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, Self-Care, Unified Caring Association

Mid-Life Adventures

Mid-Life Adventures
Mid-Life Quote

First we see the world; then we crawl to explore; next we walk to share how much we care; then we run, experiencing all we can. But what happens after we run? Mid-life brings up a slew of new questions. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) celebrate each stage of life, the adventure that can happen, and strive to have caring tools and resources for our UCA members. During the stage of mid-life, we can have a very different adventure than running head-long into crisis.

A majority of UCA’s members are entering or in this time of life.

Often when we arrive to ages 45-65, we can enter a “mid-life crisis.” So much research has gone into this phenomena, and this mid-life time has become much better understood. There are ways to thrive during this time. What an exciting thought to have a mid-life NO crisis! We can by learning our needs at this very stage in life. We developed a simple tool called “Mid-Life NO Crisis” that helps people focus on being strong and powerful in their Mid-Life stages. This is a time of changing needs, and attitude plays a big role. Choosing to be vital and thrive makes all the difference to emerge strong into the next stage of life.

The 5 Areas

Five areas demand our attention when we are entering or going through mid-life. These focus on nutrition, caring for our minds, our relationships, and more

5 Areas During Mid-Life

Mid-Life NO Crisis 

UCA’s Mid-Life NO Crisis is a kit of 4 x 6” high-quality cards. These cards cover the five areas listed in the infographic above that demand our attention in mid-life. Accompanying this deck of cards are instructions and suggestions for their use. This is a caring resource for UCA members at no cost! What a great deal and addition to all of our caring tools and resources that our members have access too!

Soon, the Mid-Life NO Crisis kit will also be made available for purchase to the public.  Watch for it in the Caring Community Store.

We at UCA are always looking for new ways to share caring with our UCA members and caring community. Whether it is caring apps for growing caring children and teens, self-care tools to energize our minds, or resources for caregivers who help care for seniors we are growing and love sharing it all with ur caring community! With caring tools, tips and tricks, and resources we can travel our life’s journey with little or not crises.

Would you like to read more about Unified Caring Association? Caring Connection 24-7, UCA & Scholarships, How to Improve the World By Caring, and It All Starts With Self-Care are just some of our other blogs that are wonderful, quick reads. Or, check out our website to read more about Unified Caring Association memberships, caring communities, our Caring Challenge and more!

Caring Connections, Sharing Caring, Unified Caring Association

Caring Communities to Help Stop Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying

BlueUp

In most communities there are times when we are faced with challenges, negativity or bullying. The internet has not been spared from this, especially on social media platforms. This newest form of internet harassment is often referred to as cyberbullying. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) want to help source tools and share resources to help others and our children learn the skills needed to stop current forms of bullying and prevent any future bullying from happening.

Cyberbullying History

Bullying and forms of hate or discrimination have been around for most, if not all of human history. With the advent of the internet in the 1990’s there came a new form of bullying: cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to harass, trash talk, or bully a person. Often times this is typically done by sending messages that can be intimidating or threatening in nature. One of the first pervasive examples of this is seen through Monica Lewinski’s experiences. At this time her private life became public, and people began to ridicule her as fast as a wildfire in dry grass. Since then she has become a prominent anti-bullying advocate, even giving a strong TedTalk on the subject.

Cyberbullying has become a more common issue in households and schools, especially for children and teens. Often we hear about messages that are hurtful or degrading left on one or more kid’s social media account from their peers. This begs the question: what tools and organizations can we turn to to help our children dispel cyberbullying?

Stomp Out Bullying

UCA has aligned itself with Stomp Out Bullying, a leading national nonprofit that dedicates itself to changing to a caring culture for all children. This organization works to prevent and reduce bullying/cyberbullying. Also Stomp Out Bullying educates people against LGBTQ discrimination and racism in an effort to deter violence in schools and in communities (online and offline) across the U.S. This organization teaches effective responses and solutions to bullying, cyberbullying, etc. They do this using in-school and online education programs for kids and teens. In addition to their education programs, Stomp Out Bullying provides help for people in need or at-risk of suicide. They raise awareness through public service announcements, peer mentoring programs in schools, and social media campaigns.

#BlueUp

October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Every year the first Monday of October is World Day of Bullying Prevention™ where students, communities, and schools raise awareness by wearing the color blue. Stomp Out Bullying has unique blue shirts to commemorate this day and further bring this national challenge into the spotlight. But, we can all just unify under the color blue to show support as well. This strong unified voice will help the world hear and see that our culture needs to change to be more caring. This is the 12th year that Stomp Out Bullying has began this quest and they have a wonderful slogan for their shirts: ‘Make Bullying History.’ This event will help “…speak for all of our youth who are tormented by bullying, cyberbullying, cruelty, hatred, racism, homophobia and LGBTQ discrimination…[we] stand together to MAKE BULLYING HISTORY!” (Stomp Out Bullying)

Unified Caring Association is constantly striving to help create a more caring world. We love sharing more caring information and resources on our website and through blogs that share caring in our community, activities, and reviews. We also send out caring posts on our social media accounts (Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter) to give inspiration throughout the week. 

Caring Connections, Scholarships, Sharing Caring

Thank You All of Our Scholarship Applicants

thank you

Thank-you-scholarships-piggy bank

Throughout each year, Unified Caring Association (UCA) holds scholarship contests to help those of all age ranges with funding for their education. Our recent fall applicants all had wonderful and caring essays that they submitted.

If you could change one thing in the world to make it a more caring place, what would you change? This was our most recent topic for the category for U.S. high school juniors and seniors. We were so impressed and moved by common themes we read that we shared them in our blog posts: Themes from Scholarships 2019 – Empathy to Passion, Themes from Essays – Gratitude, The Little Things Count, and Themes from Scholarships-Understanding Others: We are All Human. In these blogs we amplify these caring thoughts and actions, celebrating the growth, success, and innovative thinking for solving problems currently happening and in the future. 

With these students we are looking at a brighter future. We are proud to honor these caring young adults who are taking steps in unique ways to create a better, more caring world. Thank you, and we are looking forward to your continued success!

twitter-Thank-You-Scholarships

Want to read more about UCA Scholarships? Click Here to link to our website. Would you like to catch the latest caring UCA activities and blogs? We love to share them on our social media feeds (Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter) in addition to posting them to the blog sites.

Self-Care, Sharing Caring, Unified Caring Association

Getting Better at What We Care About

getting better care about

Getting-Better-at-What-We-Care-About

There are many things as aspects of our lives that we care about: caring for our family, our performance at work, or even our physical fitness and health. But we can often find ourselves with little desire or in a struggle to improve. There are many ways we can strive to be better at what we care about. One of the best ways to begin a self-care or self-improvement journey is with mind, then follow with action.

Growth Mindset

Growth mindset is an idea where a person can adopt a practice where their most basic abilities can be continually developed through dedication and hard work. Brains and talents are just a starting point, continually learning and growing is the ‘maintenance’ so to speak. This perspective often fosters resilience and a love of learning which can lead to success. This means that the brain is always growing, building new neural pathways, more resilient, as well as getting stronger.

A Tale of Two Zones… 

In his TedTalk Eduardo Briceño breaks down how to get better at what we care about. He begins talking about two zones that we must go through to get better at one or more skills. The first phase, the learning zone is the desire for improvement and is where the growth mindset lies. To do this “… we do activities designed for improvement, concentrating on what we haven’t mastered yet, which means we have to expect to make mistakes, knowing that we will learn from them.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about)This is in contrast to the second zone called the performance zone. The performance zone is where we execute our task, exercise our skills, “…do something as best as we can…[and] concentrate on what we have already mastered and we try to minimize mistakes.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about) Briceño mentions that often those who are perceived as highly effect and successful deliberately set the intention to alternate between these two zones. The goal for getting better at what we care about is to be clear about what we want in each of these two zones: learning and growth followed by the maximum benefit and success during implementation. Rinse and repeat.

Seems simple, right? The struggle is that many of us don’t improve even if we work really hard. According to Briceño this is because most societies have the mindset that we must stay in the ‘performance zone.” We can see this in many companies where results are the way to be successful, or in classrooms where getting the ‘A’ or ‘100%’ is all that seems to matter. We seem to be missing the learning and experience of failure that makes it possible to get better at what we care about; “…this hinders our growth, and ironically, over the long term, also our performance.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about) The learning zone consists of what “…Dr. Anders Ericsson calls deliberate practice. This involves breaking down abilities into component skills, being clear about what subskill we’re working to improve, …giving full concentration to a high level of challenge outside our comfort zone, just beyond what we can currently do, using frequent feedback with repetition and adjustments, and ideally engaging the guidance of a skilled coach, because activities designed for improvement are domain-specific, and great teachers and coaches know what those activities are and can also give us expert feedback. It is this type of practice in the learning zone which leads to substantial improvement, not just time on task performing.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about)

Often we see a trend of our abilities plateauing during our first five years of an activity. This happens when we think and feel we have become ‘good enough’ and stop spending time in the first zone — the learning zone. We move on to the second zone — the performance zone — where we often remain. While in this second zone we are just doing to get things done as best as we can. If we are practicing mindfulness and taking notes (literally or mentally) we can then go back to the first zone and work on learning and strengthening in the areas that did not work out as well as we had hoped during the performance zone.

To set ourselves up for success we need to do four things according to Briceño: 1) adopt a growth mindset, 2) want to improve a specific skill, 3) have an idea or plan on how to improve said skill, and 4) “…we must be in a low-stakes situation, because if mistakes are to be expected, then the consequence of making them must not be catastrophic, or even very significant. “ (https://www.ted.com/talks/eduardo_briceno_how_to_get_better_at_the_things_you_care_about) If we are able to keep the stress and stakes low for a good amount of the time, we can develop an environment that allows for nurturing a growth mindset. A good take-away from the two zones and how they interact to help us get better at what we care about is to think about it like washing your hair: wash-rinse-repeat. (Click here to watch the full TedTalk video.)

Brain Chemistry 

Ok so we have a good idea about growth mindset and how to continue getting better at what we care about. But what is actually happening with the brain? The key is in how our brain has been evolving from the purely animalistic, instinctive and reactionary wiring that focuses mostly on survival even if our nobel goal is to emphasize the positive and intentional things today. How the brain remembers negative experiences is often through the body producing cortisol during a stressful event. (That T-Rex ate Bob, it was scary, and I remember that! I also remember my friend Bob. He was a cool dude.) “The bad feeling of cortisol has its own survival purpose. It alerts you to an obstacle on the path to meeting your needs so you can navigate your way to good feelings. But once you do that, your brain finds the next obstacle. You will feel bad a lot if you follow your survival brain wherever it leads.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2016/12/21/how-to-train-your-brain-to-go-positive-instead-of-negative/#66ccd9005a58) Fast forward to 2020 and we have a brain that is tuned into looking out for obstacles, and has become very skilled in remembering negative experiences.

It probably takes about three times repeating most positive experiences to make as deep of an impression in the mind as one negative experience. This is based on practices for building self-esteem and self-confidence such as through pep talks like repeating positive sayings to yourself multiple times while looking in the mirror. Doing this will ingrain a pathway and memory in the mind based on positivity, effectively training your brain to look for the positives and not the negatives. A suggestion is to “…spend one minute looking for positives, three times a day for forty five days…Any positives, no matter how small, will build the pathway that seeks and expects positives.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2016/12/21/how-to-train-your-brain-to-go-positive-instead-of-negative/#66ccd9005a58) This will create a healthy habit, and promote the development of a healthy brain.

…And Heart Happenings

Having healthy and learning minds helps us cultivate strong emotional bonds with others and ourselves. It feels good to be successful in endeavors we care about. Previous blogs we have written talk a lot about how positive feelings are good for our us, such as Caring Through the Gift of Time and Volunteering for Health. We see this when we achieve a goal — we and those who support us often are smiling.  We feel the positivity. When a positive outlook is adopted a higher frequency of success is achieved. This in turn creates a positive circuit the feeds itself, and generates more connections during our learning time. An example of this is the saying ‘you’re on fire!’ when someone is just having successful achievement after successful achievement. The excitement is palpable and the momentum is fast.

From what we have been reading and blogging about, this is the ongoing goal of a growth mindset. Most of the time we are happy when we are learning and growing. And one thing is for certain: change is inevitable. This means that it is important to continue to get better at what we care about.

Enjoy what you have been reading? Unified Caring Association has more blogs with caring UCA topics, 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!

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!