Thanksgiving Every Day of Our Lives

The fall season has many of us feeling like Emily Bronte when she said “every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.” For those of us in the United States, this season can be summed up in crisp weather, beautiful scenery, great food, and precious time with loved ones. With the greatness of Fall amongst us and Thanksgiving right around the corner, what better time to remember all the things we are thankful for this year?

The Best Time for Gratitude to Shine

While Thanksgiving serves as our gratitude mirror once a year, science invites us to reflect on what we are thankful for on a daily basis. 2020 aside, we as Americans are stressed, with 55% of our populations experiencing daily stress, we are among the most stressed out populations in the world! Moving from one task to another, dealing with family pressures, society, and our own mental well-being can feel like a lot to juggle.

With all this going on, it is critical we make time in our days to reflect on the things that are going right in our world.  The Research shows that expressing gratitude can lower stress hormones in the body, however, there are a slew of other benefits of giving thanks on a daily basis.

A Grateful Pill to Swallow

Gratitude is a powerful medicine for us humans. Keeping a daily gratitude has the power to transform the way we see and show up in our lives. These are just a few of the side effects of this amazing prescription:

  • Gratitude improves psychological health: According to Robert Emmons, a leading researcher on gratitude, it “effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. It also plays a key role in overcoming trauma and contributes to resilience.
  • Gratitude improves physical health: According to a 2012 study, grateful people experience fewer pains and feel healthier than others. They are also more likely to take better care of their health than their ungrateful peers.
  • Gratitude helps with goal attainment: Robert Emmons’ research concludes that grateful people are strivers and make more progress towards their goals. This is speculated to be because gratefulness is an emotional regulator of goal-directed action.
  • Gratitude leads to better relationship: Countless studies have shown that those who express their appreciation for others makes acquaintances more likely to seek ongoing relationships. It also improves the quality of the relationships we currently have.

A Last Plea for Daily Gratitude

If any of us are still on the fence about hopping on the daily gratitude train, consider the story of Addison Moore (name changed to protect her identity). Addison is a 26-year-old working for a young nonprofit. Meeting her funding goals keeps her in a constant state of anxiety. For all of 2019 and much of 2020, Addison found herself in a constant state of agitation. She woke up complaining about her life, blew up at traffic daily, and found her solace in sleep.

Addison heard about the power of appreciation in a book and began a gratitude journal in may of 2020. Addison was desperate for a change and began jotting down a few things she was grateful for each morning and before dinner. Addison didn’t think it would help and struggled for things to be thankful for.

By August her mind was racing with things she felt grateful for and she reports that her anger has completely vanished. “I still get frustrated sometimes, although it is extremely rare and it doesn’t boil over into rage like it use to. A gratitude journal gave me my life back!”

Do we need any more proof before we give ourselves the gift of living like it’s Thanksgiving every day of our lives? Take it from the scientists who dedicate their time to this study and take it from Addison who did a 180 on her life. Let’s make this gratitude plunge together for Thanksgiving and beyond!

by Mona Nyree Stephens, contributing author

We invite you to discover inspiring and effective ways to care for yourself and to serve others.  Now more than ever, caring is what we all need most. Caring for our self.  Caring for others around us.  Life now demands caring, resilience and compassion like never before.  So, become a Custodian of the Caring Movement and help create the world we need right now, the world we want for our future generations.

UCA resources available to help include the Turbulent Times Resources Center,  radio show, publications and online store offering members huge discounts and always free shipping.

3 Steps to Resolving Conflict in Your Life

Is there any day that passes without a crisis? Your life does not have to be chaos, crises or so turbulent. The key is learning new tools for resolving conflict in your life.

Your life today can feel out of control. Emotions such as anger and frustration can take anyone over in an instant. Unresolved emotions feed nearly all conflict. Stepping out of truth undermines resolution and fuels more conflict. Conflicts become crises when you ignore emotions and step out of your truth.

Life isn’t about avoiding or denying conflict. So, what’s the most powerful thing you can do? You can learn how to deal with conflict quickly, consciously, effectively and truthfully. You can learn intelligent responses to conflict, rather than reacting. You can decide to take actions that lead to peaceful solutions. You can feed your own power to resolve conflicts.

Building your powerful skills to resolve and avert crises takes three steps:

1) Becoming aware of your emotions
2) Seeking the truth
3) Creating peaceful solutions

unresolved emotions and confict

Becoming Aware of Your Emotions

You can gain the tools for naming and taming your emotions. All day long you experience feelings that create emotions. Your heart sends messages to your brain constantly, leading to physiological changes moment to moment directly tied to your emotions. Some emotions cause you to feel depleted or weak. Other emotions have the opposite affect, renewing or strengthening. If you are unable to identify the source and how to move out of depleting emotions, conflict is sure to follow.

list of depleting and renewing emotions

Choosing to leave a depleting emotion to get back to a neutral space immediately and sustainably moves you through and out of conflict. Even better, you can choose to move to an opposite renewing emotion and blast right out of conflict. Knowledge about your emotions is power.

Seeking the Truth

Being truthful allows repeated conflicts to end. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses with speaking your truth gives you immediate access to find more of the truth of any situation. Everything begins with understanding your part of a conflict, your part of a missing truth and your part of any resolution. Too often, we all begin looking to every one but ourselves to find cause, blame and judge. Looking at others merely masks the truth and moves us farther away from where we should be seeking answers. One thing is sure: if you are embroiled in any conflict, you had a part in making it happen.

Five elements of truth must be explored in order to start resolution. These five elements when clearly understood open your perception to the truth behind the words being spoken. When you find yourself in conflict, feel conflict or are reviewing past conflicts, solutions unimagined before emerge when you are honest about these questions:

  • Where do I live my truth the strongest?
  • Where am I the weakest in living truthfully?
  • How do I usually step out of my truth?
  • What are my most truthful qualities?
  • Do I know anyone that is a great example of living truthfully?

The more time you put into these five questions, the faster you become at checking for your truth about what any conflict is really about.

Create Peaceful Solutions

You can see patterns in the way you create conflict in your life. These patterns emerge from your mind. Your mind is an efficient engine for learning ways to get the things you want.

Your ego works hard to protect you from its perceived dangers. Obvious signs of conflict are when your fight, flight or freeze automatic mechanism is triggered. The emotions that cause a flood of biochemical reactions in your body are produced to give you the best chance of surviving an immediate threat. However, today you have little reason to react in this ancient unconscious programmed survival reaction mode to the kind of conflicts and issues present in your life.

Your behavior patterns go beyond ego and survival responses. These patterns also include unconscious beliefs and judgments that generate negative thinking. Let’s just say that “negative thinking” is the constant presence of thoughts that undermine or sabotage your success. Repeating experience-driven memories condition your thinking and responses to all situations you encounter daily. They can haunt you during restless sleep. But, these negative patterns don’t have to be your master. You can reprogram your mind to focus on new thoughts and experiences that are supportive and positive.

Patterns also exist in how you look to resolve conflicts. As you look at the conflicts you have dealt with, a picture emerges of your strategy for resolving conflict. Like an impressionistic painting, all the little blots and strokes of paint add up to a picture when you observe them from a little distance. You have to become aware of how you unconsciously manage conflict. A simple model you can use to determine your default strategy to resolving conflict is called the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument shown here:

thomas kilmann conflict mode instrument

Source: Thomas-Kilmann

Accommodating — cooperating to a high-degree often at own expense and against own goals, objectives and intentions. This approach can be effective when the other party is the expert, has a better solution, or for preserving relationships.

Avoiding — This is simply avoiding the issue. No one’s goals are being achieved. This strategy can work when the issue is not significant, too costly for everyone or when there is no chance of winning. It’s also effective when the atmosphere is emotionally charged and you need to take a pause.

Collaborating — This is where partnering is the approach to achieve both party’s goals. This is breaking through and out of a win-lose approach to conflict, instead working for the win-win. This is where new, previously impossible solutions appear.

Competing — This is the win-lose approach prevalent today. The winners in conflict assertively and aggressively work to achieve their own goals, commonly at the expense of the other party. This approach delivers quick, decisive action at the expense of relationships or even integrity.

Compromising — This is the all lose something scenario where no one achieves what they want. Everyone has goals and this appears to be an easy way to at least meet some amount of goals. However, it leaves no room to produce a better solution that meets longer-term needs for everyone.

Once you are aware of your default strategy in the pattern of conflicts you experience at work, home or in any part of life, then you can choose to take the third step in resolving conflict in your life: empowering peaceful solutions. Peaceful solutions have at their core both the awareness of everyone involved in a conflict and the intention to keep everyone in their power. When people are in their power, they are aligned with their purpose, integrity and intentions

A person who empowers peace is one who:

  • Maintains a good sense of humor
  • Maintains humbleness and humility
  • Maintains integrity
  • Quells the ego and stays in the heart
  • Is not attached to outcome
  • Is not afraid of feelings
  • Does not avoid conflict
  • Listens intensely
  • Speaks directly and tells the truth
  • Is non-judgmental

Empowering peace also includes an awareness for everyone involved by:

  • Modeling self-respect and respect for others
  • Having a sensitively toward the other person(s)
  • Having an inclusive attitude rather than excluding others
  • Allowing mistakes for self and others

You don’t have to be perfect at all or most of these attributes for empowering peaceful solutions. You simply have to become more aware of yourself, your default strategy and begin modeling these empowering attributes to begin seeing previously impossible solutions more easily emerge.

Enabling a New Paradigm for Resolving Conflict

The three steps that build a new paradigm for resolving conflict are simple and deliver immediate results without needing perfection or a regimented process to follow. These steps better help to resolve or avert unnecessary crises in your life. They have the impact of reducing stress, building your resilience and increasing harmony in a world full of conflict, chaos and uncertainty.

The choice is yours to spend a little time outside of conflicts to reduce the impact they have on your life.

We invite you to discover inspiring and effective ways to care for yourself and to serve others.  Now more than ever, caring is what we all need most. Caring for our self.  Caring for others around us.  Life now demands caring, resilience and compassion like never before.  So, become a Custodian of the Caring Movement and help create the world we need right now, the world we want for our future generations.

UCA resources available to help include the Turbulent Times Resources Center,  radio show, publications and online store offering members huge discounts and always free shipping.

Tap Into Your Inner Navigation System

Imagine what life would be like if we had a direct line to our intuition that we could pick up and dial into at any time. This line would instantly connect us to the version of our self who knows what to do in order get to the other side of any obstacle, trauma, or experience we’re currently facing. We could gain knowledge of how to cope, what step to take next, or just the exact words we need to hear in the moment. This inner navigation system is available on demand. We just need to tap into it.

inner navigation system

That direct line may seem like some futurist technology out of a science fiction novel, yet it’s something that exists. It’s something that we can harness for our self through the tool of journaling… a specific type of journaling.

A Powerful Journaling Practice

The benefits of journaling are getting broadcasted everywhere. Several psychologist, like James W. Pennebaker, have dedicated a great portion of their research to understand the subject better. Some of the findings are that journaling boosts the immune system, helps us process complex emotions, better problem solve, and a slew of other benefits. One benefit that none of the research seems to point to is journaling’s ability to connect us with our internal navigation system, in other words our intuition.

The best journaling technique to access our intuition involves hemisphere switching while journaling. This involves writing with our left hand to answer tough questions, go deeper on experiences, emotions, and whatever comes up. By doing so, we tap into our internal guidance system, on demand, and get responses that normally wouldn’t occur. This has allowed many people to navigate challenging life situations and emotions with greater ease.

How It Works

The left side of our brain controls the right side of our body, and vice versa. About 90% of the population is right-handed. That means when they write, they are left-brain dominate. The left side of our brain is the part of our brain responsible for logic and reasoning. So, 90% of the population accesses mainly the logic and reasoning powers of their brain when writing. When the writing hand is switched for a right-hander, it allows access the right hemisphere of the brain where creativity and intuition reside. This taps into the intuitive navigation system instantly.

What About The Left-Handed or Ambidextrous?

For about 10% of the population that are left-handed this specific journaling exercise may not work. However, there are other effective ways for left-handers to access the opposite hemisphere of the brain.

One powerful way to do so is through meditating before journaling. Meditation relaxes us and according to Marilee Zdenek, we are more receptive to right-brain insights when we are relaxed. Another manner in which we can access the right side of our brain is by singing, listening to new music, or playing an instrument before journaling. Psychologist, Terry Lyles, found that listening to or performing music helps to stimulate the auditory cortex of the right-brain. These are some of the quickest methods to hemisphere switch.

Test Out Your Inner Navigation

A longing for coffee, $5.00, and the knowledge of where Starbucks is will get us no where unless we take the actions of going there and ordering our drink. The same is true with the knowledge just gained here about journaling. The next time you sit down to journal, try hemisphere switching and tapping into your internal navigation system to experience it’s power for yourself.

By Mona Nyree Stephens, contributing author

We are all working our way through a changed world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. We may no longer be quarantined or under stay-at-home orders, but 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 in our communities. Life now demands caring, resilience and compassion like never before. This is a great opportunity to create the world we want for our future generations. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement!

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources and products? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association and our products, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way!

Hugging for Health

Hugging for Health

Someone once said, “We should have 100 hugs a day to stay healthy.” This saying is a lot like having an apple a day. We hear stories that back this adage up: people waking up when those they love hold their hand or how important it is to hold babies as they begin their life’s journey. Touch is a powerful way to communicate with others. One article found on the Good News Network is about making physical connections with each other through hugs that conveys how much each person means to one another.

Hugs are comforting and help us flourish.

People require touch with other living beings in order to feel cared for and grow into caring individuals. In the article, Science of Kindness Shows Just How Important Hugging is for Our Mental and Physical Health, by David Fryburg, MD, “The importance of physical contact was painfully observed in the orphanages of Romania: children who were provided food—but not held or hugged—had significant developmental and socio-emotional delay accompanied by smaller brains.” The lack of touch, connection, and hugs affected how these children behaved, and the development of their brains. Similar studies have shown animals have the same underdevelopment and health issues when subjected to social isolation.

On a less extreme note, touch affects our response to daily conflicts we experience. A group of researchers interviewed 404 adults for 14 days regarding their health and any conflicts. Additionally, the researchers inquired how these adults felt emotionally and whether or not they received hugs. The people who had some form of interpersonal conflict and were hugged reported feeling happier and more grounded for the day. A bonus is that the hug helps both people involved!

Keep the Doctor Away…

On another note, research has produced “evidence that hugging may favorably influence the rate of infection from a cold as well as symptoms.” Also, hugs help reduce blood pressure and relieve stress. When we hug, we get a good boost of the love hormone oxytocin.

Hugs are not the only form of touch that helps us feel better mentally and physically. Other types of touch that share the same beneficial elements are holding hands and massage. Most of us know that massage can decrease pain related to a variety of conditions, such as back pain and migraines. “[Physical touch] affects the biochemistry that mediates pain or sadness and can also lower blood pressure, reduce cortisol, improve immune responses, stimulate the vagus nerve, and change EEG (brain wave) patterns.” One example is premature babies, where light massage for 15 minutes over a week caused a significant increase in necessary weight gain. This is a complementary study to the Romanian orphans mentioned above, where massage helps babies flourish.

Overall, we can see a clear connection between hugs, our health and happiness. The physical connection not only decreases stress but also helps nourish and heal us so we can recover and grow. It is remarkable that we naturally can help care for and heal each other. If we reach out and connect with each other, we can find ourselves to be happier and healthier. 

If we are not able to get a physical hug, there are a variety of tools that help simulate hugs, like a weighted blanket. Also, we can get a similar effect when we see images of other people hugging or a gentle touch. “This work is consistent with Envision Kindness’ own research on how images of kindness and compassion—many of which capture caring touch or hugging—are a proven and potent way to induce joy, love, optimism, and connection. Thus, by simply looking at these images, people can experience lower levels of stress and greater joy.”

Of course, viewing images of people or animals hugging needs to be rounded out by the real thing when possible. Very few things are perfect substitutes, hugs are best from those you love and have a caring connection with. A hug is a gift to someone else and to yourself.

Would you like to read more caring blogs? We have other blogs on topics on UCA benefits: Medical Bill Negotiation, Nutrition to Help Prevent Depression, and Gut-Brain Connection! If you would like caring messages throughout the week, follow us on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter!

Gut-Brain Connection

Gut-Brain Connection

When someone says, “I have a gut feeling…” we all understand the importance of that intuition. Scientist are now posting findings that the nerves in our stomach are just as sensitive as those in our hands. Understanding this gut-brain connection can help us create more caring lifestyle choices.

Brain 1 and Brain 2

Most people think about all the nerves in our hands, mouth, and feet; this is the central nervous system. What is interesting is the nerves that comprise a network of nerves that line the digestive tract, aka the enteric nervous system: Brain 2. The second nervous system is a two-ply lining made up of 100 million plus nerve cells. This “the second brain” is in constant contact with the brain in our headl. Ever wonder why you feel butterflies in your stomach before a big speech, or get hungry when watching an ad for a restaurant. These are examples of the gut-brain connection.

Scientists thought the two systems communicate only by hormones produced by cells in the gut’s lining. This process happens once food or bacteria are detected. The cells release a message that prompts the nervous system to act accordingly. However, this process is now found to be more direct. Diego Bohórquez from Duke University discovered that the two nervous systems make physical contact to form synapses with nerves. 

How can we see this process?

Diego Bohórquez and his colleagues use a 3D electron microscopy to take a look at the guts. The images revealed that there are actually tiny protrusions in the gut that also have a foot-like portion that extends out. Imaging them in this way reveals a whole new structure. “It became evident that enteroendocrine cells have similar physical attributes to neurons, so we wondered whether they might be wired to neurons, too.” ( In the procedure, the cells of the gut began glowing green. This provides physical evidence that the sensor cells indeed behave as neurons. 

Feelers in the gut- neurons

The future…

This discovery can help further treatment research for conditions such as eating disorders, IBS, and more that are often under the label: psychological. These diseases all share a symptom, hyper- or hypo sensitivity to gut stimuli. “For instance, clinical observations have suggested that some children with anorexia may be hyper-aware of the food they ingest from an early age…Under normal circumstances, this process happens without detailed spatial and temporal awareness, but those children can feel what’s going on in there, which triggers anxious feelings.” (Bohórquez) These discoveries go beyond the gut to the lining other organs. Some examples include our lungs, prostate and vagina which all have sensor cells similar to our guts. “Future exploration will continue to uncover how the brain perceives signals from these organs and how they affect how we feel.” he says.”  (Bohórquez)

If you are looking forward to reading more about Unified Caring Association and other caring acts, check out our other blogs: Volunteering for Health, It all Starts with Self-Care, and Monitoring Health with Biofeedback. Or visit our website to check out our Caring News, membership benefits, and other healthcare tools! Would you like more? Follow us on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter!

Proactive Mental Health

Proactive Mental Health

Each day can bring about new challenges. The trick is to maintain a healthy and active mind to that you are able to be more resilient through stressful moments. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) strive to provide our members caring tools and resources for mental well-being. These resources can help us all be proactive with our mental health. To start, let’s look at why having a strong mind is important.


Strengthening the mind is connected with improving our emotional intelligence. According to an article in the “Journal of Abnormal Psychology,” the successful route to take is to incorporate a “positive activity.” A positive activity is often an activity that a person enjoys doing, such as meditation or writing letters of gratitude.  In this research article the authors, K. Layous, J. Chancellor, and S. Lyubomirsky, study the effects of positive activities on mental well-being. They state that “…promoting Well-Being can reduce negative emotions, negative thoughts, and negative behaviors.” Overall, maintaining happiness and a positive mental outlook leads to better physical health.


Our memories help shape us, our identities and our relationships. It goes without saying that our memories are very important to us all. There are tools to help strengthen our memory, such as UCA’s caring apps for memory fitness. Some of these apps are games that help build and strengthen our ability to recall information. Other apps can be puzzles to help with exercising the brain’s ability to problem solve. Other ideas that work well for us include learning a new language or musical instrument, as well as volunteering and socializing through acts of kindness. In conjunction with healthy nutrition and lifestyle, the mind is just like a muscle, it needs exercise in order to grow stronger and stay in shape. 

When to seek help for memory loss…

“If you’re worried about memory loss — especially if memory loss affects your ability to complete your usual daily activities or if you notice your memory getting worse — talk to your doctor. He or she will likely do a physical exam, as well as check your memory and problem-solving skills. Sometimes other tests are needed as well. Treatment will depend on what’s contributing to your memory loss.” (Mayo Clinic)


There are many ways we can be proactive with our mental health. Being active in your community, sharing caring with others and yourself are some examples of working on your mental well-being. And as mentioned above, learning a language like Spanish or Japanese will streacha nd build your brain to be more resilient. Below are nine that we have come up with that can help strengthen our minds in different ways. Check them out to see how we all can build our mental health to be the best it can be!

Tips for Proactive Mental Health

Love our blogs and want to read more? Unified Caring Association has other caring blogs such as Advanced Directives of Peace of Mind, and Caring Challenge x 365 Days that inspire us all! We also share caring and inspirational posts daily on social media  (Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter). Follow us to get a little extra caring in your day!

Meditation as a Tool for Healing

meditation and yoga

Meditation as a Tool for Health

At times life is chaotic, stressful and noisy. Luckily, there is a self-care tool available to use that can help calm the chaos of everyday. Additionally, this tool can help improve your health! This tool is meditation, also known as mindfulness activities or quiet reflection. Oftentimes when we quiet our minds, we are better able to cope with our everyday lives, during high-stress times, and even improve our overall health.

What is Meditation?

Meditation has many forms, but all forms have four main elements: a quiet space, feeling comfortable, a focal word or image, and allowing our minds to let go. For hundreds and hundreds of years, meditation has been used for increasing calmness and relaxation, coping with and healing illness, and enhancing our well-being. We can see how meditation has increased in popularity over the past five years; the number of people using meditation and meditation techniques has grown by 5%-15%.

Looking for Meditation How To?

When we look around the internet, there are many different articles and videos about how to meditate, much like the 15 Minute Healing Meditation: You Are Your Own Healer / Mindful Movement. Unified Caring Association (UCA) has a variety of meditation videos to help our members start and maintain a self-care routine that includes meditation. Our list includes videos and audio files that are uplifting and positive, relaxing and rejuvenating, as well as for healing and physical health.

Yoga and Meditation Videos

How does it help with our health?

Stress can increase our heart rates, blood pressure, breathing and more. It is harmful if the stress is experienced over a longer period of time. Our adrenal glands become taxed and “…overproduce the hormone cortisol. Overexposure to this hormone can affect the function of your brain, immune system, and other organs.” (Harvard Health Publishing) Recently, health studies have shown that meditation has beneficial effects in combating stress, thus preventing adrenal gland “burnout.” Meditation is a way to be productive while your attention is focused inwards. This self care induces more relaxation. “Meditation is thought to work via its effects on the sympathetic nervous system, which increases heart rate, breathing and blood pressure during times of stress.  “It will help you lower your blood pressure, but so much more: it can help your creativity, your intuition, your connection with your inner self, says Burke Lennihan, a registered nurse who teaches meditation at the Harvard University Center for Wellness. (Harvard Health Publishing)

Results from research on meditation and the brain have been published and reviewed for years now. Benefits of meditation, or quieting the mind, are “…now being confirmed with fMRI and EEG instruments. The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions.” (Harvard Health Publishing) This reduced activity allows for creativity and problem solving to dominate without overtaxing the mind. (a.k.a. it basically becomes effortless and allows for new solutions to present themselves.)

Moving Meditation

One form of mindfulness or meditation is yoga. Most of us are familiar with yoga from the numerous studios dotting the streets and the even more videos online. Unified Caring Association also has a select list of videos to help members with their mental and physical health. An example is the YouTube video “Yoga for Complete Beginners” that blends the two ideas of yoga and meditation seamlessly. In this video, we are walked through a 20 minute meditation yoga combination that gets the body moving while the mind becomes restful.


If you are looking forward to reading more about Unified Caring Association and other caring acts, check out our other blogs: Volunteering for Health, It all Starts with Self-Care, and Monitoring Health with Biofeedback. Or visit our website to check out our Caring News, membership benefits, and other healthcare tools! Would you like more? Follow us on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter!

Happiness = Health

Happiness = Health

Unified Caring Association (UCA) spreads caring in many ways, one of which is through sharing caring research. Often we see notes about how feeling happy more often helps us feel healthier. Recently we came across an article by HarvardHealth Publishing that suggests that there is scientific evidence that positive emotions can result in a longer healthier life. We are all for that! Want to know more? Here are the short notes on how happiness can equal health.

Start on Happy Things

Begin with what makes you happy. Playing with your pets, helping the elderly at a senior center, or painting are just some of the things that people like to do that brings them happiness. Doing things that make you happy also help lower stress levels. Continually and consistently doing things that make us happy lowers our stress levels and could reduce risks of health problems like a heart attack.

3 Pathways to Happiness

During their research on positive psychology, Research Psychologists Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson examined three pathways to happiness: feeling good, engaging fully and doing good. As seen through the testing of hundreds of volunteers and focus groups, it was found that these pathways contribute to happiness and life satisfaction. 

Feeling good relates to our ability to seek pleasurable emotions. These emotions focus on reaching happiness in an effort to maximize our pleasure and minimize our pain. 

Engaging fully in the pursuit activities that “…engage us fully, from the influential research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. For decades, Csikszentmihalyi explored people’s satisfaction in their everyday activities, finding that people report the greatest satisfaction when they are totally immersed in and concentrating on what they are doing.” (

When we are doing good and doing caring acts that helps others we generate more happiness. More poetically put, doing is “searching for meaning outside yourself, tracing back to Aristotle’s notion of eudemonia, which emphasized knowing your true self and acting in accordance with your virtues.” ( This is a feeling that can happen when you are “getting in the flow.”

How can you know you are in the flow?

What does it mean to be in the flow of things? Is it a fast paced atmosphere where everything seems to be going your way? Or is it when we spend time laughing with those we love? Check out some suggestions below on ways to get in the flow.

-Time just flies by and you realize that you have been working long and hard without feeling tired. The “loss” of time is no big deal, and you would probably do the activity again.

-Your mind is not occupied with your activities of your internal thoughts. “You aren’t focused on your comfort, and you aren’t wondering how you look or how your actions will be perceived by others. Your awareness of yourself is only in relation to the activity itself, such as your fingers on a piano keyboard, or the way you position a knife to cut vegetables, or the balance of your body parts as you ski or surf.” (

-You are present in the moment. This means not thinking about the daily “to-do” list that is sitting on your desk, refrigerator, etc.  An example is that you aren’t thinking about such mundane matters as your shopping list or what to wear tomorrow.

-Keeping an active mind and an active body. This can be done through learning music, reading books, playing sports, or going for a hike.

-You work effortlessly. “Flow activities require effort (usually more effort than involved in typical daily experience). Although you may be working harder than usual, at flow moments everything is “clicking” and feels almost effortless.” (

It is clear that whatever we choose to do, if it makes us happy, it is good for our health. When we do good we can get a bonus boost when we are helping others feel good too!

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.

Building Empathy

Building Empathy

Unified Caring Association (UCA) loves sharing with our caring community. The topics that we love to share often relate back to emotional intelligence. One component that is closely relates to emotional intelligence in empathy. There is just one troubling thing. We often have a hard time describing what empathy is and how we teach it to others. In our search for more information on empathy we have come across some great examples on how to bring more empathy to the world and our caring community. Let’s start from the top…

How can we define something like empathy?

In short, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of one or more people. We can take this definition a step further. We can add that we are then are able to express our feelings and connection with the others. This requires one thing, active listening with our whole being by using our eyes, ears, body language, minds, and more. This is because listening is a strong way to show that you care about the other person and the topic that they are passionate about. Brigette Hyacinth has a good point about listening, “The quality of our listening determines the quality of our influence…[and] listening transmits that kind of respect and builds trust.” (  Overall, when we listen to others and understand what they are saying when they connect with us we demonstrate that we value others and have empathy for them.

Empathy and Denmark

There have been many studies about how Denmark is one of the happiest and nicest places to live. “This is according to the UN’s World Happiness Report, an important survey that since 2012 classifies the happiness of 155 countries in the world, and that for seven years has placed Denmark among the top three happiest countries on a global level.” ( A big factor in this relates back to how people in Denmark seem to value and incorporate empathy in their lives. This can be seen through the prominent concept of “hygge.” Hygge is a phenomenon closely related to Danish culture; this word is both a verb and an adjective and does not have an English equivalent. “Hygge could be defined as ‘intentionally created intimacy.’ In a country where it gets dark very early in the year, it rains, it’s gray, hygge means bringing light, warmth and friendship, creating a shared, welcoming and intimate atmosphere.” ( This is a fundamental Danish concept that creates a sense of well-being. Interestingly, hygge is becoming a global phenomenon! If you search for hygge on Amazon, you will get about 6,000 results, most of which are books. Instagram has more than Amazon, with #hygge racking up 5.2 million posts and counting! SO, how does a culture foster a concept like empathy so effectively? The answer: By teaching, learning and practicing from the ground up with kids.

Teaching Kids Empathy

Danish schools have a unique curriculum incorporated in their education plans. Students 6-16 years old spend about one hour a week in school dedicated to empathy. These lessons are called “Klassen tid.” This is a fundamental part of learning life skills for these students, much like learning English, science or math for U.S. students. During this hour “…students discuss their problems, either related to school or not, and the whole class, together with the teacher, tries to find a solution based on real listening and understanding. If there are no problems to discuss, children simply spent the time together relaxing and enjoying hygge.” ( This time spent on exploration, problem solving and growth of emotional intelligence helps the students connect with each other through activities that build empathy. Unlike other places in the world, there is no stigma or stress connected to this emotion. The stronger the understanding of empathy the longer and more sincere the student’s relationships are. These enduring relationships correlate to the prevention of bullying and success at work. 

Empathy is a Life Skill

As we said before, empathy helps people be successful in their careers. This is because they are able to connect with their peers, are more goal oriented, and adept at team work related tasks. If we look back at Denmark, 60% of tasks in schools are teamwork based. Thus these tasks require the children to understand empathy in order to achieve good results. However, the focus of these results is not to excel over others, but to lift up your teammates that are struggling with the tasks. The success of the team is therefore the goal that everyone is striving for. It is because of the students’ skills in empathy that Denmark is often touted as one of the best places to have a career in Europe.

Empathy is then coupled with the viewpoint that competition is with yourself and not with others. Instead, Danes practice the culture of motivation to improve and the measurement is exclusively in relation to themselves. This is vastly different from the prominent mentality in the U.S. where the goal is to beat the other person and to strive for a win even if it is at the cost of your peers. “The Danes give a lot of space to children’s free play, which teaches empathy and negotiation skills. Playing in the country has been considered an educational tool since 1871.” (  Most of this is achieved through collaborative learning. This style of learning involves bringing together children with various strengths and weaknesses in different subjects. The teams of students then help each other with their studies by working together on various topics and projects. This format teaches the kids that they need each other to be successful and to connect they will need empathy. Jessica Alexander comments that, “Many studies show that when you explain something to someone…you not only learn the subject much better than you would do by memorizing it yourself, but you also build empathy skills which are further strengthened by having to be careful about the way the other person receives the information, and having to put oneself in their shoes to understand how learning works.” (

The results are echoed by Avery Konda, who recently tried to explain the concept  of empathy to kids. After trying to talk with children and pull out responses from them (which fell short of what he was looking for), he began to play with the kids. Through this play time with toys he helped the children discover deeper meanings of empathy. Konda concluded, “Students learn more from gamified activities that allow them to learn skills through application, more than they do through PowerPoints and traditional teaching…[They] take away more when they’re required to live and breathe the topic of conversation.” ( This is fascinating for all of us who are trying to excel in our careers, and for those that are raising children. If we all strive to listen closely to conversations with others and practice our teamwork skills, we can begin to strengthen our empathy skills. Building empathy takes time and consistent practice. If we look at how Danish culture has developed, we can begin to apply more empathy to our daily lives and continue to create a more caring world.

Want to read more about UCA and get an extra dose of positivity on you news feeds? Read our other blogs on caringempathy, how emotions shape your heart, and follow us on social media! (Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram.) We are looking forward to sharing more with you!

Shaping Your Heart

Broken Heart Syndrome

Shaping Your Heart

“No other organ, perhaps no other object in human life, is as imbued with metaphor and meaning as the human heart. Over the course of history, the heart has been a symbol of our emotional lives… The very word “emotion” stems in part from the French verb ‘émouvoir’, meaning ‘to stir up.’ And perhaps it’s only logical that emotions would be linked to an organ characterized by its agitated movement.” (Jauhar) We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) continue to research and learn more about caring for others and for ourselves. In this journey we discovered a well spoken TedTalk by Sandeep Jauhar, a cardiologist and writer. In his presentation, we hear about how our emotions can in fact change the shape of our hearts.

The TedTalk from the Heart

Doctor Jauhar eloquently leads us on a journey during his speech. He recounts stories and examples of how the heart is affected by the mind and emotions felt by patients who are extremely happy or sad. “…we have come to understand that the connection between the heart and the emotions is a highly intimate one. The heart may not originate our feelings, but it is highly responsive to them.” (Jauhar) Doctor Jauhar continues on to explain how the nerves that control our unconscious processes like our heartbeat, can sense distress. This distress can trigger an abnormal fight-or-flight response that is often seen by signs similar to heart failure. Some examples are blood vessels constrict. The heart rate begins to gallop and there is an increase in blood pressure. All of these symptoms often result in damage. 

In recent history we have been more prone to seeing doctors uphold a scientific biological approach to heart. However with newer research and imagery we can literally see the heart organ change shape in response to emotions.  “[The heart is] more the domain of doctors like me, wielding technologies that even a century ago… were considered taboo. In the process, the heart has been transformed … into a machine that can be manipulated and controlled.” Doctor Jauhar states that there is a golden nugget resulting from this breakthrough. These techniques and solutions that doctors are currently prescribing to their patients need to be complemented by caring attention to the emotional well-being. This is reflecting upon the descriptions of the heart dating back to classical history. This is an era where it was believed that the heart was the seat of all thoughts and emotions; our lifeline.

To help explain this concept of how emotional health aids physical heart health, Doctor Jauhar cites a study published in the British journal “The Lancet” in 1990 called Lifestyle Heart Trial. This was a study based on a group of patients that had coronary (heart) disease. A portion of the group was given a ‘standard’ treatment plan (a.k.a. the control group). The other portion of the group was given an intense set of lifestyle changes. These changes included diet and exercise, stress management assistance, and support group activities. In the end, the group that was prescribed the intensive lifestyle changes by far was healthier than the control group. What is also interesting is  “…some patients [placed] in the control group adopted diet and exercise plans that were nearly as intense as those in the intensive lifestyle group. Their heart disease still progressed. Diet and exercise alone were not enough to facilitate coronary disease regression. At both one-year and five-year follow-ups, stress management was more strongly correlated with reversal of coronary disease than exercise was.” (Jauhar)

Broken Heart Syndrome

It appears that Doctor Jauhar is correct when he says, “…the emotional heart intersects with its biological counterpart in surprising and mysterious ways.” (Jauhar) This is best seen through a heart disorder that came on the scene about 20 years ago called “takotsubo cardiomyopathy”-“broken heart syndrome.” This is a disorder where the heart acutely weakens in response to intense stress or grief. Some examples of this syndrome are the sudden end of a romance or the death of a loved one, and even during a large widespread social upheaval, like a natural disaster. Doctor Jauhar displays a picture on the screen behind him of a normal heart, a broken heart and a takotsubo urn for which the syndrome is named.

Broken Heart Syndrome

The heart image in the middle is the broken heart, and looks very different from the normal healthy heart on the left. “It appears stunned and frequently balloons into the distinctive shape of a takotsubo, shown on the right, a Japanese pot with a wide base and a narrow neck. We don’t know exactly why this happens, and the syndrome usually resolves within a few weeks. However, in the acute period, it can cause heart failure, life-threatening arrhythmias, even death.” That is very serious. Interestingly, broken heart syndrome can be on set in relation to an extremely happy event as well. The main difference seen here is that the heart appears to react differently. The heart has ballooning in the midportion and not at the top as when the syndrome is from strife. Either way broken hearts are deadly, figuratively and literally. 

Animals Feel this Too

In 1980, the journal Science published findings on caged rabbits. These rabbits were fed a high-cholesterol diet in an effort to study cardiovascular disease in the rabbits. Much to the scientists’ surprise some rabbits became more diseased than others. “The rabbits had very similar diet, environment and genetic makeup. They thought it might have something to do with how frequently the technician interacted with the rabbits.” (Jauhar) The same high-cholesterol diet study was repeated with the rabbits, but they were divided into two groups. The one change was how the scientists interacted, or ignored the rabbits. “… in one group, the rabbits were removed from their cages, held, petted, talked to, played with, and in the other group, the rabbits remained in their cages and were left alone.” (Jauhar) After a year it was found that the rabbits who were interacted with and felt loved had 60% less aortic disease than the ignored rabbits. This is interesting because the rabbits as a whole all had similar cholesterol levels, blood pressure and heart rate. 

Keeping up with a Health Trend

It can be said that we are reaching the limits to what we can do for our heart health when we rely purely on biological processes. To keep the trend of discovering new ways to stay heart healthy something has to change. We will need to begin incorporating emotional health with our physical health. We can do this in various ways including strengthening our emotional intelligence. Doctor Jauhar clarifies that “The American Heart Association still does not list emotional stress as a key modifiable risk factor for heart disease, perhaps in part because blood cholesterol is so much easier to lower than emotional and social disruption.” (Jauhar) Taking the easier path is appearing to be less of a good long-term strategy. 

To keep up with our heart health we will need to begin using tools to increase our emotional well-being too. “Perhaps, if we recognize that when we say “a broken heart,” we are indeed sometimes talking about a real broken heart. We must, must pay more attention to the power and importance of the emotions in taking care of our hearts.” (Jauhar)

Watch the full TedTalk by clicking here!

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