through the ability to keep emotions, like stress, from overtaking or disrupting our lives. With clear understanding of what E.Q. is, we are better equipped to manage life and all stressors it can contain. There are many different models designed by psychologists for emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman’s is the one that is most often referenced. Five key areas of emotional intelligence are outlined as: self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Understanding our emotions ties into self-management. This skill involves the ability to reflect upon your emotions and better make choices. 

Developing E.Q. Through Moonbeam

To help grow caring children, teens, and skills sets like E.Q., UCA’s Moonbeam Feeling Pack is a key resource. This pack is available online in our Caring Community Store. This tool will help develop life skills in communication with others and ourselves. Once we can own and harness these feelings, we can promote healing, authenticity and positivity in ourselves and our caring communities. “Being emotionally smart means being able to feel and deal with emotions [yours and other people’s].” (Unified Caring Association

Developing E.Q. is a lot like meditation, gratitude journaling, or other healthy habits. They all take conscious practice with the intention to better our lives.  Try these steps for 21 days to develop a habit of strengthening your emotional intelligence skills.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

OR at the start of each morning….

Daily Development of Emotional Intelligence

Emotions can be confusing for us in the moment, but with time and practice we can better navigate them. One resource that we can use is the Moonbeam Feeling Pack and Dictionary found on Unified Caring Association’s website. With this tool, we can practice identifying and transmuting emotions while strengthening our emotional Intelligence. Once we begin to understand emotions (ours and those of others) we can more fully and honestly communicate with others, our caring communities, and the world. 

Would you like to know more about Unified Caring Association? Check out our blogs on Shaping Your Heart, Monitoring Health with Biofeedback, and Appreciation Techniques: Heart-Focused Breathing & Heart-Lock In! Would you like to keep up with UCA activities? Check us out on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter for updates throughout the week!

Caring, Health, Self-Care

Self-Care for Caregivers

hands with hearts indicating self-care for caregivers


Caregivers are so important, but they often forget self-care.

Being a caregiver can add value to life.

To begin with, caregivers knowing that they are providing the care they know their family member or patient needs can bring great joy and value. But beyond this, caregivers also provide a benefit to society at large, in a very practical way. Caregivers save the government and society from a significant financial concern, translating into millions of dollars (Brickell, et. al, 2019).  From the micro to the macro, caregivers are an integral part of the caring community tapestry of society.

But who takes care of the caregivers?

Let’s be honest. Most times, no one. The caregiver is tasked with caring for themselves while taking care of others. This can be a challenge, especially when the toll can be so emotional, whether on a personal or professional level.

Someone who finds themselves in the role of caregiver, whether personal or professional should not disregard the importance of self-care. 

The definitions for self-care are varied, and guidance can help someone decide which route to self-care is appropriate for them. We at Unified Caring Association want to be wayshowers on your journey towards a good self-care regimen.  Go here: https://unifiedcaringassociationreviews.com/?s=self-care to find articles on this topic to help you begin a self-care journey.   

Studies have shown that self-care for professionals can range from self-awareness and mindfulness, to understanding the delicate balance of one’s own needs and the needs of others (Shapiro, Brown, & Biegel, 2007). 

And surely, these approaches can be applied to personal situations as well. Let’s talk about these ideas. Let’s explore what it means to be a caregiver and take care of yourself in the face of the huge responsibility of caring for another.  

What is self-awareness and mindfulness?

Bringing the light of our consciousness to our thoughts and feelings is by itself, a transformative power

  Namely, Oxford’s dictionary defines self-awareness as “conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings” (Lexico, 2019). In short, this type of mindfulness can feel just like telling yourself that you matter.  For example, every moment you take the time to pay attention to how you’re feeling or what you are thinking about is a conscious choice to say “I matter,” instead of putting yourself and your feelings on the back burner.

The thoughts and feelings you are experiencing can sometimes be overwhelming. 

In particular, it is important to allow yourself to experience your thoughts and feelings without judging yourself. Generally, practice self-compassion. You can hear more about self-compassion and what it means to nurture your heart, by listening to Tara Brach’s talk https://www.tarabrach.com/judgment-self-compassion/.

When you pay attention to your feelings, what you need becomes consciously more important. 

The simple act of awareness becomes a self-correcting process.

Amazingly, this awareness and caring about your state of being will present remedies for what ails you in the moment.  Some days, the perfect medicine will be a walk in your neighborhood. Other days, it may be allowing yourself time to sit and watch a favorite movie (even when there are dishes to do!). Or perhaps, you may want to make time to pursue that hobby you have been thinking about for years. Then again, you may want to sign up for a class. 

Self-care is also asking for help when you need it.

Did you know that help from a therapist is just a phone call away? The NAMI helpline https://www.nami.org/find-support/nami-helpline is available. 

Maybe, you want to get out and do something good for the world.

  Nothing warms the heart like knowing you are making a difference.  Read more about volunteering here: https://www.unifiedcaring.org/?s=volunteering.  

What ever your self-care path looks like, we are here to assist and guide you. 

Please reach out to us here: https://www.unifiedcaring.org/contact-us/.  We want to hear your ideas about what self care looks like for you.

Would you like to know more about Unified Caring Association? Check out our blogs on UCA, Caring Action, and Caring the UCA Way! Would you like to keep up with UCA activities? Check us out on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter for updates throughout the week!

References:

Brickell, t.A, French, L.M., Gartner, R.L., Driscoll, A. E., Write, M.M., Lippa, S.M. & LAnge, R. T. (2019) Factors related to perceived burden among caregivers of service members/veterans floowing TBI. Rehabilitation Psychology, 643 (3),  307-319

Lexico. (2019). Lexico, powered by Oxford. Retrieved from https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/self-awareness

Shapiro, S., Brown, K.B., & Biegel, G. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology 1(2), 105-115. doi:10.1037/1931-3918.1.2.105

Tara Brach, (2019). From judgement to self-compassion (retreat talk). Retrieved from https://www.tarabrach.com/judgment-self-compassion/

Benefits, Caring Connections, Health, Self-Care, Unified Caring Association

Volunteering for Health

volunteering

Volunteer-health

Have you ever felt so good after helping someone else? If so you are not alone! There are so many ways to volunteer your time and skills to help others while giving yourself the gift of self-care. Unified Caring Association (UCA) gives more than three cheers for volunteers. 

Volunteering does more than we often think!

When we give our time and knowledge through volunteering we feel a ‘helper’s high’. This phrase was coined by Allen Luks. He defines this as “…the sense of euphoria that can be experienced soon after helping someone else.” (https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/why-volunteers-live-longer-science-of-kindness/?fbclid=IwAR0xw41uqf5GZK8oyRS6pKCLUzkZgliOe0GTFf0qpNnlfaCOCaDEbnskURM) During this ‘high’ there are two phases. The strongest is the first phase. This phase is characterized by an uplifting and euphoric mood. This is followed by phase two where there is a longer lasting sense of calm. This is almost like taking three big, quick breaths for the mind! What is most interesting is that “..the greatest effect (the high) was observed in helping strangers.” (https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/why-volunteers-live-longer-science-of-kindness/?fbclid=IwAR0xw41uqf5GZK8oyRS6pKCLUzkZgliOe0GTFf0qpNnlfaCOCaDEbnskURM) As when we talk about meditation and or mindfulness activities we see a reduced risk in depression. We infer that the same positive effects happen during volunteering activities as those of meditation and or grounding yourself in nature.

How else can volunteering help us?

Along with creating a healthy, caring social network “…volunteerism was associated with a markedly lower risk of dying. Depending on the study, the decrease in death rates ranged between 20 to 60%.” (https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/why-volunteers-live-longer-science-of-kindness/?fbclid=IwAR0xw41uqf5GZK8oyRS6pKCLUzkZgliOe0GTFf0qpNnlfaCOCaDEbnskURM) This lower risk of dying can be linked to how those who volunteer take care of their own personal health. Often times those who volunteer make a larger effort to take care of their well-being. An example is regular preventive care visits to their doctor.

Sharing caring through connection

When we are volunteering we are likely exerting “…its positive health effects by connecting people to others and to an activity that they find meaningful. Achieving connection, purpose, and meaning is critical to attenuating stressors of life—particularly loneliness. Since stress is a major cause of disease, especially heart disease, the ability to quench the need for connection, purpose, and meaning can bring about beneficial and salutary changes for people. And when there is [a] purpose and we are connected to others, we take care of ourselves.” (https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/why-volunteers-live-longer-science-of-kindness/?fbclid=IwAR0xw41uqf5GZK8oyRS6pKCLUzkZgliOe0GTFf0qpNnlfaCOCaDEbnskURM)

When UCA held a recent scholarship contest. One of the questions asked was in regards to if there is one thing you would change in the world, what would it be? We are still moved by one response written. This was by TiAnna Olivas. She writes, “Volunteering not only has a positive impact on the people and organization, it reshapes the way you view life as well. Volunteering provides the opportunity to meet new people, gain new experiences, and make a productive influence on the world around you…I have gained so much from my personal experiences with volunteering. I volunteer with the local pantry and the people there are so kind and have taught me so much. Volunteering with them, I have witnessed how they live an abundant life, filled with making the people around them happy. I strive to be like them, being a light in this dark world. (https://www.unifiedcaring.org/tianna-olivas/)

Let us at UCA help you with ways to volunteer!

Unified Caring Association has suggested resources to begin, continue or expand volunteering. One resource is the National Volunteering Caregiving Alliance. Through this network members can connect to about 700 communities throughout the U.S. This network is to help provide volunteer caregivers by connecting community programs and organizations to those in need.

A second resource available for UCA members is access to The Corporation for National and Community Service. This organization plays a key role in supporting the culture of service in the U.S.A. It is here that you can find a volunteering opportunity. There are so many volunteer categories, the sky’s the limit! For example we could search for volunteer opportunities in food banks and soup kitchens, collecting clothing and items in need for the homeless, or spending time assisting the elderly.

Volunteering word cloud, heart concept

In short, volunteering is not only helpful to those you are spending time with, but helpful in our own self-care journey as well. Let’s give many cheers for those of us that spend time volunteering. Thank you for all you do!

Would you like to know more about Unified Caring Association? Check out our blogs on UCA, Caring Action, and Caring the UCA Way! Would you like to keep up with UCA activities? Check us out on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter for updates throughout the week!

Health, Sharing Caring, Unified Caring Association

Enriching Lives and Communities with Education

Enriching Lives

— Norah Colvin

Education has the power to enrich lives. By education, I mean all of life’s experiences that contribute to learning. Sometimes these experiences occur in school. Mostly they don’t. Schooling is but a small part of ones’ education, and its ability to enrich varies depending on: an individual’s circumstances and attitudes to school and learning. the […]

via Enriching Lives and Communities with Education — Norah Colvin
Health, Self-Care, Sharing Caring

Alternative Exercise Benefits

Alternative Exercise

From When Women Inspire

If you cannot perform high impact, aerobic exercises, you might want to consider low impact exercises like yoga instead. The alternative exercise benefits for mental and physical health and body may surprise you.

via Alternative Exercise Benefits for Mental Health and Body

Health, Sharing Caring, Unified Caring Association

12 Ways to Wake Up Happier Tomorrow Morning

12 ways

Our Better Health

“We’d be happier if only things were different, right? If we had more money or a better job or weighed 20 pounds less? With these positivity -boosting strategies, you can be happier right now—no life changes needed. Set your mind on being happy. Being happy is not about what you have or what happens to you…”

via 12 Ways to Wake Up Happier Tomorrow Morning (and Every Morning)

Health, Sharing Caring, Unified Caring Association

Be Kind — Plants and Beyond

 

~Isn’t that simple? Simply Be Kind. It is contagious. A fascinating feature of kindness is that it self-replicating and inspiring kindness in others. When we ourselves perform an act of kindness, this is likely to encourage others to act in a similar way. One study conducted at Cambridge University found that seeing someone else helps […]

via Be Kind — Plants and Beyond

Health, Sharing Caring, Unified Caring Association

Don’t Miss the Opportunity to Show Kindness — MakeItUltra™ Psychology

 

Written by Dr. Perry, PhD Image Credit: Pixabay This past weekend, I was out running errands that I wasn’t able to complete during the week. Between my work and personal life, I seem to be always running towards something. It feels as if my life is moving at a fast speed. I personally do not […]

via Don’t Miss the Opportunity to Show Kindness — MakeItUltra™ Psychology