Feel Good News

The Science of Kindness

The Science of Kindness

Wednesday was a day filled with kindness as people shared caring acts and messages around the world in honor of World Kindness Day. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) are drawing inspiration from all of these kind acts and keeping the momentum up. We recently read an article on the Good News Network that informs us about a new institute whose primary directive is to research kindness.

A New “Kind” of School

Kindness has been shown to be beneficial to our physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as promote a fulfilling and long life. Since kindness is such a large and important topic, the University of California Los Angeles decided to open a school just for researching kindness. “There are countless other ways that different compassionate acts and lifestyle changes can affect one person, let alone society…[UCLA] has just announced that they will be launching the world’s first interdisciplinary research institute on kindness.” This is all made possible by The Bedari Foundation. This private family foundation aims “…to enable significant cultural shifts in the fields of health and wellness, community displacement and environmental conservation.” They offered the gift of $20 million to help establish this school at UCLA.

Kindness Studies

This institute will begin operating immediately. It will take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding kindness. These researchers will do this by using biological, evolutionary, psychological, cultural and sociological, as well as economic perspectives. Some of the focuses for researchers from many disciplines and external organizations who are gathering at the institute will be researching “…the actions, thoughts, feelings and social institutions associated with kindness.”

The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute will support world-class research on kindness. Some of the focus will be on creating opportunities to apply the kindness research to the real-world. Also, the institute will serve as a global platform for communicating findings, helping educate the world on the science of kindness. The institute hopes to use its research to empower citizens and inspire leaders to build more humane societies. This caring research is a wonderful way to promote caring around the world. Additionally, the research is helping set in motion acts of kindness that can help make the world a better place. UCLA chancellor Gene Block comments that “universities should always be places where we teach students to reach across lines of difference and treat one another with empathy and respect — even when we deeply disagree.” It is Chancellor Block’s hopes that the new institute will gather some of the best minds and hearts to bring forth top ideas on the vital issue of kindness. The sciences of kindness and how we apply that knowledge to government, economics, and general welfare of our communities gives us real hope for a solid social impact, now and for future generations. 

What Have Researchers Already Begun Studying?

In previous blogs we have mentioned how kindness and caring acts are contagious, in a good way. UCLA anthropologists are examining this phenomena of kindness that spreads from person to person and group to group. One study underway is the study of “…how people who regularly act unkind might be encouraged to engage in kind acts instead.” Also, UCLA psychologists are conducting studies on how kindness can improve our moods and reduce symptoms of depression. “Others are pursuing research on changes in neurobiology and behavior resulting from mindfulness, and how those changes can influence kindness and people’s mental, physical and social well-being.” 

But Wait, There’s MORE!

There is more for those of us who are looking for more excitement. The Kindness Institute will provide seed funding for projects that research and examine the mechanics of kindness, both social and physical. This could give us insight on how people and their communities can harness kindness to create more humane, caring societies. The Good News Network also reports that “It also will provide mindfulness awareness training to students, faculty and staff and in underserved Los Angeles communities, and host an annual conference at which presenters will examine new discoveries in kindness research, among other activities.” Matthew Harris, one of the The Bedari Foundation’s co-founders and UCLA alumni,  states, “Our vision is that we will all live in a world where humanity discovers and practices the kindness that exists in all of us … Much research is needed to understand why kindness can be so scarce in the modern world. As we seek at Bedari to bridge the divide between science and spirituality, through the establishment of the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute we hope to educate and empower more and more people in the practice of kindness.”

We are so excited to hear about all of the kindness being brought into our caring communities. We thank every person who participates in caring acts to help make our world a better place for us all!

Craving more kindness? Read more blogs about acts of kindness in our communities, teaching caring kids, and caring for others. If you would like some more caring in your week, follow us on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Caring Connections, Charity Work

Caring Acts of Kindness Help Lift Us Up

Caring Acts of Kindness Can Help Lift Us Up

There are many ways that we can stay healthy, such as eat right and exercise. One thing we don’t often hear about is caring acts of kindness. When we do kind things for others, we feel better and become healthier people. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) want to share just why caring acts of kindness lifts us up.

Giving back has an effect on your body. 

In and article on Huffington Post titled we are able to read about how helping others promotes health. In the article the authors comment on studies that show the effects of donating to charity has on the body. The area of the brain responsible for feelings of reward is triggered. Feel-good chemicals release and often spur you to do more kind acts. This is what psychologists often call “helper’s high.” 

There is more than just a physical feel-good sensation that we experience when performing acts of kindness; our minds get a boost too! If we donate to charity or volunteer to help the elderly at a senior center we get a boost to our self-esteem. Ultimately we can become more optimistic and positive people. The more regularly that we do kind acts the stronger social connectedness becomes, and the more confident we can become. “Being a force for good in a friend’s life can help build a lasting bond. When you help others, you give off positive vibes, which can rub off on your peers and improve your friendships,” according to a study by the National Institutes of Health. “Both parties will contribute to maintaining a mutually beneficial dynamic. Having a positive impact on someone else could help you change your own outlook and attitude.”

With a positive outlook and better physical health we begin to have a clearer head. UnitedHealth Group found that  78% of volunteers reported that they felt less stress after charitable activities. Also they were calmer and more peaceful than people who don’t volunteer.

A clear head gives us a clear perspective on our own situation. This often allows us to be more appreciative of what we have. The Global One Foundation describes volunteering as a way to “promote a deeper sense of gratitude as we recognize more of what is already a blessing/gift/positive in our life.“ 

Empowered to do good.

When we volunteer or perform acts of kindness, we feel more empowered, rewarded and fulfilled.  According to a survey by the UnitedHealth Group, 96% of people who volunteered over the last 12 months said volunteering enriches their sense of purpose.

Whether with a large group of people in a volunteer organization, or just between two friends exchanging words of advice, helping people creates a feeling of community. “Face-to-face activities such as volunteering at a drop-in center can help reduce loneliness and isolation,” according to the Mental Health Foundation.

Caring Acts of Kindness are Contagious.

According to a study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, University of Cambridge and University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom, acts of kindness, giving of our time, and volunteering are contagious. “When we see someone else help another person it gives us a good feeling,” the study states, “Which in turn causes us to go out and do something altruistic ourselves.“ So, it begins to spread from one person to the next, and hopefully across the world, to create a more caring place for all of us to live in.

We are happy to celebrate the positive effects of caring acts of kindness on the body which also helps us feel more empowered. With all of the people we come into contact with while sharing our acts of kindness, the “caring cooty” becomes contagious, spreading throughout our caring communities.

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!

Caring Connections, Connecting, Sharing, Unified Caring Association

Giving Helps Promote Happiness

Giving Helps Promote Happiness

So much of today’s conversations are around the pursuit of happiness. It seems to be intangible but important to most of us. If we take a step back and ask ourselves one root question we can begin a journey filled with happiness. What is one thing we can do to increase our happiness that also helps us be more healthy? The answer: Giving with care. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) love to share research, ideas and inspiration on how we can harness giving to help promote happiness in our lives and the lives of others. 

Giving with Care Helps Us Feel Happy

UCA has many ways to share caring near and far, with ourselves, and those we hold close to our hearts. Some of these are in the forms of gifts, resources and tools, and the gift of time. All of these options help us feel happy. It is our joy to hear that there have been numerous studies on this very subject. These studies conclude that giving to others actually helps promote happiness. “Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, saw similar results [in comparison to her colleges] when she asked people to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks.These good feelings are reflected in our biology.” (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you) What else is great is that happiness can be increased by acts of caring and kindness. For example, the giving and receiving of Swedish massages reducing anxiety, depression, and stress hormones.

Researching Happiness

There are many studies out there on happiness and many are very informative on the impact of caring acts. One such study was done by researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland. In this study the researchers wanted to see if there is a difference of happiness levels in the brain between just saying that you will give verses actually giving.  “(They) told 50 people they’d be receiving about $100 over a few weeks. Half of the people were asked to commit to spending that money on themselves, and half were asked to spend it on someone they knew.” (https://time.com/collection/guide-to-happiness/4857777/generosity-happiness-brain/) What is interesting is that the researchers began the study by asking each participant to think about someone they would like to give a gift to and place a monetary value on that generosity. Then they scanned the brains of the participants with an MRI machine to measure the activity levels of areas in the brain that are associated with social behavior, decision-making, generosity and happiness. “Their choices—and their brain activity—seemed to depend on how they had pledged to spend the money earlier. Those who had agreed to spend money on other people tended to make more generous decisions throughout the experiment, compared to those who had agreed to spend on themselves.” (https://time.com/collection/guide-to-happiness/4857777/generosity-happiness-brain/)  Ultimately, it didn’t matter how much the participants spent on others. The results showed that giving helped with increased feelings of happiness. We are happy to read that the participants in this study reported higher levels of happiness upon completion of the experiment. There was an additional surprise for the researchers during these scans. The participants also had more interaction between altruism and happiness!

Altruism, tell me more please?

Altruism is when we put the needs of others before those of our own. Some examples are holding the door open for someone entering or leaving at the same time as you, offering your bus seat to a senior, or our favorite is offering to pick up coffee our colleagues. These care-giving acts have positive effects upon our mental wellbeing and helps reduce stress

Health

If we feel happier, then we tend to be healthier too! In his book Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Stephen Post, a professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University, reports that giving to others has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illness, including HIV and multiple sclerosis. (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you) This evidence is backed up by a 1999 study led by Doug Oman of UC Berkeley in California. He found that of the seniors who volunteered for multiple organizations were almost 50% less likely to die than non-volunteers. “Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan saw similar results in a 2003 study on elderly couples. She and her colleagues found that those individuals who provided practical help to friends, relatives or neighbors, or gave emotional support to their spouses, had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period than those who didn’t.” (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you) Why is this connection between giving and happiness so strong? Most of the research published on the web shows that when people give and volunteer, it activates areas of the brain connected with pleasure, trust and social connection. We often feel this as a warm glow or what is often referred to as the ‘helper’s high.’

Ideas on Ways to Give

Giving with care is a great way to promote happiness in our lives and those we encounter. Now the question comes into play, how do we pick one or more ways to give? Do we start big or small? With those we know, or with someone we pass on the street? The truth is that we can start giving in so many ways. Since there are so  many ways to give, we at UCA want to list some ideas.

Happiness comes in so many forms. Giving is a great and easy start. We have big smiles at UCA when ever we have a chance to give with care. We are happy to be able to share this blog with our readers and members. Thank you for the gift of your time while reading this blog.

giving infographic

Unified Caring Association is constantly striving to help create a more caring world. We love sharing more caring information 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.

Scholarships, Unified Caring Association

UCA rewards students for caring

Since 2016, the Unified Caring Association Scholarship program has awarded over one hundred scholarships to caring students. The UCA scholarship program is designed to reward kids for caring while celebrating and encouraging their kindheartedness. Nationwide and program specific scholarships have been created by UCA where students are invited to write a short 500-word essay answering a caring prompt. Some examples of scholarship essay questions are, “How do you plan to live a life that promotes peace and Unity? How will you create the journey to fulfill this purpose?”, “ If you were the President of the United States, what would you do to promote Peace and Unity?” ,  “How can caring and kindness be implemented more in your personal life and in your school?” , and most recently, “If you were the “Caring Ambassador” at your school, what would you do to inspire other students to be more caring?” The UCA scholarship program has been warmly embraced by school guidance counsellors, teachers and students alike. As the students write beautiful essays on the topic of caring they engage their caring intelligence and skills and are reminded of the importance of kindness.

UCA staff report that each essay has its own beauty. “Our scholarship entrants touch our hearts with their caring essays. It is so hard to choose the winners! We have been known to add additional awards in recognition of their caring.”  

The essays are scored on a “caring rubric” rather than the traditional academic rubric most scholarship contests adhere to. This allows students who would not typically be awarded scholarships to be celebrated and awarded for their unique talent … caring and kindness.

 

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Feel Good News, Unified Caring Association

Day 197

It’s day 197 of the Unified Caring Association 365 Days of Caring Challenge! Lack of understanding is one of the biggest barriers to peace. Broaden your point of view by learning something new about another culture or lifestyle!  

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Feel Good News, Unified Caring Association

Day 129

 

It’s day 129 of the Unified Caring Association 365 Days of Caring Challenge! Help a stranger avert a parking ticket today by feeding a meter or two! Sometimes a random act of caring can make someone’s day! 

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