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.

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!

Natural Movement for Exercise

The human body is designed to move.

As children we thoughtlessly ran around, we played, we crawled around on all fours, and experienced a freedom in movement that is too commonly lost upon entering later years. Nowadays when adults hear the word movement, exercise is usually the first association to come to mind– such as going to the gym, lifting weights, signing up for a class, and so on. Though these kinds of traditional exercises are beneficial to many, we aim to simplify what healthy movement means as an effort to inspire more of it throughout the day.

Natural movements are all about using one’s own body weight and limb mobility to get the blood flowing, and the heart pumping.

An alarming amount of people today find themselves living predominantly sedentary lifestyles. Meaning people are not moving their body’s frequently enough, thus resulting in a cascade of physical ailments that compound over time. Common physical symptoms of sedentary lifestyles include headaches, backaches, digestive issues, circulation issues, low-energy, excess weight, and much more. It’s also notable to mention that people who frequently engage in natural movement generally feel more confident, capable, and in tune with what’s happening in their body. 

Movement as a Basic Human Need

While the idea of exercise can at times feel a little overwhelming, we see movement as a basic need that can be met with a sense of ease. There doesn’t need to be any special clothing involved, equipment, or carved out blocks of time. Instead it’s helpful when movement can be treated with less seriousness, and instead be met with an attitude of playfulness.

There is no right or wrong way to go about this. When you find yourself with an extra few minutes simply get into the habit of asking yourself how can I move in a way that best supports my body right now? Then follow through.

Daily movement can look as simple as taking a walk around the neighborhood in the morning, or in the evening after dinner. It can look silly like sprawling yourself on the floor and stretching out your limbs. It can look like opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator, doing a short set of calf raises as you wait for your coffee to brew, or doing a round of jumping jacks with your kids in the yard. Our body truly thrives with this kind of spontaneous movement.

Though we are designed to move in a variety of motions, our realities often consist of repetitive movements that have stopped the body from having to ever guess. For example, when something is in the way of our path we often choose to walk around the thing instead of over it. Next time the opportunity presents itself try to keep the body guessing, subtly stretching, and moving playfully by going over the thing.

Walking is a very effective natural movement that helps the body equalize itself. Countless studies have shown daily walking to trim body mass, balance cholesterol levels, stabilize blood pressure, improve mood, sharpen memory, and lower the chances of many preventable diseases.

Start by walking outside for 15 minutes a day, and over time experiment with gradually increasing the distance and pace. When we move in these natural motions we are contracting our muscles, activating our connective tissues, strengthening our bones, increasing respiration, heightening circulation, and releasing certain hormones and cell signals.  

The world of fitness, vanity, and weight loss have given us many misleading ideas of what it means to be healthy, and can ultimately feel unapproachable. It’s important to keep our relationship with movement as do-able as possible, and remember that natural movement is a part of our inherent design. This way movement has a chance to be woven into various parts of the day, certain to enrich one’s overall health and well-being.

by Melissa Aparicio, 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!

Let’s Talk About S.A.D. Foods Versus S.O.U.L. Foods

S.A.D. food represents the Standard American Diet, while S.O.U.L. food stands for Seasonal, Organic, Unprocessed, and Local foods.

Despite the United States being one of the most prosperous nations in the world, many would be surprised to discover that Americans die sooner and experience higher rates of disease than most developed nations. This can be attributed to common diet and lifestyle choices.

By understanding the differences between S.A.D foods and S.O.U.L foods we can begin examining our food choices through a new lens.

S.A.D. Foods

The Standard American Diet (S.A.D) has grown to be problematic as it relies heavily on refined and processed foods with very little interest in fresh produce. Research has shown that the typical American diet is alarmingly low in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains– and extremely high in sodium, calories, saturated fat, refined grains (i.e. white flour), and added sugars.

This is apparent when visiting most conventional grocery stores which usually consist of aisles upon aisles of packaged and processed foods, often reserving only a small section of the store for fresh produce or dry bulk goods.

Heavily processed and unnatural foods are laden with questionable additives, food chemicals, dyes, and countless other substances that are used to manipulate taste, color, and shelf-life. Conventionally raised meats and non-organic produce are also suboptimal in nutrition and safety when considering the hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and soil quality that ultimately end up in our body.

Being able to identify S.A.D foods is the first step in making supportive choices in terms of how we eat. This is relevant since well over half of American adults have one or more chronic diseases related to poor diet and inactivity; that means that either you or someone you know is experiencing this. The normalization of S.A.D eating habits is sweeping through our neighborhoods, communities, and homes and with that are the chronic conditions that come along with it. In many cases these are conditions that are absolutely preventable, yet the culture of S.A.D foods inevitably usher people directly towards illness and poor health.

A few tips to avoid S.A.D foods:

  • Limit consumption of convenience and fast foods
  • Read the ingredients lists, if there are words you can’t understand or pronounce, walk away
  • Ask yourself, “how will I feel in my body after eating this?”
  • Avoid the aisles and shop mostly in the produce section
  • Choose organic & non- GMO foods when possible
  • Make it a goal to eat fresh foods at least once a day

On the other side of S.A.D foods exist S.O.U.L foods, Seasonal, Organic, Unprocessed, and Local.

eating more S.O.U.L foods

S.O.U.L. Foods

When we eat seasonally, we are eating with nature, not against nature. Meaning, we are opting to eat foods that naturally occur according to the conditions that are just right for particular plants and animals to thrive. Now that we are in the season of summer we can be sure to enjoy fresh corn, summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, melons, stone fruit, and berries. These are water rich foods that are synonymous with summertime as they re-hydrate the body and are native to soaking in the hot sun.

Organically grown produce is radically different from conventional produce. For one, organic foods contain fewer pesticides and other chemicals which have proven to have serious health repercussions. Similarly, organically raised animals are much less likely to be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal byproducts. Organic foods are also GMO (genetically modified) free, meaning that the DNA has not been altered in a way that cannot occur in nature.

Unprocessed foods are alive foods that have beneficial nutrients, vitamins, and minerals – these are the building blocks of a healthy, capable body. There are no weird ingredients in unprocessed foods because they haven’t been adulterated or tampered with. Fresh vegetables, fruits, dried grains, and beans, are examples of foods that you can buy in their most natural state.

Local foods are a treasure to have around as they are the freshest foods that don’t have to travel very far to reach your hands. The moment a vegetable is picked from the ground it begins to lose its nutritional value, so the sooner it can be eaten the more value you will receive from it. Local foods are also often grown or made in small batches, so there’s a lot of care and attention that goes into each head of cabbage or jar of honey being sold. Not to mention, you’re also supporting your local economy.

A few tips to eat more S.O.U.L foods:

  • Shop at your local farmers markets if available
  • Read full ingredients lists on boxes + labels
  • Aim for your meals to be colorful + diverse
  • Eat fresh + alive foods as often as possible
  • Select organic options when you can
  • Find out what’s in season and eat mostly that

Nutritiously rich S.O.U.L foods provide the necessary building materials for the body to repair, discern, and replenish. While S.A.D foods simply don’t have the aliveness to provide this kind of support ultimately robbing us of our own vitality. We implore you to curiously look around your own kitchen and discover if you’re creating an environment of S.A.D or S.O.U.L. nourishment.

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!

An At-Home Retreat + Spa Experience

By implementing rituals of self-care we are better able to deal with the stress that unprecedented times like these can bring about. For the sake of feeling rejuvenated and clear, we’d like to invite you to set aside some time for an At-Home Retreat + Spa Experience. You can commit an entire day to this or even just one hour, work with what you have.

at-home spa and retreat experience


The first thing to do is create a proper space to relax in by making sure your home is orderly and clean. A big reason we gravitate towards spas and other such environments is because of the mood they set for us. We can create a similar effect by making sure the rubbish is thrown out, surfaces are clear, dishes are washed, and clutter is out of the way.

Next, make your home smell heavenly. You can diffuse essential oils, burn incense, light scented candles, and even open the windows to let in some fresh air. Investing in natural flowers also sets a beautiful and fragrant ambiance in any space.

Sound also plays an important role in our relaxation potential, so consider putting on some nourishing background music such as singing bowls, nature sounds, or binaural beats – all of which are commonly heard in spas and retreat centers for this very reason.

Prepare yourself a pitcher of infused water with cucumber, citrus slices, or berries. This feels luxurious, fun, and is effectively hydrating. Also consider having some herbal tea and light snacks handy so that they are easy to put together on a whim throughout the day.

Details such as these will support your mind to feel calm and your senses to feel at ease.

Once your space is in order pick out your favorite loungewear, activewear, and robe. Clothing that ideally allows you to feel both comfortable and attractive.

Tips to pamper yourself at home with a spa day


Like any retreat or spa experience, there has to be a schedule of activities you wish to participate in that will help you feel your best. We suggest selecting 1-5 activities that you wish to pamper yourself with. Have fun with these ideas and write them out in a scheduled format as a structure to follow.

To begin the at home retreat we recommend beginning with a little movement. We become stressed and tired from spending so much time in our heads, and the quickest way out of the mind is by returning to the body. Select a gentle 20-30 minute yoga or Pilates class online, or whatever your preference, and commit to the practice. Inviting circulation to move and enliven will only add to your experience.

After some body movement, shift into a short guided meditation. There are an abundance of free resources out there for this. You can make the experience extra special by setting up a designated space for your practices, and adorning it as you would enjoy to see in any studio or salon.

Once you wrap up your guided meditation, pull out a journal and write down any reflections or thoughts that may have come up for you. Writing can be a cathartic exercise for the mind, and the simple act of jotting down a few sentences can leave you feeling so renewed.

From here, begin the spa portion of your at home retreat.

Pamper yourself to a deep cleansing facial and moisturizing hair mask using your favorite products. Turn your bathroom into a sanctuary for this. Light a few candles, set up a few flowers, and display the products you’ll be using intentionally just as you would see at a salon. Creating an atmosphere like this turns an ordinary experience into an extraordinary one. Most importantly, move patiently as you nurture your skin and body. We rush quite enough throughout the day, so allow this to be a moment to slow down and simply feel into the senses.

While you allow the products to settle in and do their work, you can enjoy a cup of tea, manicure your nails, or simply read a few pages of your favorite book. Staying true to the intention of relaxing and being good to yourself.

Next, begin filling the bathtub. Add some bath salts, essential oils, flowers, and anything that can help make this particular bath feel over the top. Surround the tub with candles, beautiful lighting, and serene sounds, and set aside at least twenty minutes to soak it all in. Your nervous system will melt with gratitude.

After the bath, consider massaging oils to the bottoms of your feet or any part of the body that is asking for some extra attention. This supports proper circulation, moves stagnant lymph, and is a way to connect with your one and only body.

Lastly, begin to wind down from your Retreat + Spa Plan by taking a short nap. This will allow the experience to really settle in before re-integrating into life as you know it.


We hope this whole At-Home Retreat + Spa Experience fills you with nourishment and a sense of self-reverence. Feel free to get creative with the idea, have fun with it, and enjoy your own company. You will emerge better ready to deal with the world outside.

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!

By Melissa Aparicio, contributing author

Homebound Life Self-Care

Homebound Life Self-Care

We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) want to shed some light and positivity during this difficult time in the world right now. Sometimes it is referred to as “lockdown,” many of us are experiencing what it means to be homebound. We have been hearing many UCA members ask, “How can we turn this into an opportunity to see the good?” and “How can we practice self-care while being homebound?”

Self-care is crucial.

Self-care requires us to be self-aware, which means being aware of what is going on within inside of ourselves. (A.K.A. checking in with yourself to see how you are doing.)  When we feel like we are going a million miles a minute, it is important to take a moment to pause and reevaluate. Write things down in a journal. Some suggestions on the things to write are: what have you have accomplished and wish to accomplish, and set new goals for yourself. Overall, be proud of yourself. Also, according to article on Taking Good Care of Your Yourself, be kind to yourself.

Meditation is a great tool for self-care. It improves our wellbeing and health. Also, meditation or mindfulness activities helps us get in a calm relaxing psychological state too. We have many mindfulness activities on our website. Here is an example of a guided breath mediation with soft spa music to listen to — Guided breath Meditation-Spa-Music. If you are craving more, we also have many more videos on our YouTube channel!

If you’re ready to start a new exercise routine or a better eating regimen, why not start now?

Yoga is great for the brain, heart and bones. It can also boost your immunity, reduce chronic inflammation, gain more self-control and self-confidence. An additional bonus is it can also help manage stress. All it takes is 10 to 15 minutes a day. We found a great article on Practicing self- care with Yoga that is a quick and interesting read!

One more self-care suggestion…

Salt Baths are very beneficial for self-care. Salt detox baths are usually made of Epsom salt, which allows for minerals to “draw out” toxins from the body. Supporters often claim that soaking in an Epsom salt bath can remove harmful toxins and balance the body. Some claim it can help with weight management as well. The suggestion is to soak in an Epson salt bath for 12-20 minutes per day, 1-2 times per week, for the best results. We love adding essential oils, like lavender, along with Epson salt to baths for an extra boost of relaxation.

Remember all of those little projects that you set aside?

While enjoying the homebound life, we can tackle small projects around the house. For example, that “spring cleaning” of the closets, cabinets, refrigerator, garage (or as some of us call it the storage unit), etc.  How does cleaning and organizing provide self-care? The act of cleaning itself has a positive phycological impact. Cleaning gives us a sense of control and accomplishment, which helps us better manage the ups and downs of life with a sense of resilience and self-confidence. Additionally, the simple activity and repetitive motions of washing dishes, mopping floors, or wiping down surfaces makes it easier for the mind to enter a focused and meditative state, temporarily relieving anxieties. In an October 2018 article published by VICE, Darby Saxbe, assistant professor of psychology at USC, said “[Cleaning] gives people a sense of mastery and control over their environment. Life is full of uncertainty and many situations are out of our hands, but at least we can assert our will on our living space, especially while being homebound.” If cleaning can lead to feeling in control of our personal destiny. Cleaning is Self-Care has an additional article for more information about how cleaning and doing projects around the house is beneficial.

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!

Taking a Break to Recharge

Taking a Break to Recharge

In a world where many of us are running around and working hard, we are more prone to being burned out. What can we do to prevent this from happening? Well, Unified Caring Association (UCA) is here to share caring resources to help out our members and community. One way we have found that helps us become more resilient is taking a break to recharge our batteries.

Work to the bone no more!

Most of us learned that the harder we work the more success we have. The secret is, that this is not the best way to travel our life’s journey. What we tend to do after working this hard is shutdown when we get home. However, when getting home after work, many of us want to soak in time with family, friends, and hobbies. Not to mention, when we are burned out we are far less productive. This feels like running harder up a slippery hill and getting nowhere fast. For Harvard Business Review’s Neil Pasricha, what most people “…needed was a practical way to get more work done without taking more time.”

“Untouchable Days”

Enter a revolutionary self-care concept, untouchable days. “These are days when I am literally 100% unreachable in any way…by anyone…I look at my calendar sixteen weeks ahead of time, and for each week, I block out an entire day as UNTOUCHABLE.” This gives us time to unplug, journal, and recharge to be better able to tackle our work, and be more present in our lives.

Pasricha comments on his ‘untouchable days’ and what he gets from them. “I think of them as having two components. There is the deep creative work. When you’re in the zone, you’re in a state of flow, and the big project you’re working on is getting accomplished step by step by step. And then there are the nitros — little blasts of fuel you can use to prime your own pump if you hit a wall. These unproductive moments of frustration happen to all of us, and it’s less important to avoid them than to simply have a mental toolkit you can whip out when they happen.” 

Being 100% out of reach is not for everyone. However, the concept of getting up and taking a break from work or a frustrating situation holds true. We often can compose ourselves with deep breaths or mindfulness activities. Then we can return to our day with new eyes and a can-do attitude. Ultimately, taking time to unwind is key for achieving self-care and success in all areas of life!

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!

Championing Mental Health

Championing Mental Health

With so many emotions and stressors in our day it can be hard to maintain a mental balance. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) have a special place in our hearts for mental well-being. To share the caring we have tools and resources, such as a 24 hour counseling hotline, available for our UCA members. In our research online, we have come across a wonderful TedTalk by Sangu Delle championing mental health.

What does the word “Mental” Mean

When defining the word mental, we are referring to the mind or brain. Delle brings up a definition rooted in his culture. “Growing up in West Africa, when people used the term “mental,” what came to mind was a madman with dirty, dread-locked hair, bumbling around half-naked on the streets.” This stigma came from his youth, where “normal” people do not have mental health problems.

What is astonishing is that some of the areas in the world that have the highest need for mental health support and care, have a very thin system in place with few professionals.

According to the World Health Organization, mental health is about being able to cope with the normal stressors of life; to work productively and fruitfully; and to be able to make a contribution to your community. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. Globally, 75 percent of all mental illness cases can be found in low-income countries. Yet most African governments invest less than one percent of their health care budget in mental health. “Nigeria, for example, is estimated to have 200 — in a country of almost 200 million. In all of Africa, 90 percent of our people lack access to treatment. As a result, we suffer in solitude, silenced by stigma.”

Mental Health Hits Close to Home 

As we listen to this TedTalk, we wonder if there is a solution to the lack of care, acceptance and support for those who are affected by mental distress or illness. Delle shares the turning point for him. “For me, the stigma is personal… My best friend in the world — a brilliant, philosophical, charming, hip young man — was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I witnessed some of the friends we’d grown up with recoil. I heard the snickers. I heard the whispers. “Did you hear he has gone mad?” (Kru English) “He has gone crazy!” Derogatory, demeaning commentary about his condition — words we would never say about someone with cancer or someone with malaria. Somehow, when it comes to mental illness, our ignorance eviscerates all empathy. I stood by his side as his community isolated him, but our love never wavered.”

Our ignorance eviscerated all empathy; that phrase really hit home. We have seen and heard about so many ways that people can be bullied. One way that we can begin caring and supporting those who need mental healthcare is to bring awareness to the issue. Delle inspiringly did just that. He helped found the mental health special interest alumni group at his college. “And during my tenure as a resident tutor in graduate school, I supported many undergraduates with their mental health challenges.” Every person needs to be more aware about mental struggles. If we begin to accept mental health as important as physical health, we will become better individuals.

This awareness is not only for others, but for ourselves as well. Delle references his internal struggles, and how he could not bring himself to speak with a counselor, or even a friend. This reluctance was due to the stigma that still resided within himself. This was an eye opener for Delle. “We need to stop suffering in silence. We must stop stigmatizing disease and traumatizing the afflicted.” 

Raise Awareness and Champion Mental Health

Delle calls us all to action by encouraging us to talk. “Talk to your friends. Talk to your loved ones. Talk to health professionals.” In communicating how we are feeling, we are allowing ourselves to better connect with others and ourselves. “[When talking] do so with the confidence that you are not alone. Speak up if you’re struggling. Being honest about how we feel does not make us weak; it makes us human.” We can champion others and ourselves through one common thread, we are all human and we all can take charge of having better mental health.

Would you like to watch the full TedTalk? Click HERE!

TedTalk Sangu Delle

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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!

Nutrition to Help Prevent Depression

Nutrition to Help Prevent Depression

You just ate a bowl of pasta and feel tired. Or you ate a tuna salad and feel ready to tackle the day. Ever wondered why you feel differently after eating? We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) have been curious about this as well. After doing some research on nutrition, we now have a better understanding of why food affects us so much. For example, recent studies show that a healthy diet may not only prevent depression but could effectively treat it once it’s started. 

Nutritional Psychiatry

An evolving body of research on nutrition shows that a healthy diet can help prevent depression. The field of research on how food affects us psychologically is called nutritional psychiatry. Nutritional psychiatry is relatively new and it is not limited to one place or group. Nutritional psychiatry observes data regarding the association between diet quality and mental health across cultures, countries and age groups. One topic within these groups is depression and how the food we eat contributes, fixes or prevents depression.

An example of this research in action is a study mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. Researchers took a look at whether improving the diets of people with major depression would help reduce or eliminate their depression symptoms. Half of these people were coached on their nutrition by a dietitian. The other half were given one-on-one social support, a common technique for reducing depression. “After 12 weeks, the people who improved their diets showed significantly happier moods than those who received social support. And the people who improved their diets the most improved the most.” (Wall Street Journal) Other subsequent studies have found similar results: Eating a balanced diet that has fewer processed sugars, grains, etc. will help with depression.

In 2013, Dr. Jacka helped to found the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research. This Society held its first conference in the summer of 2017. Dr. Jacka also launched Deakin University’s Food & Mood Centre. This is an institute that focuses on researching and developing nutrition-based strategies for brain disorders, such as depression. With new and evolving research on how food affects us, other conferences and universities are including these findings in their lectures. An example of how this information applies is by the production of serotonin, which regulates mood and sleep. Not enough serotonin can result in depression. 

Food Interactions

Eating a ton of high-processed foods and refined sugars often increases the risk of mental and physical health issues at any age. If we think about our heart or other muscles in the body, we take extra effort to condition them and keep them healthy. The brain is not much different. Our lifestyle choices reflect our brain’s health. Mental health should be just as important as physical health. A healthy brain is more resilient in difficult times, like while when we feel depressed. “A bad diet makes depression worse, failing to provide the brain with a variety of nutrients it needs… And processed or deep-fried foods often contain trans fats that promote inflammation, believed to be a cause of depression.” (Dr. Ramsey)

A bad diet also affects our microbiome, A.K.A., your gut bacteria. The bacteria in our guts have complex ways of communicating with our brain by signaling the body to produce different chemicals and hormones. This communication changes our mood. Think about when we get “hangry” from not eating, or the opposite, happy when we eat strawberries. To maintain a healthy and stable mood, we need to maximize the good bacteria and minimize the bad.

It is not to say that a good diet can replace medicine or therapy. However, it can serve as a supplemental treatment. The added bonus is that it can prevent other health problems, like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and more!

Be open to the cornucopia of food.

There are so many different diets and articles out in the world for “healthy eating.” The main point is to eat in a way that your body responds best to. As some might say, “hacking” your body. A diet made up primarily of fruits and vegetables, good fats and proteins, yogurt and cheese, legumes, nuts, seafood, whole grains and small portions of red meat can provide nutrition our brain needs. It can also regulate our inflammatory response and support the good bacteria in our gut.

Mood Lifting Nutrients and Foods

If we take everything in moderation and monitor our health, we can maintain a healthy lifestyle. The critical point is to listen to our bodies so we can understand what we need. Is it sleep? An activity like hiking? Or do we need to eat more berries and yogurt because we are feeling down? If we begin making small changes based on these observations, we can bring more caring into our bodies and lives.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on topics on UCA benefits: Medical Bill Negotiation, 2020 Clear Sighted Year, and Gut-Brain Connection! If you would like caring messages throughout the week, follow us on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter!

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