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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.” (ideas.ted.com) In the procedure, the cells of the gut began glowing green. This provides physical evidence that the sensor cells indeed behave as neurons.
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!
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!
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 and yoga