Health Through Heritage

It’s February, and already you’re tired of the dining hall (mostly just walking through the cold to get there). Luckily, the first week of February provides some foodspiration in the form of African Heritage and Health Week.

Image courtesy of oldwayspt.org
Image courtesy of oldwayspt.org

African Heritage and Health Week (Feb. 1 – 7) celebrates the foods, flavors, and healthy cooking techniques that were key to the wellbeing of ancestors from African diaspora cultures in Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and the American South, each with distinct local foods and cooking styles.

Food and nutrition nonprofit, Oldways created the celebration, with its overall mission to guide people to good health through heritage, using practical and positive programs grounded in science and tradition. The basic premise of African Heritage and Health Week is to bring people together to support one another in healthy eating practices. A fringe benefit: developing multicultural sensitivity and experience.

African Heritage and Health Week also purposely coincides with the beginning of Black History Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, are more prevalent in African American communities.With traditional diets waning in popularity, this week is a way to link African American heritage to historically healthy eating and lifestyle practices.

So what makes these diets so healthy? The African Heritage Diet Pyramid shows a framework for these traditional ingredients.

The diet is based on fresh, natural plant foods: fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens (chard, collards, kale, spinach, turnip, greens), tubers (yams, sweet potatoes, plantains), beans and nuts, rice and whole grains, healthy oils, and homemade sauces of herbs and spices. These are the core group to shop for. There is minimal consumption of eggs, poultry, other meats, and sweets. (Hey, saving some money!)

There is a great variety of high-nutrient foods, and those naturally low in processed sugar and unhealthy fats.

So, here’s how you celebrate African Heritage and Health Week: 

COOK: Plates of Expression dishes and foods from all four distinct regions of African heritage (click on the food for the recipe!)

 

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

LEARN: Taste of Heritage Cooking Classeshands-on experience showing people how to eat and cook with traditional ingredients, reconnecting participants with the way of eating and living that promoted the health of African American ancestors everywhere.

 

DINE: African Heritage Dine Around Townchallenge yourself to experience something new (or old!) – alphabetical index, by state, of cultural restaurants near you that offer widest variety of nutritious, plant-based dishes, preparing all the traditional ingredients and dishes in delicious new ways.

PERSONAL PICK:
For a quick guide, check out this African Heritage Diet 101 brochure and dive deeper into African Heritage and Health Week.CALLING ALL PANTHERS FANS! ITS SUPER BOWL WEEK. , “It wasn’t going to be instant grits. It was going to be like long, slow-cooked collard greens. I think those collard greens are brewing right now. You can smell them from 100 miles away.” Imagine Cam throwing this Collard Greens recipe to you. Eat them at your Super Bowl party, or save them for your Monday lunch – clearly a win-win situation.

Angelica Arnold is the Program Assistant for Health and Wellness at Student Wellness. She is a first year Master of Public Administration candidate at the UNC School of Government. Her focus is on state, local, and nonprofit programs for nutrition education and walkable communities. She also a volunteer instructor for UNC Fitness Breaks and a youth basketball coach.

Do I Really Need To Wipe Down At The Gym?

On any given day, those dumbbells and machines could be used by 100 or more people – and you know most of those people didn’t wipe down after they’ve used them. Not only is it kind of gross to not wipe down gym equipment after you’ve used it (no one wants to touch your sweat!), but it could put you and others at risk for catching what that person left on that dumbbell and make you sick.

germs, gym, wipe down
Image courtesy of Pascal on Flickr

A recent study at a university gym found that 10% of gym equipment had staph on it! Another study found that 63% of gym equipment had rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold. All it takes for you to get sick is to use an infected piece of equipment and then touch your eye, mouth, or nose. Some other germs that you might find at the gym may cause urinary tract infections, athlete’s foot, and warts.

Gyms present an ideal breeding grounds for germs – it’s warm, it’s moist, and there’s a lot of people coming through. Things like yoga mats and work benches may put you at a higher risk. Bacteria thrive on porous materials that get warm and damp. Medicine balls are also hotbeds for these germs.

Many of you may think that you’ve never gotten sick from the gym. However, it’s good to remember that many people may be carriers of illnesses without getting sick themselves.

While the reported cases of getting sick from the gym is not very common, there are enough reasons why wiping down is the golden rule at the gym.

Here are some tips to help prevent you from getting sick from the gym:

  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands using soap for 20 seconds before and after workouts, according to CDC guidelines. Make sure to also dry your hands.
  • Sanitize if you can’t wash. No soap and water? Then try alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Apply and rub all over all surfaces of the hands and fingers until hands are completely dry.
  • Disinfect your gym equipment. They’re at the gym for a reason. Use disinfectant sprays and wipe down equipment and mats before and after you work out.
  • Shower after working out. Your sweaty clothes are also ideal for bacteria to grow. Showering can help prevent this.
  • Protect your feet. If you’re going to use the gym showers, wear some kind of footwear, like flip flops. Wash your feet and dry them to prevent athlete’s foot.
  • Wash your clothes. Avoid re-wearing gym clothes if you haven’t washed them. This includes socks and swimwear.
  • Cover your skin. If you have an open wound, cover them with a waterproof bandage. You should also want to avoid pools.
  • Don’t share personal care items. If it comes into contact with someone else’s skin, avoid sharing. This includes towels, water bottles, soap, razor, combs, brushes, or make-up.

Next time you’re at the gym, don’t be caught being that person who leaves a trail of sweat everywhere.

Justin Chu is the Information and Communications Program Assistant at UNC Student Wellness and a Master of Public Health graduate student with a focus in Health Behavior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. He previously worked as a nutritionist in the clinical, community, and commercial settings after earning his bachelor’s in Clinical Nutrition at the University of California at Davis.

How Being YOU Can Reduce Stress

I always joke with my coworkers that they have to watch what they say around me because I believe everything that I hear.  And, although I think it is important to draw on other people’s experiences to shape your own success, at the end of the day you are the only person who knows what is best for you.  As a follow up to last week’s stress-free blog, I’d like to leave you with four more tips focused on how being YOU can lead to a productive and carefree school year. Continue reading

Workout Wednesday: 3 Things To Remember About Fitness

by Ben Smart

3 Things To Remember About Fitness
Peathegee Inc/Getty Images

1. A healthy lifestyle is a journey, not a destination

It’s about how you drive the car, not where you’re going. Confused? Think of your body like a vehicle. These vehicles come in all shapes, sizes, ages, builds, and colors. How well your vehicle performs depends a lot on how you drive and care for it. Do you change your oil every 10,000 miles? Do you invest in high quality fuel? Are you careful to not constantly strain the engine? Applied to your body, there’s actually much less variation in body types than vehicle variety.

According to a 2011 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, your quality of life depends greatly on your lifestyle choices. This means the small decisions you make on a daily basis add up. Check out this article from the Huffington Post on 100 ways to live to 100.

2. Sleep is your golden life force energy

Sounds silly, doesn’t it? I phrased it this way to highlight the dire importance of a good night’s rest. And the occasional nap is highly welcomed as well. When you sleep, your body repairs itself – restoring damaged tissues. The amount of sleep you get has a profound effect on your weight and your overall health. The CDC recommends that teens get 9-10 hours of sleep per day, and adults get 7-8 hours. Wow! That may sound like a long time in bed for those of us who push ourselves to the limit. Some people say that they get by just fine on 4-5 hours of sleep (this could be you!). Chances are, they probably don’t. Don’t take my word for it – check out this video on sleep by neurosurgeon and CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta.

3. Exercise is about more than losing weight

Losing weight seems the be the sole reason that many people exercise in the first place. However, it’s definitely not the only benefit that you’re getting from a consistent exercise program. Many fitness experts warn against focusing only on the result of weight loss, as this outcome can take many weeks to manifest. This delayed gratification can prove too much for some people – who could become easily discouraged. Instead, focus on the energy and increased functioning that you get from being active. To achieve your healthiest life, make exercise a priority, not an afterthought.

Make 2015 your healthiest year.

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation staff members. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: Tips for a Healthy Hike

This blog post was written by Ben Smart and is published as part of our blog exchange with Tar Heel Tone-Up.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 3.51.25 PM

Sedona, Arizona

Fresh air, breathtaking views, and space to explore – these are just a few of the tangible reasons to enjoy an outdoor hike. Engaging your mind and body with a short excursion could also yield health benefits extending beyond physical exercise. Research with nearly 2,000 participants in England found that walking outdoors in a group delivered a significant mood boost as well as lower perceived stress and depression, especially for those experiencing stress from a traumatic life event.

Before lacing up your boots and heading to the trail, take the time to pack and prepare the right way. We’ve compiled a few tips to make your next hike the healthiest to date.

Let’s start with your pack. If your filled backpack weighs more than a few pounds, it’s a good idea to select an ergonomic pack with waist strap capabilities, which will take the bulk of the weight off of your back and distribute it to your torso. When wearing the backpack, adjust the shoulder straps first so that the backpack fits comfortably on your shoulders, and then fasten the waist strap.

Now that your backpack is up to par, let’s examine the contents. Take everything out of your backpack and lay in on a table. Are you bringing any unnecessary items? Think twice before packing the second tube of toothpaste or the heavy binoculars. Ensure that you’ve packed a conservative first aid kit, and one or two plastic bags; these can really come in handy.

The most important part (and my favorite aspect) of hiking is food and hydration. Fill a stainless steel bottle (or two) full of water for the trek. Metal is preferred over plastic, as many plastic bottles can leach small amount of toxic BPA or other chemicals into your water, which means you’ll be drinking those chemicals.

As for snacks, aim for balanced portions. If you’re only hiking 1-3 miles, high protein and low carbohydrate food can be sufficient fuel. Three ideas:

  • Turkey sandwich with spinach and cheese, accompanied with a side of almonds
  • Tuna and high-fiber crackers, completed with an apple and peanut butter
  • Salmon and a whole grain tortilla, topped off with a banana and cheese

Once you’re hiking, remember to make smart choices. Take your trash to go, don’t litter. Watch your step, and adopt a wide stance when scaling steep trails. Finally, look up from the cell phone and enjoy the view! If you keep your eyes peeled, you’re sure to find some wildlife.

Ready to take a weekend hike? Check out UNC Campus Recreation’s outdoor expedition schedule here for events this summer.

Follow UNC Campus Recreation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and be the FIRST to know what’s happening here at UNC Campus Rec!

WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: What Does the SPF Number on Your Sunscreen Actually Mean?

This blog post was written by Emily Wheeler and is published as part of our blog exchange with Tar Heel Tone-Up.

This week, we’ve seen three 80º F days in a row and one incredible thunderstorm early Thursday morning! You know what that means: North Carolina is racing through spring into our unpredictable, hot, and randomly stormy summer weather!

With the reemergence of plenty of beautiful sun, it’s time to start stocking up on sunscreen again! When you’re standing there in an aisle of literally over a hundred different types of sunscreen, it’s difficult to know what all of the different claims on all of the different bottles actually means! Here are a few tips on how to understand what different sunscreen lingo means so that you’ll have an easier time deciding!

sunburned

“Sunburned” by Erin Stevenson O’Connor of Flickr Creative Commons

  • SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Theoretically, this number is supposed to mean that the sunscreen will protect your from burning that many times longer than you can normally stay out in the sun without protection before you begin to burn. Example: If I can only stay outside for 10 minutes without burning, SPF 30 sunscreen is theoretically supposed to keep me from burning for 300 minutes. I say theoretically because this would happen under perfect conditions. In real life conditions, if you’re sweating, swimming, or just moving around a lot in a way that might cause any friction against your skin from clothes, you’re losing sunscreen protection and it might not last for the entire 300 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to reapply every 2 hours no matter what the SPF says! SPF is not a measure of how well the sunscreen will protect you, but rather how long the protection will last under ideal conditions.

Fun fact: SPF ratings were introduced in 1962. Apparently, they were determined in the lab by gathering up 20 people with sensitive skin, measuring the amount of UV rays it took for them to burn without sunscreen, and then repeating the test with them wearing sunscreen. If that was really the case, there is no way that this process continues today because it would be considered unethical since even a single sunburn is known to increase your risk of skin cancer over your lifetime.

  • “Broad spectrum” indicates that the sunscreen is protective against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays cause the visible red sunburns, so all sunscreens contain UVB protection. However, UVA rays can cause dangerous skin damage that can lead to cancer and wrinkles, so you’ll want a sunscreen that protects against both! If the bottle doesn’t specifically say “broad spectrum” or UVA/UVB protection, you can probably assume that it only contains UVB protection and they don’t want you to notice.
  • Even if they do not specifically mention UVA or broad-spectrum protection, look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on the “active ingredients” list. These also indicate protection against UVA rays! These ingredients are also included in many “sensitive skin” sunscreens, yet they still cause skin reactions in some people. However, they are approved for safe use and sometimes it just takes multiple brand attempts to find a sunscreen that works best with your skin.
  • Most lab tests of sunscreen use a much greater amount than the typical sunscreen-wearing beach-goer wears! You should be using about an entire ounce of sunscreen every time you reapply, which could be up to 4 or more ounces a day! Don’t skimp and buy a single 8 oz. bottle of sunscreen and then head to the beach for a week; sunscreen is cheaper than cancer treatment!
  • If you have a family history of skin cancer or you take medications containing retinol (a form of vitamin A often used in acne medications), you are at an increased risk for skin cancer and adverse effects to sun exposure, such as excessive burning even with sunscreen use. Talk to your prescribing doctor about safe sun exposure and try to take advantage of trees and umbrellas for shade! (And of course, be especially obsessive about your sunscreen use and reapplication).
  • Ladies: don’t want to mess up your makeup by applying sunscreen over it at the beach? You can (1) apply sunscreen to your face and let it dry before you put on makeup, (2) choose a foundation, liquid or powder, that contains at least a 15 SPF sunscreen because many brands make these now, (3) buy a tinted sunscreen that essentially works like makeup when you put it on! These would be found in the make-up aisle rather than the sunscreen aisle and are sold under various brand names.
  • While you’re in that sunscreen aisle, don’t forget that your lips count as skin, too! Buy a tube of lip balm with sunscreen (such as Carmex) to protect your lips to keep them from getting irritated, peeling and cracking, and encouraging the appearance of fever blisters if you already get them occasionally.
  • Finally, don’t forget that your scalp counts as skin, as well! For men with short hair or women with part lines in their hair, you’ll need to protect your scalp from burning with a sprayable liquid scalp sunscreen (called “scalp-screen”) or a hat!
  • So you’re not planning on going to the beach? What about biking, walking outside, or sitting on the quad? If you’re going to be outside for more than ten minutes, you need sunscreen!

My family and friends always shake their heads or chuckle at me when I’ve spent a lot of time outside one day and I look down at the end of the day and say “Oh no! I’m getting tan lines!” In the U.S. today, media has encouraged the notion that tanned, bronze skin is beautiful skin, and many people see their tan lines as a small victory that has fulfilled their purpose of a day at the beach. I, on the other hand, see tanned skin as damaged skin (and the CDC and majority of dermatologists seem to agree with me these days.) I’ll continue to slather my high SPF sunscreen onto my fair, freckled skin every couple of hours because I like my skin the way it is and I would rather be fair-skinned and skin-cancer-and-wrinkle-free than tan and worried about the consequences that might come from my sun exposure later in life.

1966 Ad, Solarcaine Spray,

You know what else stops sunburn pain? Not getting sunburned.

Also, it’s important to remember that even if you have dark skin and you don’t feel like you have to worry about tan lines or sunburn, the UVA/UVB rays still have the same damaging effects on your skin over time as they do on people with lighter skin! This means that you should be wearing sunscreen no matter what your skin looks like!

My favorite is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer® Dry-Touch Broad Spectrum sunscreen; it doesn’t smell like much and it dries on your skin and doesn’t leave you feeling so icky and greasy! I also like the Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen to prevent clogged pores and breakouts and the Neutrogena Pure & Free® Baby Faces Ultra Gentle Broad Spectrum sunscreen because typically any brand of baby sunscreen tends to have a higher SPF and is well-suited for sensitive skin that might react to other types of sunscreen. (I’m not advertising, but as you may have already assumed, I’ve tried many different types of sunscreen and I’ve stuck with the Neutrogena line for a couple of years now because it’s always worked great for me!)

Sunscreen

“Sunscreen” by Joe Shlabotnik of Flickr Creative Commons

Disclaimer: Some sunscreens work great on some people’s skin and really irritate other people’s skin! What works for me might not work for you, so I suggest that you do what I did and buy small bottle of several different brands next time you go to the beach so that you can try them all out and decide which is your favorite! Once you decide, then you go to Sam’s, Costco, or Wal-Mart and stock up on that bulk sized discount! J

Sources:

Jeffries, Melissa.  “What do SPF numbers mean?”  16 August 2007.  HowStuffWorks.com.http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/beauty/sun-care/spf.htm  09 April, 2015.

Tachibana, Chris. “Probing Question: What does the SPF rating of sunscreen mean?” 1 June 2010. Penn State News. http://news.psu.edu/story/141338/2010/06/01/research/probing-question-what-does-spf-rating-sunscreen-mean 09 April, 2015.

The Best Sun Protection Plan for Rain or Shine. 5 April 2011. One Life, Make it Count: Aging Well. http://www.onemedical.com/blog/live-well/spring-has-sprung-the-best-spf-protection-plan-for-rain-or-shine/ 09 April 2015.

Allergies, Allergies

Itchy, watery eyes?  Sneezing? Congestion?

TV ads will diagnose you and tell you how to treat yourself so that you can romp through a field of flowers after taking their product.

Seasonal allergies  affect more people in the springtime due to tree pollen, but allergies can happen every season.  Fall is ragweed season and until the first hard frost, some people are experiencing allergy symptoms. Some folks have year round allergies and could have an allergy to dust mites, molds, or pet dander.  Causes of non seasonal allergies can include food, insect venom, chemicals, and medication.

The relationship between allergies and your immune system

Our immune system is a wonderfully complex set of processes that protects us against bacteria, viruses and fungus – the things that get us sick.

Allergies occur when our immune system reacts to an innocuous substance such as pollen as though it was a pathogen, thus causing an inflammatory response.

Why does this happen? It is not completely understood why some people develop allergies but the answer probably lies  in your genes.  Your own risk of developing allergies is related to your parents’ allergy history. If neither parent is allergic, the chance that you will have allergies is about 15%. If one parent is allergic, your risk increases to 30% and if both are allergic, your risk is greater than 60%. The allergic response develops after repeated exposure to a substance so you may indeed develop an allergy to something you had no problem with in the past.

The allergic response is mediated by several chemicals released by your body including histamine, leukotrienes and cytokines.  These substances cause itching (histamine) and tissue swelling which leads to that nasal congestion and, when the inside of the breathing tubes are swollen, asthma.

Helpful Medications

  • Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine, loratadine, cetirizine or fexofenadine are some of the over the counter medications commonly used to combat allergies. These medications are particularly helpful if the predominant symptom is itching. Antihistamines often have to be used with other drugs that block the effects of the other chemical mediators in the allergic response.
  • Prescription leukotriene inhibitors such as montelukast can be used.
  • Nasal steroids are often used for congestive nasal symptoms.
  • Inhaled steroids are often used in persistent asthma symptoms.
  • Oral steroids are occasionally used for severe reactions.
  • If you have an especially severe reaction, your provider may prescribe you an injectable form of epinephrine to use in the case of an emergency  so that you can then seek medical attention.

The best allergy treatment is avoidance  of whatever you are allergic to.  Educate yourself about your allergies. Learn to recognize the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction and when to seek immediate medical attention.  Be proactive about taking over the counter and prescription medication early to keep your allergy symptoms under control.  If you have severe and persistent allergies, you may need to see an allergist and may need allergy shots.

Fear not – allergies can be managed and new medications are being developed all the time. Visit the allergy clinic at Campus Health to learn more.

Measles: What You Need To Know

There has been an outbreak of measles occurring at various locations around the country, largely attributed to a higher percentage of unvaccinated individuals.  Although there have been no cases to date in North Carolina, you can protect yourself and the UNC community by making sure you are up to date with your vaccinations and proper self-care.
 
Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that can easily spread from one person to the other – even by being in the same room with an infected individual, as it is spread by airborne droplets. The majority of the individuals who catch measles are unvaccinated, but rarely people can get it after vaccination.  Symptoms begin with a fever, runny nose, cough, sore throat, and red eyes, followed by a red rash that spreads all over the body.
 
So how should you protect yourself?

1. Make sure you have received two doses of the Measles vaccine. Typically this is given as a combined vaccine called the  measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Most everyone received this vaccine in childhood so check your immunization records.
If not, students can get vaccinated at CHS, for a small fee. Call 919-966-22181 to make an appointment. Faculty and staff should visit their private health care provider or pharmacy.

2. Keep yourself healthy. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water; sneeze and cough into a tissue or your elbow; and avoid sharing drinks, food, and utensils. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.  The virus can live up to two hours on a surface where an infected person coughed or sneezed and is still capable of infecting others in that time frame.

3. Watch for symptoms of a high fever, cough, runny nose, red, watery eyes followed by a red, raised rash.  Contact CHS 919-966-2281 if you experience them and ask to speak with a nurse.  

4.  Be a good citizen and stay at home if you are sick. Don’t go to class or work,  the dining hall, social or public events, or use public transportation. Use good respiratory hygiene and cover your cough and sneeze and wash your hands frequently.  Treatment is symptomatic with lots of bed rest, increased fluids, and over the counter pain medicines like Tylenol or ibuprofen.
More information available at the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/measles/resources/index.html

 

You Hear That? That’s Your Body Speaking…

“You can do it…push yourself…keep going…DIG DEEP!” says the super pumped professional fitness class instructor, as I vigorously take breaths to sooth the discomfort that my chest is in from working out. I hear him telling me to ‘keep going’, even though my legs are ready to buckle from exhaustion and constant beads of sweat find their way into my eyeballs causing more discomfort. I am fatigued and my body is aching and all I can think to myself is, “No, Super-Pumped-Professional-Fitness-Class-Instructor—I cannot keep going…aaaand because you are going to keep my $10 for this class, I am just going to leave now.”

This, my friends, is a prime example of me listening to my body. I could have ‘dug deep’ and continue to push my body, but it was clear that my body was telling me to stop. Listening to your body, pretty much means being aware and in tune with how your body is feeling and reacting (usually physical, but not all the time). How did I know my body was screaming at me to stop? Or that doing an extra rep could cause me injury? Welp, not being able to breathe was one sign.

Joe Vennare, from Greatist.com , lists some common warning signs to ‘listen’ for to prevent three problematic conditions that occur often while working out:

  • Overtraining: Take time for your body to rest and recover!Listen1
  • Injury: Be sure to stretch, take breaks, and get doctor check-ups often!listen2
  • Disordered sleep: There is nothing wrong with an ‘adult bedtime’. Good sleep is needed to function!listen3

Yes, physical wellness is important to consider when thinking about positive health and wellness. Yes, we know that there are things in life that have to be done like….right now, but just pause for a second! Let your body in on the conversation and listen to what it is saying to you.

CMMR♥

The Gift of Giving.

I am a crafter.  I craft any and all things because it is a great way for me to relieve stress, plus I am intuitively good at it.  I usually give gifts and crafts all year long, but this past holiday season, I hand sewed 32 scarves from fabric that I handpicked myself (If I could have made the fabric myself, believe me, I would have).  Granted, I spent about $300 on all of the supplies needed, which was a grip! But if you really think about it, I spent less than $10 per person, which is a preeeeeetty good.

Hand Crafted for a Coworker

Hand crafted for my old Boss!

As I finished the last scarf, I began to think to myself, “Why am I doing this?” Welp! The answer is simple—I love the gift of giving.  Not only does it give me satisfaction to know that I am giving, but it makes it even MORE special that the item is personalized and specific for that individual.  It truly does put me in great spirit.

So, what about you? How do you feel when you give the gift of giving?  The Greater Good Science Center, based at the University of California at Berkeley, shares with us some ways that giving is good for you and your community:

  • Giving makes us feel happy. Research shows that when someone gives something that is nice for someone else, it activates parts of the brain that is associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. Endorphins are also released in the brain that creates an overall positive feeling.
  • Giving is good for our health. Research has connected different forms of giving to having better health.  Researchers think this is due to the act of giving, which decreases stress.
  • Giving promotes cooperation and social connection. Several studies suggest that people who give are more likely to be rewarded by others and sometimes by the person you gave to.  This helps create trust and a higher sense of interdependence.
  • Giving evokes gratitude. ‘Counting your blessings’ can illicit feelings of gratitude, which research shows, is essential to health, happiness, and social connections.
  • Giving is contagious. Giving inspires others to want to give. A study showed that when one person gives, it inspires observers to want to give later and to different people.

So, considering all of the health benefits and how easy it is to give—big or small—try to give often!

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