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Fri, Mar 17, 2017 AT 12:02 pm - Mind Well
Creativity & the Arts in Healing

By Ping Ho, MA, MPH, Founder and Director, UCLArts & Healing

10-year-old Kara makes a collage featuring a large bird standing on a branch of a barren tree with an arrow pointing its beak towards a strawberry, while a smaller bird stands on an opposite branch looking up towards a raspberry. Using a structured fill-in-the-blank bio poem, she writes from the voice of the bird:  

I am a little birdie.

I wonder if my mom’s going to survive, because she has a cut wing.

I hear my mom crying.

I see my dinner.

I want my mom to be healed.

I am a little birdie.

Creative expression reveals what is inside us.  It invites reflection that can lead to self-discovery, connection, and empowerment.  The universality and non-verbal essence of the arts transcends traditional barriers of culture and ability.  Moreover, shared creative experiences provide an organic opportunity for self-revelation, meaningful dialogue, and the development of empathy.

An elementary school counselor shared her insights in working with a group of 5th graders, after receiving a UCLArts & Healing training in Beat the Odds, which integrates activities from group drumming and group counseling to build social-emotional skills: 

“I used the one drum that I had to talk about problems and had kids give information verbally and with rhythm on the drum.  The kids loved it.  I noticed improvements in behavior with a greater sense of cooperation between them.  Those who were shy or acting out would bring out each other's qualities . . . to level each other out.  Some of these children, if put together previously, would have been fighting.  Then they became a group, and you don't beat up a member of your group.”

What tools can address emotional turmoil and social divisions as efficiently, cost effectively, and sustainably as the arts? 

Traumatic stress responses inhibit speech center activity in the brain, which interferes with our ability to articulate what we are thinking and feeling.1 They also inhibit rational brain functions of sequential thinking, decision–making, and social behavior.  On the other hand, when under stress, we are evolutionarily wired for activity in visual, movement, and sound centers of the brain for self-protection.  Therefore, non-verbal pathways for self-expression and engagement can be useful in addressing trauma.  

Unlike other healing modalities, the arts are also uniquely capable of enhancing positive emotions, particularly when the focus is on process over product.2  Furthermore, active participation in the arts engages large areas of the brain, which quite literally crowds out stress, grief, and pain.3

How can you bring these practices to your community, school, workplace, or home?

At UCLArts and Healing, we maximize the innate benefits of the arts by integrating them with mental health practices, such as nonjudgmental language that invites dialogue.  For sustainability, we offer professional development with scripted materials that anyone can use with a variety of populations, in a variety of settings.  We also teach others how to develop their own supportive curricula through our Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts.  Our vision is to offer effective programs across the lifespan that can be implemented in school, health care, and recreational settings, where nearly everyone visits.

We invite everyone to attend our inaugural, experiential conference on Creativity & the Arts in Healing from Thursday, March 30th through Sunday, April 2nd, 2017 at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport.  Learn arts-based tools for facilitating communication, building connection, promoting positive emotions, fostering engagement, reducing stress, and managing the impact of trauma.  Choose from 125+ workshops delivered by leading national experts in art, dance, drama, drumming, music, and writing integrated with mental health practices. Select any one or combination of days.  Over 30 continuing education credits are available.  Sponsored in partnership with the Expressive Therapies Summit. To register: expressivetherapiessummit.la


----------------

1 van der Kolk BA.  The Body Keeps the Score. New York: Penguin Books; 2014.  

2  Frederickson B.  How positive emotions heal. Keynote lecture presented at: International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health; May 16, 2012; Portland, OR. http://webcast.ircimh.org/m/2012?link=nav&linkc=date. Accessed March 16, 2017.

3 Tramo MJ.  Biology and music: music of the hemispheres. Science. 2001;291(5501); 54-56.


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Thu, Mar 16, 2017 AT 7:53 am - Mind Well
Exploring Mindfulness

By Mandy Mekhail

Photo via Flickr

I was first exposed to mindfulness when I started at UCLA. When I first arrived at Rieber Vista as part of my New Student Orientation, I was jumpy, perhaps even noticeably so. Born with something of a nervous disposition, I had a hard time keeping still. With that being said, however, I had never been the kid who was bouncing off the walls; rather, I was the kid whose thoughts never stopped racing.

The novelty that surround orientation and ultimately my future at UCLA set my mind abuzz with both fear and excitement. I arrived to my room, duffle bag in hand, and greeted my roommate with such forced enthusiasm that she laughed. She noted my nerves, which of course made me more nervous, and mentioned that she was a bit jittery herself. She suggested that we try this meditative practice together, one she had successfully used before in moments such as these.

My first thought at her suggestion was one of sheer disbelief. I certainly believed that college would be different, but I didn't think it would be something out of Eat. Pray. Love. However, I was a nervous pre-1st year, so of course I didn't announce my skepticism. With almost the same amount of hyper-enthusiasm that started this tirade, I readily agreed.

I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor as she instructed me to close my eyes, breath, and clear my thoughts. Unfortunately, my attempts to clear my thoughts only caused me to think more. I started to feel even more stressed than when I began. After what seemed to be an uncomfortably long amount of time, she asked how I felt. Once again, I lied through my teeth and insisted that it was essentially the best thing that ever happened to me.

After that day, I put the notion of mindfulness and meditative practice in a box and locked it someone far, far away. I deemed it something that simply wasn't for me. So you can imagine how I felt when it became something that was strongly suggested — essentially enforced — as a component of my job as a GRIT Peer Coach and my role as a Certified Resilience Peer. I was skeptical to say the least, perhaps even frustrated at times. No matter how times I tried, I always felt like I was doing something wrong. My mind would never fully clear, the awareness of which would then snowball into more thoughts. For the longest time I considered myself a failure at mindfulness.

My frustration with mindfulness stemmed from the fact that I didn't really know how to define it. I initially thought it to be something elusive, something I had yet to attain. In some ways, I was right. Mindfulness is like a muscle. The more one exercises it, the more proficient it becomes. But most importantly, mindnessful is a state of being and a way of living, not something a person does in isolation.

While it took me time and some continue prompting from others, I realized that there was more to mindfulness than sitting quietly in a room. I found that I could incorporate mindfulness into my life by looking up from my phone a little bit more often as I walked to class or listen a little bit more intently to a friend’s story. Slowly but surely, mindfulness stopped being this scary, nebulous entity. It became a lifestyle choice, one that not only helps keeps my anxiety at bay, but allows me to appreciate my life more.

Mindfulness is essentially the state of being present and aware both of one's surroundings and one's own body. Effective mindful practice involves acknowledging that the mind can stray and accepting that discomfort is valid if that is what one is feeling. In doing so, we become more attuned to parts of ourselves that we may have otherwise locked away.

Studies have shown the numerous benefits of mindful practice. As students, it is sometimes all too easy to put our mental health on the backburner. Moreover, in the hustle and bustle of being a student, it can seem like there is not enough time in a day to engage in mindfulness, regardless of the benefits. Luckily, mindful practice doesn't have to be a grand, structured event in order to be effective. In moments of stress, I recommend taking 3 deep breathes. When walking on campus, look up and take in everything. When lying in bed, conduct an assessment of the muscles in your body from head to toe.

Challenge yourself to be a little more present everyday. The benefits will be endless.

Mandy Mekhail is a 4th year undergraduate Psychology major and Disability Studies minor at UCLA. She currently serves as the Assistant Commissioner of the Student Wellness Commission, a student organization dedicated to promoting holistic health and wellness in the UCLA community.


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Tue, Mar 14, 2017 AT 9:11 am - Be Well
The Built Environment of Studying

By Miso Kwak

Photo via Google Images

As finals week approaches, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the academic demands. From exams to papers to group projects, there’s so much to keep track of! Read on for some tips on how you can optimize the built-environment of your studying so that you can be as productive as possible.

First, the lighting. Lighting may seem somewhat mundane but think about it… lighting plays an important role in setting our moods for different occasions. You may prefer a dim light when you are trying to relax, while you may prefer a brighter lighting when you want to feel energized.

Guess what? Lighting can influence our academic performance too. This study done by Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology demonstrated that lights of varying correlated color temperatures (CCTs) measured in Kelvin can be optimized for different activities.

The study was conducted in a laboratory with adults as well as in a 4th grade classroom. In both contexts, the researchers found that light with 3500K, which emits warm, yellowish white light is optimal for encouraging recess activities while 6500K light, which emits cool, bluish light that is similar to natural light, is optimal for academic performance. The authors explained that this may be because higher CCTs cause higher levels of arousal, although “there might be a point of diminishing returns at which higher CCT no longer improves human performance.”

What about the color of the walls of the room in which you study? In this study, the color of private study spaces was one of the six variations, including vivid red, vivid yellow, vivid blue, pale red, pale yellow, and pale blue. Subjects in the study reported feeling more pleasant and relaxed in the pale colored conditions, but scored significantly higher on the reading comprehension test when they were in the vivid color condition.

In addition to the visual elements, auditory cues can also affect our studying. If you are like me, you may prefer to listen to the music while studying. But is it really effective?

Findings from research in this area have been mixed. This study, which was a comprehensive meta-analysis in this domain of research, showed that background music in general disrupts reading comprehension. However, another study which put subjects through slow and soft; slow and loud; fast and soft; and fast and loud background music found that only fast and loud music resulted in negative performance of reading comprehension. Given the complex results, it may be difficult to reach a firm conclusion. Nonetheless, we should be more mindful of what kind of music we choose to listen to when we are studying. It would be important to find songs that enhance our focus rather than distract our attention.

The concept of built-environment may feel distant at times, but lighting, color, and sound are factors that create our built-environment, and could have direct impact on our academic performance. Do you have favorite study space on campus that include these elements or favorite songs to listen to while studying? Comment below!

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.


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Fri, Mar 10, 2017 AT 11:11 am - Mind Well
How to Practice Self-Compassion

By Maya Ram

In the journey towards finding balance in your life, the practice of self-compassion may be a game changer. Self-compassion is the act of recognizing your own humanity, accepting yourself at the present moment, and appreciating yourself not for your productivity, but for your inherent worth. However, self-compassion is one of the hardest things to practice when we have high expectations set for ourselves, perfectionist ideals, and constant messages that we should be doing more. Practicing self-compassion is an active process that involves the mind and body. Here are some things you can work on to incorporate self-compassion into your everyday life.

Image via Pexels

Start to recognize your self-talk

When we are stressed, the thoughts in our head quicken in pace and amplify. Some of those thoughts are your own mind talking to you about your self-worth or your current situation. You may call yourself names, blame yourself for doing something “wrong” or not being good enough, or tell yourself that your actions have much larger implications than they really do.  It can be scary to identify what these internal voices are saying, but this is a significant first step to practicing self-compassion. Try writing down your self-talk in a journal. You may even notice certain patterns in your self-talk.

Use affirmations

So, you have recognized your negative self-talk, but what do you do next? It can be overwhelming to simply notice your self-talk without working to reframe it. This is where affirmations come in. If you are just starting to use affirmation work, look over your self-talk and think about what you would tell your best friend to comfort them. Channel these words of love towards yourself, taking the time to write or say your affirmations aloud. Repeat them, giving them time to sink in. If you find it hard to accept affirmations, explore what it might be like to believe one, with curiosity. Patience is key when it comes to using affirmations.

Image via Flickr

Meditate to presence yourself

Part of the practice of self-compassion is grounding yourself, which means bringing your awareness into the present moment. One way to come into the present moment is to meditate. Meditation can be practiced in many ways, but one way is to sit comfortably with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing. If you would like more structure to your meditations, the Mindful Awareness Research Center website has guided meditations that walk you through the process. This amazing resource has a Loving Kindness meditation, if you would like to practice compassionate meditation.

Do things that make you happy

The best way to practice self-compassion is to do the things you love. When we are stressed, it is common to restrict ourselves from doing pleasurable activities until we finish our work and complete all our obligations. But what if we allowed ourselves to do the things we love, guilt-free? Practicing self-care, even for short periods of time, can not only improve productivity, but can also increase mental wellbeing. It is easier to practice self-compassion (and be productive) when we are getting what we need. So next time you are feeling stressed, do something kind for yourself.

Compassion with accountability

It is easy to forget to practice self-compassion. Often times, self-talk emerges without us even noticing. Taking a brief moment each day to give yourself affirmations, meditate, or even recognize your self-talk will make self-compassion part of your routine. The GRIT Peer Coaching Program offers individualized session to work on practicing self-compassion and building skills to improve your overall wellbeing. You can request a coach for spring quarter to increase accountability and work on maintaining balance in your life here at UCLA. Enjoy your journey towards self-compassion!

Maya is a third year World Arts and Cultures major and Public Health minor, and she represents the Bruin Research Center in the HCI Living Well Coalition.


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Tue, Mar 7, 2017 AT 11:01 am - Mind Well
Yoga and Yogis: You’ve Gotta Check it Out

By Aubrey Freitas

Photo via Aubrey Freitas

In a place like Los Angeles, we hear about yoga almost everywhere we go: celebrities use it to stay fit, just about every other person walking next to you has a yoga mat slung over their shoulder, and Lululemon products are popping up all over the place — but, what exactly is yoga? A quick scan through Google can give you the textbook definition, somewhere along the lines of “Yoga: a Hindu philosophy that teaches a person to experience inner peace by controlling the body and mind.” Whenever you pass someone holding a bright, neatly rolled, cylinder-like object on their back or arm, feel free to think of them as a “Yogi: a person who practices yoga.” That’s just a bit of lingo to keep you sounding hip.

As a passionate, backbending yogi myself, I have a deep interest in the practice and what it can do for mental health and for the body. If you’re already interested, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with yoga on or close to campus, like UCLA Recreation Center, CorePower (which offers a free class every Saturday), and Flexible Fridays (which holds free yoga classes on the hill for UCLA students). Yoga for Flexible Futures (YFF), a nonprofit organization here on campus that teaches yoga and nutrition to elementary school children at the UCLA Community School, has recently begun holding yoga classes/workshops, open to everyone, every Thursday from 7-8pm in Squash Court A at the John Wooden Center. Some of the workshops so far, taught by YFF club members, many of whom are certified yoga instructors, have been on acro-yoga, inversions, and vinyasas. If any of these catch your interest, please email yogaforflexiblefutures@gmail.com with any questions or requests. I sat down with two of their yogi members to find out more about their experiences with yoga, the effects it has had on their lives, and why the practice has become so popular.

Meet the Yogis

Ailey Word Simpson is a charismatic fourth year student, with a love of architecture and mathematics. She’s an adult-certified yoga instructor who has had a passion for handstands since she began her practice six years ago. She also has a secret talent of being able to touch her elbow to her toes (I have seen it happen with my own eyes!) and baking cakes on the weekends. Katie Salow is also a fourth year student and long time member of the club. Her interests are Psychobiology and Global Health on the school front, and triangle pose and headstands on the mat. She enjoys eating cookie dough ice cream, pottery, and looking at corgis dressed in costumes (though, not all at the same time).

Photo via Aubrey Freitas

Questions and Thoughts

Q: Tell me a little bit about YFF from your point of view. What does it mean to you?

Katie: Our organization makes health and mindfulness fun and accessible to kids that wouldn’t normally be exposed to the practice. Yoga serves as more than exercise, and helps the kids become more confident and comfortable with themselves while learning new and cool “tricks,” as they call them. (You guys can all see their smiling faces in the adorable pictures below)

Q: Why do you think it’s important for kids to take part in the practice of yoga and have knowledge of nutrition?

Katie: Yoga enhances Physical strength and flexibility, and encourages more novel uses of a variety of muscle groups. Not only is it physically beneficial, but it helps build focus and concentration, traits that are incredibly applicable to all aspects of development.

Ailey: Getting kids excited about living healthier and more mindfully at a young age will, hopefully, allow them to develop ways to carry that positive lifestyle along with them as they grow. We try to make the lessons applicable to their everyday lives, so that they can carry what they learned off the mat.

Q: Why did you start practicing yoga?

Ailey: I grew up dancing ballet, and I first started practicing yoga as a supplement to dance training. I started practicing consistently years later, and have developed an appreciation for all of the benefits that yoga can have, aside from strength and flexibility.

Q: Have you experienced any changes in your life because of the practice, like less stress, a calmer mind, or just an overall more positive way of living?

Katie: Absolutely. Yoga is a great workout, but the practice teaches you to focus and let go of negative thoughts that aren’t adding to your quality of life. It is a moving meditation that helps ground your thoughts and creates balance in all aspects of life.

Ailey: Having a consistent yoga practice has definitely changed how I approach my day-to-day life. At this point in my yoga journey, I am more comfortable with my body and have learned to practice better self care physically and mentally.

Q: What would you tell someone who was thinking about getting into yoga, but was worried that they weren’t flexible enough to participate in the practice?

Katie: Lesson plans for classes are geared towards valuing the variety of everyone’s bodies: whether you’re more flexible, strong, energetic, or still. (There’s many different aspects of the practice, it’s not all about being able to twist into a pretzel shape.)

Ailey: No one is good or bad at yoga, and there is no one way that each pose should look! Embrace your current level of flexibility and strive to find the variation of each pose that feels right in your body, rather than the extreme instagram version. (We all know what she’s talking about!) Yoga is all about how you feel, not how you look.

Yoga is a beautiful practice that will allow you to work on silencing your mind, exploring the abilities of your body, and, ultimately, find balance (literally and figuratively here, people.) It’s for everyone, and every age, and it’s because of the diversity it holds within itself that so many people are drawn to it. Try out some of the local yoga options mentioned above, or try finding others that may appeal more to what you are looking for out of the practice, or maybe, just maybe, these yogis and I will see you on Thursdays in Wooden.

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.


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Mon, Mar 6, 2017 AT 11:44 am - Be Well
How tomorrow’s election could affect your built-environment

By Miso Kwak

Photo via Google Images

Bruins, are you aware that there is an election tomorrow?

It is a local election conducted by the County of Los Angeles. Los Angeles voters will be electing a new mayor, city council, and school board, along with a number of county-wide and city-wide measures. Read on to find out what role you could play in shaping the built-environment of Westwood and city of Los Angeles through your vote.

City Measure S — This is a measure that aims to increase regulation of general planning and development of housing in Los Angeles. Passing of Measure S would impose moratorium on constructions of many development projects and increase restrictions on getting new projects approved in the city of Los Angeles. Proponents argue that this will strengthen the integrity of the process in which development projects are approved. Opponents of Measure S, on the other hand, argue that moratorium and greater restrictions on development projects will result in housing shortages, exacerbating homelessness and decreasing tax revenues for public services.

While development projects – both for business and housing – may seem solely like a social issue, it is an important factor for the built-environment and consequently for the well-being of our city. For example, a study has shown that housing insecurity is associated with poor health, lower weight, and greater developmental risk for young children. The study further recommends that policymakers should prioritize policies that promote greater housing security.

In another study, researchers surveyed 68,111 adults in twelve different states, and found that housing insecurity significantly increases the risk of frequent insufficient sleep and frequent mental distress.

Thus, whether or not Measure S passes could have a long-term consequence for the well-being of Angelinos. Make sure to read more about this initiative and vote mindfully.

Another issue that is particularly relevant for Westwood residents is election of a council member for District 5, which includes Westwood. There are three candidates running for this position: Paul Koretz, Jesse Creed, and Mark Herd. While each candidate has a number of campaign agendas, this post focuses on each candidate’s position on bike lanes, public transit, and pedestrian safety.

Paul Koretz — Koretz has been a council member for District 5 since 2009. His response to the survey conducted by Bike the Vote indicates his efforts to promote biking for District 5 as well as his support for biking, more efficient transit, and pedestrian safety. However, it appears that his position on supporting Vision Zero seems inconsistent. Vision Zero aims to eliminate traffic-related death in Los Angeles in the next 20 years. Koretz states that he will continue to advocate for the safety of walkers and bikers. However, he is opposed to installing bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard, a project supported by UCLA and the Westwood Village Improvement Association.  Westwood Boulevard has been identified as one of most dangerous streets by the L.A. Department of Transportation’s High Injury Network. Coretz’s proposed alternative is to put a bike lane on Gayley Avenue instead.

Jesse Creed — Like Koretz, Creed is also in support of safety. However, his concrete plans are different. First, he has expressed his commitment to continuing the study for bike safety, which has been abandoned by Koretz. On the survey conducted by Bike The Vote, he stated, “The City’s job is to make it not dangerous” regarding the current status of Westwood Boulevard. In addition, Creed also highlights ensuring safety for all people regardless of their age, ability, and mode of transportation.

Mark Herd — Based on the Bike The Vote survey, Herd appears to support “the community’s needs.” However, compared to Koretz and Creed, his stance does not seem clear and knowledge on the issue limited.

While bike lane, public transit, and pedestrian safety reflect only partial vision of each candidates, these are issues that can influence our daily commute and long-term health and safety. Ensuring that we elect a council member who advocates for and prioritizes the mobility of their constituents is a vital step to making our community healthier. 

P.S. If you’re unsure of your polling place, you can find it here!

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.


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Thu, Mar 2, 2017 AT 8:04 am - Move Well
How to overcome your fear of the gym

By Monica Aguilar

Photo via Google Images

The first time I ever entered a gym I was intimidated, I was afraid. I loved to work out; all throughout high school I did sports every season of the year, so I considered myself an athlete. Physical activity...it was my entertainment, my distraction, and my stress reliever. But, I realized I had never stepped into a “real” gym before until I came to college. My little rural town up in NorCal had a gym the size of the Circuit Room inside John Wooden! (Imagine all the UCLA population trying to workout in there all at once — yikes! Well, that was my experience).

It wasn’t until I entered the John Wooden Center that I realized how insecure I was about working out in a gym setting.  As a woman of color, a Mexican American, I felt I did not belong when I didn’t see others with similar characteristics to myself roaming around the gym floors. But, I soon realized that it was my own self-consciousness triggering these thoughts, because the reality is a different one: The gym is for all — for people of all ages, sizes, shapes, and skin colors.

Studies have shown that university students have “problematic levels of inactivity” which results in serious health implications in the future of the student.  Because there are health disparities in certain communities are evident and a continuous prevalence of high rates of obesity in young adolescents and adults in the United States, I decided I wanted to change this pattern of inactivity due to intimidation not only for myself but for others with similar experiences.  

So what do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed by a gigantic work out space filled with people who sure look like they know what they are doing? What do you do when you want to fix these “problematic levels” of inactivity in your life that can lead to chronic health implications but you are intimidated by the gym?

1. Find a workout buddy — Studies show that a main predictor for college students who workout is social support. Lack of a workout buddy has shown to decrease the willingness to workout. Finding someone that can accompany you to the gym not only erases the feeling of loneliness, but it also creates a sense of moral support which results in encouragement and motivation.

2. Attend group exercise classes — The John Wooden Center offers a variety of group workout classes which are open for all students with the purchase of a fitness pass. These classes can help you get into the rhythm of working out whether, it is a total body challenge class or a barbell class. The instructors in John Wooden Center are the best at what they do and their mission is to create a comfortable place for everyone to workout in. Working out in groups allows you to learn from others and, similar to a workout buddy, it helps give social support. Also, being in a group setting provides the opportunity of observational learning which introduces one to new ways of working out if you don’t know where to start. That way next time you enter the gym you already have a foundation to start with.  

3. Ask Questions — A lot of the reason why people end up giving up on their commitment to working out is because they are afraid to ask questions.  The John Wooden Center is filled with a numerous amount of employees who are there to help you get the best of your experience in the gym. If you are unsure of how to use a treadmill or an elliptical machine, simply ask and you’ll be given guidance!

4. Watch youtube videos — Now-a-days what can you not learn through youtube videos, right?!  Youtube has become the 4th most accessed website in the internet. You can access all sorts of videos from crash courses to videos on how to ride a pony!  Therefore, youtube can provide you with the opportunity to learn how to workout! Yes, indeed! If you are insecure about how to use a certain machine all you need to do is search it up on youtube, watch, and learn.

5. Join FITTED! — FITTED is a 9-week progressive training program completely FREE to the entire UCLA community. FITTED’s mission is to get students to feel comfortable not only in the gym setting, but comfortable in their own bodies. FITTED targets those college students whose communal health disparities have greatly affected their health as a college student. Many students who have attended FITTED have gained skills that have allowed them to become healthier and more physically active. I myself can testify to this as I am the director of this project and have personally seen and recorded testimonials, and have been told upfront the impact FITTED has had on student's lives. As mentioned above, FITTED is available to the entire UCLA community for FREE! To become part of FITTED all you need to do is attend any of our services which are listed below:

  • Monday & Thursdays: Group workouts at Pardee Gym inside John Wooden from 4-5 pm
  • Tuesdays: FITTED EATS from 4-5 pm. come get a healthy snack and a chance to talk to our Dietician Eve Lahijani who covers a different wellness topic every Tuesday !

Feeling intimidated by the gym to the point that you do not even want to workout should not be any student’s problem — students already have enough to stress about, especially considering UCLA’s rigorous quarter system!  As a community that cares about the well-being of every student, we are here to help. I overcame my intimidation of the gym thanks to FITTED and today I am here to help others alleviate this feeling which can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle if not targeted. With the flexible learning environment here at UCLA it is best to build up habits now than having to suffer the consequences later.

Monica Aguilar is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Chicano/a Studies and minoring in Spanish. She is the project director of FITTED a health and wellness student-run project held in the Community Programs Office.


Tue, Feb 28, 2017 AT 7:57 am - Move Well
Beat Writers: The Pulse of UCLA Club Sports

By Ellie Benitez

Photo by Ellie Benitez

Look around you. Our campus is filled with incredibly hard working students, staff, faculty, and world-class athletes. If you’re lucky, you may even spot an Olympian or two causally sitting in one of your lecture halls, or a MacArthur Fellow teaching one of your classes.

My point is this: UCLA’s hyper-competitive nature gives it its edge. By creating an atmosphere where students challenge one another and pull each other up, UCLA cultivates success. It breeds Nobel Prize laureates and gold medalists, Grammy award winners and NCAA champions.  Its students are successful because they grow and mold in an environment that fosters healthy competition in all fields and at all levels

But sometimes, the game gets exhausting. We want a break from the endless competitions, and want to sit back and relax, admire those around us instead. A win for UCLA is a win for everyone associated with UCLA, and it’s exciting to share that. Ever wonder who wrote those article you see on your Facebook feed, or in the Daily Bruin, praising fellow Bruins? Other fellow Bruins! One such program that follows and writes articles about UCLA sports is the UCLA Club Sports Beat Writers program.

The Beat Writer program at UCLA is a relatively new student run organization, but is one of few of its kind and caliber compared to other top universities. Amit Nainani, a 4th year sociology major, made the transition from Daily Bruin writer to Beat Writer during his sophomore year. As a Beat Writer, Amit gets assigned to cover different UCLA sports clubs at their home tournaments or games, ranging from Men’s Rugby to figure skating. He writes about the wins, the losses, and everything in between.

As a Beat Writer, he interviews players and coaches to get the inside scoop on the game, asking questions about big plays, commenting on team chemistry, and promoting upcoming events for the team. They’re called Beat Writers because they are the “pulse of the club,” having established a rapport with the athletes so they feel comfortable doing interviews. Besides writing articles, Amit and the 4 other Beat Writers in the program serve as photographers and videographers, occasionally live streaming important games or tournaments so that out-of-state friends and families may tune in and support.

So what does it take to be a Beat Writer, you may ask? Someone who has a passion for sports, is ambitious, and can work independently to reach deadlines has the perfect attributes to be a Beat Writer. No prior experience in photography is necessary, and basic writing skills (or a willingness to improve upon writing) is enough of a background to apply to the program.

The Beat Writer program is a perfect opportunity for sports lovers to get to know athletes at UCLA on a personal level, and to get paid doing what they love to do anyways! If you fit this criteria and would like more information on the program and application process, email Kyle Urban at kurban@recreation.ucla.edu , or take a trip to the Club Sports Clubhouse located in the John Wooden Center.

Ellie Benitez is a 3rd year undergraduate Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics major and Society and Genetics minor at UCLA. She currently serves as the HCI representative for UCLA Recreation, where she is a Student Supervisor for Intramural Sports.


Mon, Feb 27, 2017 AT 8:47 am - Mind Well
Interview with a Certified Resilience Peer

By Aubrey Freitas

Upon reading the title above, many questions may come to mind: What is a Resilience Peer? What do they do? Why are they important? By the end of this interview, I hope to help answer all of those questions.

A Resilience Peer is a UCLA student (undergraduate or graduate) that is a part of the Resilience Peer Network (RPN), a group that offers peer-to-peer counseling and support outside of a clinical setting. Participants in RPN undergo internet-delivered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is very effective for managing mental health, especially mild to moderate Depression and Anxiety which are the main focus of RPN. Trained Resilience Peers offer individual or group therapy sessions to students who have screened into the program, under the supervision of licensed professionals.

One goal of RPN is to expand the availability of effective care to UCLA students who face challenges accessing guidance at existing mental health services. Recently, RPN teamed up with UCLA’s Depression Grand Challenge, the biggest Depression study in history; the Grand Challenge aims to reach and collect information on 100K individuals from around the world to better understand the origins of Depression, as well as develop new treatments to combat it. The challenge, in collaboration with faculty members in numerous departments at UCLA, desires to cut the burden of Depression in half by 2050 and eliminate it by the end of the century. UCLA, with its diverse population of students, leading expertise in many fields, and large connection of networks throughout the world, is using its resources to find a solution that millions will benefit from. If you want a quick overview of the Depression Grand Challenge and to learn of its many other goals, watch this YouTube video that covers it all.

The Interviewee

Now that we have some background information about RPN and what it does for mental health, let's get to know a bit about the girl with all of the details, our backstage pass to RPN, our interviewee, Mandy Mekhail. She is a fourth year undergraduate student with a passion for Psychology and Disability Studies. She’s been an ASK Peer Counselor, New Student Advisor, and a GRIT Coach during her time at UCLA, but, most importantly, she’s been an advocate for mental health through it all! If you’d like to know a bit more about her awesomeness, she learned how to play, and in fact beat, her first video game before she was four years old. For all of the reasons above, she is clearly qualified to assist us as we delve into the world of RPN.

The Interview

Q: When did you decide to join RPN?

A: I first joined RPN last year when I was serving as Events Director of Active Minds, a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission (SWC) that is dedicated to changing the conversation surrounding mental health.

Q: How has joining RPN helped or influenced you?

A: I consider myself a stanch mental health advocate and this opportunity has allowed me to come across many different populations of people.  These experiences have encouraged me to approach anyone I meet with kindness and cultural humility. My goal is to listen to understand, not listen to respond.

Q: Why do you think bringing access to mental health support is important for students to know about?

A: There is no denying that students here are busy. RPN and internet-based cognitive therapy provides students with much more flexibility in seeking treatment. It’s arrival signals the importance that mental health has, not only in our school, but in our society.

Q: How has RPN and the Depression Grand Challenge helped erase some of the stigmas surrounding mental health?

A: RPN does a wonderful job of challenging stigma within our student body by normalizing the presence of depression and anxiety by emphasizing that there are other students, just like us, who also struggle. In that respect, I would argue that RPN removes some of the isolation that might go hand in hand with both a student’s busy schedule, and a decreased focus of self-care.

Q: What would you tell someone looking to get involved with RPN?

A: I would tell someone looking to join RPN to think about what the program could provide for them, but also what they could provide for the program and the people within it. As a certified resilience peer, we have the opportunity to facilitate a shared space of empathy and trust. The things we do have a profound impact on others, whether they realise it or not. With all that being said, I would recommend that the person think about their strengths and weaknesses, because we all have areas to grow in, as well as areas in which we uniquely flourish.

We all have mental health, and it’s important that we do all that we can to help maintain it, for ourselves and for all of those around us. If you are a strong advocate for mental health and feel as though the Resilience Peer Network is for you, contact Dr. Elizabeth Gong-Guy at egongguy@saonet.ucla.edu and provide information concerning your degree program, year, and a bit about why you are interested in joining the program. If you would like to receive treatment from RPN, visit https://goo.gl/PA27eb for more information and to participate in the iCBT Student Study screening, which will determine your eligibility. Follow #BlueForHope online and on social media to discover more people joining to the Depression Grand Challenge to greater our understanding of a mental illness that is the number one source of misery in the world, and that affects so many people around us.

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.


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Fri, Feb 24, 2017 AT 9:03 am - Eat Well
Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Blog Series: Plant-based Pest Solutions

By Jessica Huang

Photo via Jessica Huang

What degree/program are you pursuing at UCLA (include your year and focus)?

Hello! My name is Jessica Huang and I’m a third year undergraduate student pursuing a Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics degree and a Food Studies minor. I joined this major because I love looking at the details, even those under the microscope, and connecting them to the larger picture.

Talking synthetic chemicals at Mark Cuban’s RECESS Regionals. Photo via Jessica Huang.

What is the Global Food Initiative Fellowship?

The UC Global Food Initiative (GFI) was launched by President Napolitano in 2014.  It asks each of the 10 UC campuses to think critically about how we can nutritiously and sustainably feed a population that is expected to reach 8 billion by 2025.  This issue is of direct importance to the UC community, where food insecurity among students and staff is of growing concern. The GFI Student Fellowship program provides funding to students working on research, internships, or other projects with a focus on food.

Can you tell us a bit about your project as a GFI Fellow?

For my project, I’m focusing on the sustainability and agricultural side of food studies. I have been developing and focusing on determining the benefits on natural plant-based pest solutions both agriculturally and in the home and office space. Currently there are options for natural pest control for large farms, however in the consumer side of the industry we are lacking choice. More specifically, I’m looking more in depth into the production of goods and produce and how the whole process, from farming in the fields to transporting to the groceries near you, can be more sustainable. In working with a fellow student, Nandeet Mehta, in his agricultural solutions startup, Pyur Solutions, I’ve been researching the advantages of plant-based, eco-friendly processes and chemicals for the agro-industry and the consumer industry. In conjunction, I wanted to explore sustainability in a greater scope and am the co-founder of S8, an organization that will expand the community focusing on sustainability and provide a platform for discussions across all disciplines and industries.

What inspired you to get involved in this project?

Growing up, I never truly saw the value in organic or natural produce. In my house, it was always, “why spend $5 for organic eggs when they taste exactly the same as $3 regular eggs?” It wasn’t until I started really looking into what goes on behind the scenes in the production of food, in America especially, that I began to understand the benefits of shopping and eating organic. In working with the Healthy Campus Initiative, I grew extremely interested in nutrition and food, and simultaneously wanted to apply my research background and science-minded self, and thus, my passion in food science and the agri-industry sprouted.

What has been most challenging aspects of your experience thus far?

In filing S8 as a non-profit organization, I have encountered the Mt. Vesuvius of paperwork that comes with trying to file a federally-recognized organization. There are a lot of nights sitting with dictionary.com open on one tab and a 50 page application or document on another. The amount of which I am learning, however, is invaluable and makes it all worth it.

Food for Thought Panel: How Nutrition is Tied to Success. Photo via Jessica Huang.

What has been most rewarding about your experience thus far?

In regards to Pyur Solutions, whenever we determine a positive effect that hasn’t been noticed before it lights me up. Sustainable agricultural solutions have the ability to combat a variety of issues in our environment and the research is just beginning. We have a lot to look forward in learning in the future and I’m beyond excited getting to be in the forefront of this with GFI, UCLA, and Pyur Solutions.

In starting my organization S8, my initial organization was a student org at UCLA called SNAC, the Student Nutrition Advocacy Club. We hosted an event called Food for Thought: How Nutrition Is Tied To Success with high-profile panelists including NBA athlete Metta World Peace, fitness coach Koya Webb, renowned scientist Dr. Luke Bucci, and others. It was truly an amazing experience to see students and adults, (especially those who maybe only came to snap a pic with Metta) excitedly scrawling notes in the margins of their program from the information they learned.

How does your work relate to the broader vision of the GFI?

Agriculture and food science play hand in hand into how foods are consumed. I think a lot of people ignore that side because farming isn’t always the most jaw-droppingly sexy topic, but it is equally important. Same with sustainability, the way the world operates today does not allow for the maximum opportunity and prosperity that could exist.

What’s one of your favorite articles, documentaries, books, or video clips about food?

The article that spoke most to me is the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Annual Dirty Dozen Report that lists the filthiest produce offered in grocery stores everywhere, laced with chemicals that are a mouthful for me, even as the Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics major. How could you or I be expected to know what these chemicals are, let alone eat them? Definitely check it out here, especially if you are even slightly dubious about organics. It’ll make you think twice before you pop a chocolate strawberry in your mouth.

How can other students get involved in this issue or topic?

Join a student organization on campus, work with a nonprofit (they love passionate students), or intern! And the next time you’re grocery shopping, think twice before you make your selection. If you’re interested in hearing more or working about Pyur Solutions, S8, or have any questions about anything at all, email me at jessicakhuang@g.ucla.edu — I’m friendly, I promise!

Anything last thoughts you would like to share?

Turn your bottle of mosquito repellent or insect killer around to check out the ingredient list for chemicals like pyrethroids, piperonyl butoxide, or permethrin. Then, (shameless plug alert) stay tuned shortly for when Pyur Solutions can be found on the shelves near you full of ingredients you can actually recognize.

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Tue, Feb 21, 2017 AT 7:23 am - Eat Well
Answers to your Food Week questions on food, health, and climate

By: Hannah Malan, Graduate Student Researcher, EatWell

In fall, the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative hosted a Food Day panel discussion with three experts to help us better understand the environmental footprint of our food—our “foodprint.” We followed up with the panelists to answer some outstanding questions from our audience.

Meet the experts:

Dr. Jennifer (Jenny) Jay, PhD - Professor, UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability

Dr. Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD - Senior Dietitian, UCLA Medical Center and Assistant Adjunct Professor, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Elliot Mermel - CEO and Cofounder, Coalo Valley (Cricket) Farm

1. Are there alternative options (better than beef) that are meat-based?

Beef and lamb are the most resource-intensive meats, with production resulting in 26 and 23 kg CO2-eq per kg, respectively. This includes methane emissions that occur during ruminant respiration along with the carbon footprint of the feed and maintenance of the animals. In contrast, pork and poultry produce 7 and 5 kg CO2-eq per kg, respectively. Eggs and nuts generate 4 and 2 kg CO2-eq per kg. Beans produce just 0.8 kg CO2-eq per kg. – Jenny

(In other words, poultry and pork have a smaller carbon footprint than beef and lamb; but eggs, nuts, and beans are best!)

2. People say soy is bad for you. Should we limit the amount of soy protein we eat?

Soy is not bad for you at all! Asian countries eat a ton of soy and they are some of the healthiest long-lived people! I’m more worried about the naturally-occurring hormones in dairy products than I am in soy. – Dana

3. What is the “role” of packaged/processed food in this conversation (e.g. vegetable chips, etc.) or is the message that we need to emphasize cooking and preparing meals from scratch?

Eating as close to nature as possible is best. Cooking and preparing meals from scratch is always healthier than restaurant or packaged foods. However, looking for packaged/processed foods with as few ingredients as possible, recognizable ingredient names, and that are also low in sugar and salt can also have a place in the diet. For instance, frozen fruits and vegetables with no added ingredients can be just as nutritious as fresh. – Dana

4. What are the best nutrient rich grains and foods to incorporate into a plant-based diet? I know a few: quinoa, amaranth, lentils, mung beans.

Farro, bulgur or barley, split peas, whole-grain/brown rice, black beans—almost any type of bean really! Wheat berries, spelt, etc. – Dana

5. I’ve heard feeding seaweed to cows reduces methane production. Is this technique legit?

Livestock are responsible for a huge fraction, 44%, of anthropogenic methane, a greenhouse gas with much more warming potential than carbon dioxide. There is some recent work showing that in a laboratory simulation of a cow’s digestive system, additions of relatively small amounts of seaweed (equivalent to 2% of the cattle feed) did result in greater than a 70% decrease in methane production. Some work with live sheep also has shown significant decreases.

The technology is new, so long term impacts on productivity and animal health have not yet been evaluated. Also, this technology would only apply to the feedlot segment of the animal’s life. Typically, cattle spend most of their lives on pasture and then move to a feedlot for “finishing.”

It is important to note that due to methane production throughout the lifespan (pasture and feedlot), the carbon footprint of ruminants is much, much higher than that of other protein sources (see my response to question 1). Even with the substantial reduction of methane from ruminant respiration during the feedlot period, there are still more climate friendly ways to gain protein. – Jenny

6. What should we do with our food waste if we don’t have access to compost bins?

Given the important role that reducing food waste can play in lessening our “foodprint,” we can all strive to get better at generating less waste. For example, we can take plastic containers with us to restaurants, which encourages us to pack up and eat later what we might have thrown away. This saves the disposable take out containers as well!  

Careful meal planning does take time, but it provides huge benefits in the way of reducing waste, increasing our consumption of healthy foods (and decreasing our reliance on those typically less-healthy last minute options), and saving money.  

Try to spend some weekend time deciding what you’ll eat during the week. You might really like the extra time this gives you to buy and prep the foods you’ll be eating. If you do tend to change plans a lot, you’ll need to be careful with buying perishables. Remember you can always freeze your veggies and leftovers.

Finally, it’s great to learn how to make a simple soup that can help you use up stray veggies, beans, and pasta in your fridge. This can be as simple as boiling up veggies in broth, and running it through your blender. Cashews and white potatoes will add a creamy texture.  Similarly, smoothies will help reduce fruit and greens waste—you can freeze fruits and greens ahead, and then spin them up for a quick and healthy breakfast. – Jenny

7. Is eating insects really a promising alternative to conventional meats?

Traditional diets across Asia, Africa, and Latin America incorporate insects as important sources of protein—often as delicious delicacies! While the act of eating insects is not yet a widely appreciated source of sustainable protein in the western world, with dwindling land, water, and resources and trending environmental-consciousness, insect consumption is more than just a fad; it’s the food of the future.  

Tens of millions of dollars has been injected into the edible insect industry across North America and Europe over the past few years and hopefully this belief in sustainable protein production will trickle down to the plates of consumers. – Elliot

8. How many crickets would you have to eat to make the protein gained in beef? Does this offset environmental benefits?

Comparing raw crickets and raw beef, per 100g, crickets have 8-25g of protein while beef has 19-26g of protein. In general, insects require six times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein and emit less greenhouse gasses.

From personal experience and basic research, I say that there are many environmental benefits (less land use, water and feed use, greenhouse gas emissions) of raising crickets compared to traditional techniques of beef production.  – Elliot

9. Can you talk about DIY, home-based insect production? Are you thinking about offering classes in mealworm husbandry?

One of the toughest parts of insect farming is dialing in the variables specific to the space you are raising them in. Since this is a natural aspect of all DIY projects, I encourage people to take the leap and go through the trial and error period. There are many open-source forums online that can help solve problems.

We are willing to offer basic help to anyone in need of insect raising advice but keep in mind that the majority of hindrances in an individual’s farming will be lack of insect-specific equipment, a market that is still in its larval stages.  – Elliot

“Sustainable diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally accepted, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritional adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.” – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


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Wed, Feb 15, 2017 AT 10:09 am - Move Well
What’s Shaking Around UCLA?

By Tiffany Hu

Hello, my Bruin Fitness Pals!

Have you been wondering what fitness events are shaking up UCLA? Well have no fear, I am here to help you move and even de-stress with an update on loads of programs sweeping through UCLA!

UCLA Rec

Photo via UCLA Recreation

I know you all might already know about UCLA Rec’s amazing classes, but they have added a lot more new classes for great prices! For example, there are new tennis classes that take place in the LA Tennis Courts on campus. There are many options from just learning how to play tennis to tennis workouts. They also offer both private and group options.

Also, we have a new Applied Martial Arts Program! It is a mix of all the different martial arts classes offered to students right now. It is also personalized, based on your level of martial arts, what you are comfortable with, and what you are interested in learning. So if you haven’t been comfortable taking a martial arts class because you didn’t think it would fit you, check this out!

Meditation

Photo via Flickr

If you have been looking for an awesome place to get into meditation, look no further! The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) holds free drop-in meditation at various locations at or near UCLA. For example, on Mondays, the Ronald Reagan Medical Center hosts them, the UCLA School of Law on Tuesdays, and on Wednesdays, these are in Powell Library. So if you are interested, check out the full schedule here! For more events, such as the mindful awareness practices that help students apply the principles of mindfulness in their daily lives, held by the UCLA MARC, check out their calendar here, where the dates and times are listed, along with the dates of their meditation sessions.

Yoga

Photo via Yoga at UCLA

If y’all are interested in some free yoga, check out Flexible Fridays! Multiple sessions are held around campus and in the Residential Halls at different times of the day to accommodate your busy schedules. Although some of the outside sessions have been cancelled due to rain this quarter, there are still many inside options. So if you are interested, check out the times in the photo above! And for more updates (such as if a session is postponed or cancelled), check out their Facebook page here.

“I Heart Walking!”

Photo via UCLA Recreation

Get moving with UCLA’s 11th Annual “I Heart Walking” program! Starting from Monday, February 13th all the way to Thursday, February 16th, step out from behind your desks and walk with us and your colleagues! Join your fellow Bruins as we gather for lunchtime walks to get refreshed and improve your health!

Everyday, there will be walks happening at lunchtime, starting from 12:10 and 12:15 pm. There will also be free health screenings in Pauley Pavilion on Thursday. For more information on times, locations, and how to register, check this link out.

Also, if the movement wasn’t awesome enough, you can possibly get a t-shirt! If you attend two or more walks, you can get a free t-shirt (while supplies last). But there will be loads more giveaways, samples, and prizes, so start registering!

So now that you are all loaded up with fun events, get out there and keep up your movements! We, here at MoveWell, wish you luck in your movement adventures!

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics with a minor in Bioinformatics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the co-Director of the Student Health Advocates, which focuses on educating students on various intersections of health. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship, which helps students volunteer at all departments in the UCLA Medical Centers.


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Fri, Feb 10, 2017 AT 12:08 pm - Eat Well
The Current Hottest Beverage Trend: Kombucha

By Phillip Cox

Photo via Google Images

Kombucha is one of the hottest health beverage trends today, despite having been around for centuries. Its  first recorded use was in China 221BC during the Tsin Dynasty. So what’s the big deal?

Let’s first take a step back and discover what kombucha actually is. Kombucha is a fermented tea which tastes like a fizzy apple cider. The tea is fermented exactly like wine, but with the Kombucha culture, called a “SCOBY,” which stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.

So why is it the newest health fad today? Well, according to WebMD, there has been much speculation about the numerous health benefits of kombucha including immune support, weight loss, reduced joint pain, cancer prevention, increasing energy, improving liver function, detoxification of the body, and digestion. People today are just now realizing and understanding that the probiotics in this drink can work wonders on their body and how it makes them feel.

Digestion support is one of kombucha’s potential health benefits (Dufresne, 2000). The abundance of probiotics and enzymes are what impart these potential digestive benefits. Kombucha has been speculated in experimental human studies to even be more effective than brand name drugs in treating conditions like heartburn and ulcers. Something that is very interesting is that kombucha can help maintain a healthy balance of candida yeast in the gut by populating it with what many refer to as “good bacteria” (WebMD).

For us college students, the energy that kombucha can give to its consumers might be important, especially for those 8am and afternoon classes! The fermentation of black tea produces iron; the tea also has a small amount of caffeine, and B vitamins, which are known to give energy to one’s body. In terms of cancer prevention, glucaric acid is in the drink, and has been also speculated to reduce incidences of cancer in humans (Dufresne, 2000). However, more scientific studies of this are needed to further prove this speculation.

Kombucha drinks can easily be bought at your local stores but often can run a high price range from around $3-5 per drink. As many of us are poor college students, we can save some money by making our own delicious kombucha at a fraction of the cost and it even makes for a fun and easy science project for you to do at-home. A picture of my very own kombucha brewing can be seen in the picture below.

Kombucha brewing on Phillip's countertop.

To make your own kombucha, you will need the following materials:

You need pH strips to test its acidity and a hydrometer to test how much alcohol is in your fermentation. You can easily order these on amazon using the links above. Some other things you will need are a quart-sized glass container as seen to the right, a stirring utensil, a cloth to put over the jar (you don’t want explosions!), and a rubber band.

Ingredients:

  • SCOBY
  • Sugar
  • Tea Bags (any flavor of your choice!)
  • Distilled Vinegar (only for the first batch)
  • Fruit for flavoring

The main ingredient that you need is the SCOBY, which can easily be purchased at your local healthy grocery store and even can be bought online here: SCOBY.

I would personally recommend the store Erewhon by the Grove in midtown Los Angeles (7660 Beverly Blvd A, Los Angeles, CA 90036). From research I discovered that this was the cheapest place you can buy a $25 Kombucha Starter-Kit. To make your kombucha, follow these steps:

1. Dissolve sugar in hot water in your glass container. The ratios of all the ingredients can be found here depending on how much kombucha you want to make or what size container you have.

2. Add the tea bags with flavors of your choosing to the glass

3. Let your tea jar cool after for around 10-15 minutes and then remove the tea bags.

4. Add a little distilled white vinegar to the jar as a starter. As you make more batches, you won’t need to add vinegar, simply save some kombucha tea from the last batch and pour it into the one you are brewing as a starter. This starter vinegar or tea makes the tea acidic preventing any harmful bacteria from growing in your kombucha.

5. This is where you want to take your pH strips and test the pH to make sure the pH is around 4.6. Add some more vinegar or starter tea if it is too high.

6. Take a small sample of your kombucha and save it for later for alcoholic testing.

7. With clean hands, drop your SCOBY into the jar.

8. Cover your jar with the cloth and secure it with a rubber band.

9. You can even add some fruit in their to flavor up your Kombucha even more!

10. Allow it to sit on your tabletop at room temperature for around a week.

11. Following this week, you want to test your pH again. The pH should be within the range from 3.2 to 2.8. If the pH is still too basic (too high), then you want to let it brew for a day or two more.

12. You also want to test the alcoholic content of your kombucha at this point as well. Take that small sample of pre-fermented kombucha and some from the finished batch and then use your hydrometer directions to measure both. Don’t want you to get drunk during your day of classes. Don’t worry though, the alcoholic content will usually not reach more than 0.5%.

13. Remove the SCOBY culture that is left and save it for your next batch.

14. Start filling up some bottles and you’re good to go with a healthy probiotic energy drink for class.

Ultimately, what the SCOBY culture does is that it turns that bowl of sweet tea into a drink full of healthy vitamins, minerals, and organic acids (Kombucha Background). The probiotics in this drink are also, as stated, very healthy for you.

However, I must warn you that kombucha is definitely an acquired taste. It’s vinegary taste may take some time getting used to, but considering all these health benefits, I think the time to get used to is worth it!

Kombucha does seem to have many proven health benefits that will make you feel energized and healthier. Go to your local grocery store and give it try. Who knows you may love it enough to start making your own!

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the Eat Well Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.


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Wed, Feb 8, 2017 AT 9:08 am - Mind Well
The Many Benefits of Knitting

By Aubrey Freitas

Photo via Google Images

When we hear the word “knitting”, many of us think of sweet-looking, elderly grandmothers. However, this connotation does not do the hobby justice. Research conducted on the effectiveness of Therapeutic Knitting reveals that its benefits for mental health are remarkable. Gone are the days where knitting needles and copious amounts of yarn are the instruments of secluded senior citizens; it’s 2017 and everyone should try out the hobby of knitting, because it will allow them to reap a whole lot of benefits.

Stress Reduction

The relaxed and repetitive motions of weaving the yarn between the knitting needles or crochet hook is very soothing, and helps to calm the body as well as the brain. Similar to breathing exercises and mindful meditation, which also use repetition for calming effects, the mind and body are brought to focus on the present moment, and can remove judgment from oneself, as the knitting becomes the main focus. Knitting has the ability to ease people into a state of mindfulness without them even knowing, allowing people experience the practice in a different way, and use the tool to their advantage. The movements are also very similar to a yoga flow, creating a rhythm that produces a feeling of stability and inner quiet. If you prefer to take part in more extrovertive style of the activity, hobbies like knitting, crocheting, and loom-knitting are also often done in groups, like with friends and family, or instructional classes, acting as a social activity that can combat feelings like loneliness and isolation which could otherwise contribute to other problems surrounding mental health and wellbeing.

Increased Ability to Cope with Mental (and Physical) Illness

Research suggests that the constant, soothing motion of needle art can enhance the release of Serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the body which plays a key role in mood regulation, learning, sleep, and pain perception. The meditative-like qualities produced through knitting can help people “forget” their mental and physical struggles for a certain amount of time on a day-to-day basis. Therapeutic knitting has been connected to combatting depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, eating disorders, and chronic pain, proving that a wide variety of people could benefit from it.

Keeping Your Mind Sharp

Some of us (like myself) have never really taken a liking to math, while others find delight in the use of numbers. For those of you who like math already, this is just going to be the cherry on top of your knitting experience, because knitting is actually a good example of ways that we use math in the real world. The patterns, stitch counts, different stitch types, all require some amount of math, but what’s great about it is that you may not even know you’re using it. The meditative or social state you surround yourself in while knitting creates a sense of happiness and calm, allowing you to exercise your mind without feeling any strain, because you are partaking in an activity that you may find enjoyable. Keeping the brain active in this way was proven in one study to reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment, which is one of the many precursors of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of Dementia.

So, go to a craft store and pick out a spool of yarn that is calling to you, choose one of the many variations of needleart that seems most interesting to you, and experience the "feel good" effects of knitting for yourself. If you’re a beginner and feel a bit worried about learning a new skill on your own, grab a friend to join in the experience. There are a lot of different resources/clubs to use to get you started in the learning process, like UCLA’s iKNITiative, as well as Jeniffer Knits and  Compatto Yarn Salon, which are close to campus and offer weekly drop-in classes. Alternatively, contact WHeartsTWHands@gmail.com to find out more information about my very own knitting-inspired non-profit, Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting in return for one donated piece made using it. If you decide to try out Therapeutic Knitting, or already practice it, comment here and online to share your experiences with anyone interested.

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.

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Mon, Feb 6, 2017 AT 11:33 am - Be Well
Celebrating the Healthy Campus Initiative: Looking back and looking forward

By Danielle de Bruin


UCLA is excitingly marking the fifth year of the presence of the Healthy Campus Initiative (HCI) on its campus. The initiative was officially launched by Chancellor Gene Block in January 2013, thanks to the vision, funding, support, and participation of philanthropists Jane and Terry Semel. In honor of this milestone, let’s take a look back at HCI’s beginnings and biggest accomplishments, as well as a look forward towards what’s on the horizon for HCI.

HCI began with the Semels’ vision to create a culture of living well on the UCLA campus — for students, staff, faculty, and the community. The goal was to cultivate a campus-wide wellness movement that would make UCLA the healthiest university campus in America, and to do it well in our own backyard such that others would be inspired to join the movement. To achieve this, the Semels worked with other key figures, including Chancellor Gene Block and Michael Goldstein, former assistant vice provost, to blend health promotion with the True Bruin values, creating a unique structure that has since served as the inspiration for other health movements, such as the UC Global Food Initiative and Michelle Obama’s Partnership for a Healthier America.

Dr. Wendy Slusser, assistant vice provost of HCI, emphasizes that HCI achieves a collective impact because it is a “coordinating structure emanating from the chancellor’s office that helps to catalyze and leverage the incredible wealth of resources and knowledge on [UCLA’s] campus.” HCI brings together stakeholders promoting physical, emotional, and social health and wellbeing, and connects them with academic departments researching and teaching related subjects such as environment, food, and life skills, as well as administrative units across campus including Dining Services, Transportation, and Recreation.

By bringing all these key players together, HCI helps to make the healthy choice the easiest choice for student, staff, and faculty. Furthermore, with its six distinct pods — MoveWell, MindWell, BEWell, EatWell, BreatheWell, and ResearchWell — HCI’s interdisciplinary approach to health and wellbeing allows it to continuously find new and innovative ways to promote health on campus.

Over the past four years, the initiative has seen many successes. From more bike lanes to an undergraduate food studies minor, a “Mindful Music” series to meditation drop-ins to a tobacco-free campus, HCI has improved UCLA’s campus in numerous ways. Dr. Slusser believes that part of HCI’s success comes from its location within the chancellor’s office. Because the chancellor oversees everyone at UCLA, even the health system, it is clear that HCI cares about everyone’s physical, emotional, and social health on campus. Furthermore, in acting as a coordinating structure, HCI embraces health initiatives already in the works on campus and connects them to the resources they need to succeed, all while giving credit where credit is due.

Another key component to making impactful change on campus was pairing faculty pod leaders with key members of UCLA staff. For example, the MoveWell pod is led by both Professor Angelia Leung and the head of UCLA Recreation Wendy Windsor, which enables the pod to take research and innovation from UCLA students, staff, and faculty and directly implement it on campus through UCLA Recreation. Similarly, the BEWell pod is led by both Professor Richard Jackson and Renee Fortier, executive director of UCLA Events and Transportation. The medicinal garden planted south of the Ronald Reagan Hospital as part of HCI is a visible example of an idea translated into reality through the interdisciplinary collaboration of the then CEO of the hospital David Feinberg, Professor Peter Whybrow, Jane Semel, and the volunteerism of the UCLA community.

When asked about what’s up next for the HCI, Jane Semel and Dr. Slusser remarked that it’s hard to predict future projects due to the collaborative and innovative nature of the Initiative. However, two big projects on the horizon include efforts to pull together all the mental health resources on campus, led by Dr. Bob Bilder, the faculty leader for the HCI BEWell pod and Professor in the Semel Institute, and the construction of a living amphitheater in the Sunset Recreation Center. Jane Semel conceived the idea of the amphitheater several years ago and brought in the support from the Chancellor, Alice Bamford and Anne Eysenring, of One Gun Ranch, Dean Teri Schwartz of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, and Mick DeLuca, Assistant Vice Chancellor. Semel remarked that the upcoming living amphitheater is one of the projects she is the most proud of, as it will provide healthy food, exercise, stress-reduction, and the opportunity for community building to the UCLA community. The living amphitheater is expected to be finished in the spring and will be the location for the annual celebration of the Healthy Campus Initiative on May 4 called Dream Revolution where TFT students will perform a Midsummer’s Night Dream. As Jane Semel says: “It is a dream come true!”

What do you think have been some of the HCI’s biggest accomplishments or how has it allowed you to lead a healthier life on campus? Comment below or share your thoughts with us on Facebook!

Danielle de Bruin is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also published in the journal PLOS Medicine and the Huffington Post.


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Wed, Feb 1, 2017 AT 9:03 am - Eat Well
Olympic Diets

By Phillip Cox

Photo via Instagram (@SBNation)

Ever wonder what Olympic athletes put in their bodies to get them performance ready? Let’s take a peek into what astonishing and quirky diets these athletes fess up to. Eater Magazine notes that more than 10,000 athletes consumed 460,000 pounds of food a day at the 2016 Rio games this year!

Michael Phelps, who is the most successful Olympic athlete of all time, had a 12,000 calorie diet in 2008 when he was 23. Global News

notes that for breakfast he ate 3 breakfast sandwiches loaded with mayo and cheese as well as an omelette with 5 eggs, 3 slices of French toast, 3 chocolate chip pancakes, two cups of coffee, and a bowl of grits on top of all of that. For lunch, he would eat a pound of enriched pasta, 2 ham and cheese sandwiches, and 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks. Finally, for dinner, he would eat a pound of pasta, an entire pizza, and additional energy drinks. I guess that out-of-this-world athletes need out-of-this-world diets!

It might be interesting to note that other athletes have habits of their own. GQ Magazine notes that the world’s fastest runner, Usain Bolt, starts the day with an egg sandwich followed by a workout and then has a light lunch of pasta with corned beef, meat or fish. Throughout the day while training, he satisfies his appetite with mangos, pineapples, and apples. For dinner, he replenishes all those calories lost with a large meal of Jamaican dumplings, roasted chicken, lots of vegetables including broccoli — something he’s admitted that he’s not a big fan of.

Olympic Village Cafeteria. Photo via NBCSports.com

Simone Biles, who is a gold medal winning gymnast, told ABC News

that she eats pepperoni pizzas after every single meet! Seth Weil who is a member of the US rowing team uses peanut butter and jelly burritos in a flour tortilla to fuel himself.

It is important to remember that diet is no joke for these athletes. Eatright.org attests that, for athletes, nutrition is “one leg of the three-legged stool that supports their performance. Genetic endowment coupled with sport-specific training and coaching cannot stand on their own without proper food and fluid intake.”

Jason Machowsky is on the United States Olympic Committee Sports Dietitian Registry and works with Olympians as well and Olympic hopefuls (Interview with an Olympic Dietitian). He mentions that certain nutrition recommendations for Olympic athletes may not be suitable for the average person (like you and I). For instance, he notes that endurance athletes need more electrolytes and sugar while training versus a regular person. Endurance athletes demand lots of energy from their cells to contract different muscles throughout the body. Electrolytes like potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium are all necessary in allowing nutrients to pass through cell membranes, stimulating action potentials and enabling them to perform various metabolic processes during exercise. Cramps, side stitches, and muscle fatigue are all signs of electrolyte imbalance and thus for high endurance athletes, replenishment of electrolytes is especially important to maintain high active performance (Importance of Electrolytes).

However, Machowsky also mentions that everyone needs their fruits and vegetables! It may be interesting to note that Machowsky touches on the topic of eating disorders. He explains that some Olympic athletes take an extremely regimented approach to their eating to maximize their performance, but sometimes the athletes become too focused. The new-ish term coined in 1997, Orthorexia, is defined as having obsessive behavior in pursuit of a healthy diet. In Rebecca Rupp’s National Geographic article titled ‘When it Comes to Eating, How Healthy is Too Healthy?’, she discusses how Orthorexic lifestyles are controlled entirely by their diets and it consumes their lives. Although it is not an official eating disorder, Rupp has interviewed many first hand people who are recovering from this disorder and sees what a significant toll it has taken on their lives.

Machowsky declares that developing a balanced, healthy relationship with food is everyone’s best bet for long-term health, in the Olympics or not. Olympic diets may be specialized designed for high performing athletes, but there are many things that we as “normal people” can learn from. He says that Olympians having very strong self-discipline and endurance for their diets because they know it’s only for 4 years and they have their eyes set on the gold. Although not every one of us live for the Olympic competition, Machowsky makes a very strong point that individuals need to discover and set their own goal or “gold.” Olympic athletes act through a lens that allows them to focus on each decision and how it will affect their performance and ability. Individuals like us must strive for our own gold, whether it be a certain body mass index, specific weight or jean size, muscle mass, etc.

With a specific goal in mind, we can all make strategic decisions on what we should be eating to have our bodies perform at their best. And although most of our goals do not include Olympic medals, we can all definitely set small goals and achieve them. After all, we are UCLA students who do not shy away from any challenge!

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the Eat Well Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.


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Mon, Jan 30, 2017 AT 9:00 am - Eat Well
Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Blog Series: Lessons from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

By Carly Randolph

Photo via Carly Randolph

1. What degree/program are you pursuing at UCLA?

My name is Carly Randolph and I am currently pursuing my Masters in Public Health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. I am in my second (and final!) year of the program. My focus is in Community Health Sciences and I am especially interested in nutrition, stress, diabetes, and chronic diseases.

2. What is the Global Food Initiative Fellowship?

The UC Global Food Initiative (GFI) was launched by President Napolitano in 2014.  It asks each of the 10 UC campuses to think critically about how we can nutritiously and sustainably feed a population that is expected to reach 8 billion by 2025.  This issue is of direct importance to the UC community, where food insecurity among students and staff is of growing concern. The GFI Student Fellowship program provides funding to students working on research, internships, or other projects with a focus on food.

3. Can you tell us a bit about your project as a GFI Fellow?

During the summer of 2016, I worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) in the Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Research and Evaluation Unit. I was able to get my feet wet in a variety of projects surrounding research, evaluation, and health education! I assisted with several projects pertaining to increasing healthy food options for consumers (employees, hospital visitors, and locals) and I researched traffic light classification systems for food, contract and solicitation processes, and tool validation techniques. During one of my projects, I created a recommendation sheet for the County to use in developing a traffic light classification system for food at County institutions and universities, where food is easily classified as healthy or unhealthy based on a red, yellow, green classification system. I also worked on gathering food environment, demographic, and geographic information on several County institutions and hospitals in order to assist the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). My favorite part of my internship was that I was able to participate in health education events at grocery stores, conduct key informant interviews with store-owners, and attend focus groups at a healthy food business conference.

4. What inspired you to get involved in this project?

My mom has struggled with diabetes ever since I can remember, and I have watched her have pick and choose specific foods to eat or not to eat as a result. Because of this personal connection to diabetes, I became especially interested in how nutrition and diet can mitigate some of the effects of diabetes. After taking a tour of LACDPH and learning about the nutrition and diabetes research performed there, I thought it would be the perfect fit for me!

5. What has been most rewarding about your experience thus far?

The most rewarding part of my experience was attending health education events at Northgate grocery stores. I was able to take children on tours of the produce section of the grocery store and play a scavenger hunt game with them. They had to go find certain fruits and vegetables and I would explain nutritional facts to them about each fruit or vegetable they found.

6.  How does your work relate to the broader vision of the GFI?

My work relates to the broader vision of the GFI since it addresses food security through providing the Los Angeles community with information about healthy food and access to nutritious food. My work surrounding healthy food procurement and nutrition education serves as a method to reduce food insecurity and address nutritional needs of Los Angeles citizens.

7. How can other students get involved in this issue or topic?

Other students can get involved in this issue by either working in collaboration with the Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention or performing their own research on methods to implement healthier foods into various institutions, restaurants, and cafeterias.

8. What’s one of your favorite articles, documentaries, books, or video clips about food?

One of my favorite articles about food is “Do We Waste A Lot Of Pumpkins We Could Be Eating?” I love the taste of pumpkin and thought this was fascinating since pumpkins can be used in so many different ways, rather than being wasted and thrown away.

9. Anything last thoughts you would like to share?

I learned so much during my field studies and I am excited to continue to share all that I have learned with other GFI fellows, as well as with the general public. Feel free to contact me at carlyrandolph2@gmail.com with any questions or ideas you may have!


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Thu, Jan 26, 2017 AT 11:01 am - Be Well
New Year, New Lifestyle: Ride Public Transit

By Miso Kwak

Photo via Google Images

It’s almost end of January. How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions?

Exercising more, saving more, and enjoying life more are some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Yet, you and I know these are not easy ones to keep.

However, there’s no need to worry, because there is a practical change you can make to fulfil all of the three resolutions at once! The solution is riding the public transit.

Exercise More

It is widely known that physical activity is positively associated with better overall health. Riding the bus or rails is an excellent way to increase your daily physical activity.

This study indicates that those who commute via bus and rail walked significantly more often than those who commuted by car. More specifically, another study showed that public transit users were more likely to walk 30 minutes or more per day than those who do not use public transit regularly.

If you are feeling frustrated that your busy schedule does not allow you to go to the gym on a regular basis, riding public transit to school, your job, or the grocery store instead of driving your car could be a great way to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.

Save More

As convenient as it may be to have access to a personal vehicle, there is a lot of financial cost involved, from gas to parking to car insurance to occasional repairs. With public transit, however, you need not worry about any of these expenses. You can save even more if you are a UCLA student or employee. UCLA Transportation Services offers discounts for accessing various public transportation options around UCLA such as the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, Metro buses and rails, and Culver City Bus. There is also the Bruin Bus service, which offers transportation between campus and its surrounding areas.

The amount of savings may seem small at first but with persistence, riding public transit will help you cut down costs associated with driving a personal vehicle.

Enjoy Life More

The way to define “enjoying life more” would be different from person to person. However, one common aspect could be appreciating our surroundings, from scenery to people to simply atmosphere.

Riding public transit may feel like slowing down the pace of your life, which could be frustrating at times. However, said slower pace allows us to observe and appreciate our surroundings like city streets and our neighbors. I am confident that you will find many beauties of the city like exchanging a friendly hello with passerbys or absorbing delicious smells from restaurants and street vendors on your way to school or work — things you would not notice if you were in your personal vehicle.

It is never too late to make choices that will lead to healthier and happier lifestyle. Start with riding public transit. It will positively influence your health, finance, and appreciation of the surroundings.

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.


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Wed, Jan 25, 2017 AT 8:05 am - Move Well
5 Tips for Sticking with Your Fitness Plan!

By Tiffany Hu

Photo via Google Images

I can’t believe it’s already the middle of January and week 3 of Winter Quarter! Where has the time gone? It feels like my New Year’s resolutions are a thing of the past!

If you’re like me, sometimes you wanna just give up on your resolutions, or your fitness plan in general. (And no worries if you don’t stick with them because there are loads of reasons why some resolutions just don’t work out and all of them are okay. Just remember that you tried and even taking small steps to stay healthy and keep active is enough!)

But if you are wondering what you can do to help you stick with them or just maintain an active lifestyle, read on! Here are 5 tips to help you stick to your fitness plan, new or old:

Tip #1: Make sure to clearly define your goals!

Photo via Google Images

I know this seems really obvious but many people tend to make a goal of “becoming healthier” or “getting more active”. These broad goals are easier to dismiss because people tend to believe they are not making any progress as there are no definitive markers of success when reaching broad goals.

Instead, make clear goals! Some examples could be exercising a couple times a week or biking to work to get some additional movement in! By setting more definite goals, it’ll be easier to complete them as you can more easily see how to achieve your goals. But also make sure to not rely heavily on a numeric goal because that could negatively affect how you perceive yourself, especially if you don’t reach that number! So have a clear goal but don’t sweat the actual number: as long as you can tell you are making some awesome progress!

Remember to make your goals feasible too! For example, if you haven’t been that active, don’t make a goal to run a marathon by next week. Creating unattainable goals is just as bad as making ambiguous goals because you will want to push yourself to achieve it while making incredible progress but still end up feeling upset (click this link for how to set reasonable goals). Although it isn’t actually bad that you can’t run a marathon in a week, you will create this mentality of failure, which only makes you less inclined with continuing or creating other goals.

Tip #2: Create a schedule!

Photo via Google Images

Make sure to remember to include these goals in your schedules or planners! By being able to visually see your commitments, it will make it easier for you to continue to stick to them. It takes out the time in your day when you have to worry about when you can possibly make time for it.

By scheduling in time to achieve these goals, according to Dr. Paul Marciano, a psychologist specializing in behavior modification and motivation, you will definitely be more inclined to stick to them because your mind will mark them as priorities. They would be just as important as the scheduled time you have for class or meetings!

Tip #3: Track your progress!

Photo via Google Images

Remember to also track your progress! This will provide further motivation to stick with your current fitness goals because you can see how well you are doing! The tangible evidence helps people stick to their goals because they can realize how much they have grown in their endeavors.

And don’t be discouraged if you don’t meet the end goal for a certain time frame! Any progress you have made proves that you are one step closer to your end goal! Dr. Marchiano states that achieving our goals is not reliant upon our willpower but rather encourages us to develop the right skills and patience that will lead to success. Also, according to the American Psychiatric Association on how to keep a healthy life, this could also be an indication that you should simply reassess your plan and make adjustments to your goals!

Tip #4: Reward yourself!

Photo via Google Images

Now don’t get me wrong: getting healthy and staying fit can be reward enough but if you’re like me, sometimes you need a bit more incentive. What better way than to treat yourself! These rewards shouldn’t be anything that would prevent you from continuing but should still be fun to further motivate you! For example, treat yourself to a fun day: a spa trip, video game day, or movie marathon!

Taking a day off of your fitness plan can actually motivate you because it will be like a breathe of fresh air! After a day of relaxation, you will be more energized to continue on with your goals to better yourself and reach that next “treat yourself” day!

Tip #5: Talk about it!

Photo via Google Images

Talk about your goals with your friends and family! It may seem daunting at first, but I promise you: they are all only here to support you and cheer you on!

This will also help reduce stress if you think that the entire resolution may be too much. By talking it out, you’ll be able to see a fresh perspective and determine whether to keep going or if certain adjustments should be made! They can help you reason out your true goals and capabilities. So don’t be afraid to share with your loved ones!

Just one more note: remember the first step in making and sticking with these goals is to ensure you are doing them for the right reasons. According to Michelle Segar, Ph.D., a motivation scientist, those who stick to their resolutions have their reasons based in truly wanting to change their lives in a way that will “energize them - not deplete them”. Make sure these goals are based in the want to better yourself FOR yourself, not for anyone else. By embarking on these goals for yourself, you’ll be more inclined to stick with them and the success will feel much better too!

I hope these tips were helpful! Good luck and just remember, sticking to the “plan” is great but as long as you feel you are making progress, continue on! We, the Healthy Campus Initiative, are always with you on this fitness journey!

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics with a minor in Bioinformatics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the co-Director of the Student Health Advocates, which focuses on educating students on various intersections of health. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship, which helps students volunteer at all departments in the UCLA Medical Centers.

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Tue, Jan 24, 2017 AT 11:00 am - Be Well
Community Mother and Graduate Student Led Project, Creating Space, Paves Way for Lactation Support and Women's Rights in University Setting


By Jasmine Uysal, BA, MPH Student; LeighAnna Hidalgo, PhD Candidate; Christine Vega, PhD Candidate; Nora Cisneros, PhD Candidate; and Ingrid E.Talavera-Gutierrez, BA Student

In September of 2014, new mom LeighAnna returned from summer break to her graduate studies at UCLA, only several weeks after giving birth, because of threats that her funding would lapse. Returning to campus, she was determined to breastfeed her child saying, “I wanted to show my daughter it was possible to be both a mother and professional. I wanted her to have the best start in life and, frankly, I couldn’t afford to feed her formula.”  

LeighAnna knew she had a right to pump breast milk on campus, as stated in the 2010 Affordable Care Act, 2015 California Education code 222, and 2002 Labor code 1030. These laws mandated that as a university and employer, UCLA must provide sufficient break time to pump, and appropriate, clean, and private lactation spaces. Under UC student insurance policy comprehensive women’s healthcare, LeighAnna should have lactation education resources.

While policy was designed to protect LeighAnna’s rights, the reality of her pumping experience was discriminatory. Recounting her first days back on campus LeighAnna said, “I was not aware of how the built environment on campus would make it nearly impossible for me to mother my child.” Lactation spaces are far and she did not have sufficient breaks to pump, so she went hours without pumping. LeighAnna was forced to use public bathrooms or basements that were unclean and demeaning. Soon she noticed painful swelling in her breasts but said, “there was no one to turn to for information about what was happening to my body.” From the stress of feeding her child, LeighAnna developed a painful abscess, which ultimately sent her to the emergency room.

LeighAnna’s experiences were not uncommon, as several PhD mothers have shared similar experiences. These courageous women organized together to change the narrative of mothers on campus forming the Mothers of Color in Academia de UCLA (MOCA) to mobilize for institutional change. As part of their advocacy efforts they meet weekly with university stakeholders representing parents' interests. MOCAs organize monthly and quarterly events and actions on campus to build community and raise visibility. They have put forth a petition highlighting childcare access, financial support for parenting students, and other resources to ensure UCLA supports diverse student populations, especially parenting students who are often unseen in academia. Lactation spaces and breastfeeding are at the forefront of their petition’s demands and their petition has over 700 supporters to date.

Experts agree that breastfeeding is the best nutritional practice, with numerous benefits both for the mother, child, and society. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding. Dr. May Wang, Professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and Maternal and Child Nutrition specialist, explains, “Babies that are exclusively breastfed for six months are less likely to get infections and develop allergies while the mother has decreased risk for cancer. Breastfeeding also promotes bonding and natural birth spacing.” The Surgeon General of the United States notes that exclusive breastfeeding could save between $1,200-$1,500 annually on formula costs. Breastfeeding also lowers healthcare costs and improves worker productivity.

Despite the benefits of breastfeeding, women still struggle with discriminatory burden in education settings. A 2016 press release from Breastfeed LA reported, 60% of working breastfeeding mothers do not have access to appropriate break time or spaces and most schools do not have lactation policy. This leads to a drop in breastfeeding rates once mothers re-enter the university. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report only 24% of mothers in California breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. Yet, few studies exist documenting the lactation needs on college campuses.

While UCLA policy states that UCLA will provide “private lactation space” and “lactation break periods” for employees, evidence shows a different reality. The official map of lactation spaces lists 10 lactation spaces spread over 419 acres of land and 163 buildings. MOCA mothers recounted that they usually walked for over 20 minutes to reach a designated lactation space, which was still often inaccessible or inappropriate. In comparison, UC Davis has over 35 lactation spaces spread out to ensure no distance is more than a 5 minute walk. There is no data at UCLA on the needs of lactating individuals. The Student Workers Union (UAW-285) summarizes the situation explaining, “the university campus is configured to be less accessible to women, particularly mothers.”

In response, a new graduate student led project, Creating Space, has emerged to improve the UCLA breastfeeding climate. The project is born out of MOCA’s  organizing efforts, founded by The Reproductive Health Interest Group (RHIG) and lead in dual partnership, bringing together a vast list of stakeholders including the following: the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, the Healthy Campus Initiative BE Well Pod, UCLA facilities, UCLA transportation, ASHE Student Health & Wellness Center, UCLA Student Health Education & Promotion, Bruin Resource Center Students with Dependents, Student Workers Union (UAW-2865), Staff Assembly, and the Fielding School of Public Health. Despite a long list of partners, Creating Space retains community ownership with the MOCA mothers.

The project involves four distinct phases implemented in 2016-2017 to improve the UCLA breastfeeding climate. The Creating Space stakeholder group, including MOCA, community stakeholders, student researchers from RHIG, will:

1. Conduct a needs assessment capturing the qualitative experiences of students.

2. Form a stakeholder group across campus to guide implementation of the project and strengthen the voice of parenting students.

3. Increase access to lactation education by training UCLA staff in lactation counseling in Spring 2017.

4. Map and assess existing UCLA lactation spaces and increase the number of lactation rooms on campus.

Through the continued grassroots efforts of MOCA and support through the stakeholder group and founding organization RHIG, Creating Space will create a positive breastfeeding climate on UCLA campus. If successful, the Creating Space project could become a new model to update existing universities breastfeeding climate and breastfeeding mother’s like LeighAnna will have the institutional and cultural support they are entitled to. This groundbreaking work will pave the way and incite future organizing efforts, led by parenting students like MOCA, to advocate and demand lactation services and attention to parenting needs as a reproductive right.

Creating Space is a lactation accommodation, support, and education program designed to improve the breastfeeding climate at UCLA. Creating Space was inspired from the courageous advocacy campaign centered around rights of parenting students started by the Mothers of Color in Academia (MOCA) and founded by The Reproductive Health Interest Group (RHIG) out of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Together the organizations have partnered their efforts going forward to maximize impacts and community empowerment with emphasis on community ownership. As community based participatory research, Creating Space seeks to meet the needs of lactating mothers on campus and while researching and documenting mother’s lactation experiences on UCLA campus. To connect with MOCA or RHIG please contact mothersofcolorinacademia@gmail.com and uclarhig@gmail.com.


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Mon, Jan 23, 2017 AT 9:25 am - Move Well
5 Easy Tricks to Adding More Activity to Your Day

By Tiffany Hu

Photo via Google Images

What is the number one problem afflicting college students of today? LAZINESS. Just kidding! It’s actually stress! However, what does stress have to do with being physically active? Everything! I know it might be stressful to think about how to budget time out to exercise (look for some tips here on how to exercise with a busy schedule) but exercise really does help with decreasing stress.

Here are some tricks to help incorporate some more activity into your daily life and decrease your stress levels in the process!

Trick #1: Walk EVERYWHERE!

Photo via Google Images

Whether it is to class or out to dinner, just walk! Trust me, this is a great “step” towards a healthy lifestyle!

And for those of you who may be a bit skeptical at how many health benefits there are for walking, according to Harvard Health walking can reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems by 31%. Now, you do have to walk more than just a simple ten minute walk, as the CDC suggests you should probably walk about 4-5 miles a day or 8000 steps, but this adds up quickly if you can walk while accomplishing other tasks. You can walk while calling your parents, catching up with friends, or listening to the most recent audiobook on your list. You can walk to get your groceries or to a nearby restaurant. But also, don’t worry if you don’t reach that goal, as most people already walk about 6000 steps a day, which is great. So get out there and go on some long walks!

Trick #2: Stand, don’t sit!

Photo via Google Images

Many people don’t realize it but we actually sit for most of our days. People typically sit from 8 to 15 hours in their day, which according to the American Medical Association, is not good for personal health.

There are easy ways to fix this! Stand while you are doing work, in a meeting, or even in class. For meetings, you may have to check if everyone else is okay with it, but if you are leading it, initiate it! As for classes, a lot of professors are fine with it if you want to stand for a bit in the middle of class. Now don’t do that if you are sitting in the front or the middle, but if you quietly walk to the back of the lecture hall, do it. Standing also keeps all the blood flowing through your body and will help you keep energized. So remember: stand, don’t sit!

Trick #3: Take the stairs!

Photos via Google Images

Now I know I don’t need to remind us UCLA students, staff, and faculty to climb up those stairs, but I’m going to anyway! Loads of people already use climbing stairs as a fitness tool because, as Dr. Harvey Simon, associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, states, climbing stairs is one of the best contributors to preventative medicine. And if you think that sometimes they get too taxing, no big deal. They are supposed to be taxing, so start off at a slower rate and gradually build it up!

So next time you see the stairs, hit those up instead of an elevator. Or even if you can’t make it all the way with stairs, start with stairs and then reward yourself with taking the elevator the rest of the way.

Trick #4: Clean your dorm/apartment!

Photo via Google Images

As college students, we can get pretty darn messy. We all have that chair that we stack clothes on and those tables littered with papers everywhere that need to be dealt with (don’t worry, you don’t have to admit it: we’ve all been there). So when you’re looking for an excuse for a break that is both helpful to your living situation and your health, clean those rooms!

While cleaning your room, you can actually break quite a sweat. From using those Swiffers to vigorously wiping those desks, your arms and legs actually get quite the workout! So the next time either your parents or your roommates get on your back for not cleaning your area, go with it! You’ll get some exercise in your day and it will lead to a bunch of other health benefits, such as making you sleep better!

Trick #5: Use a fitness tracker or app!

Photo via Google Images

Tracking your activity will do wonders to adding more activity to your day! By seeing your progress for the day, you’ll be more likely to walk more and be active.

And there are loads of ways to make this more fun! You could check out awesome apps that track your walking while adding a game to it. For example, there’s an app called “Zombies, Run” that uses the amount you walk, jog, or run and helps you fight off the zombies. There are loads more apps out there too that help monitor your activity and make it way more exciting!

You could also track with your friends! Get your friends into tracking their walking that way you can motivate each other to stay active daily. But remember that it doesn’t have to be a competition: you want to make sure that you are getting active for your own health and enjoyment, not because you need to prove something to your friends

Also, if you are interested in a FitBit to track your activity, if you check out UCLA Rec’s Stress Less Week (this week!), you can be entered to win one! It’s from January 22nd to January 26th and they are giving out one every day. All you have to do is register and go to their events, from yoga to stress relief.

Now that you know some tricks to adding some activity to your lives, good luck! Here’s to everyone staying active despite the busy schedules!

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics with a minor in Bioinformatics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the co-Director of the Student Health Advocates, which focuses on educating students on various intersections of health. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship, which helps students volunteer at all departments in the UCLA Medical Centers.

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Thu, Jan 19, 2017 AT 2:39 pm - Be Well
Ways to conserve water in your apartment

By Danielle de Bruin

Photo via Flickr

As all California residents should know by now, the Golden state is experiencing a massive drought. We are now in our fifth year of drought and over 40% of the state is experiencing “extreme drought.” The severe lack of water has led to devastating forest fires and farmers have lost hundreds of millions of dollars; furthermore, produce prices have risen and the government has had to reallocate money from other budgets to provide drought relief. As the drought compromises the production of food, it impacts the health of everyone in California (as well as the rest of the country, since California is the largest producer of produce in the U.S.) through our nutrition.

While the California drought can seem like a far-away problem that is beyond the scope the individual, college students can make small changes to their daily lives to save water and keep the drought from worsening. Try out some of the tips below to save water in your apartment and do your part in conserving water.

1. Take shorter showers (or take fewer!) — The average shower uses 5 gallons of water per minute. If you shortened your showers or took one less shower a week, you could save hundreds to thousands of gallons of water per year! For example, if you take five showers a week and shortened them all by just one minute, you’d save 1,300 gallons of water in just one year!

2. Turn off the shower while shaving — Another way to save water while showering is to turn off the shower whenever you’re not using it, whether you’re shampooing, shaving, or exfoliating. If you don’t explicitly need the water, turn the shower off until you do!

3. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth or washing your face or hands — Again, letting the tap run while you’re not using it in the moment is an easy way to save water.

4. Fix leaks in your apartment ASAP — Leaks can account for more than 10,000 gallons of water loss per year. If you notice one in your apartment, contact your landlord immediately to have it fixed. In addition to conserving water, getting the leak fixed could save you a lot of money on your water bill!

5. Use your dishwasher and clothes washer only for full loads — Dishwasher use 10-15 gallons of water per load while older clothes washers can use as many as 45 gallons (!) of water per load. If you only use them for full loads, you’ll have to run each appliance fewer times, saving money in the long run.

6. Put a waterbottle in the fridge to cool down instead of running the tap until the water gets cold

7. Use your leftover pasta water to water your plants — Repurpose your water! Your plants can’t tell the difference between tap water and pasta water, so reuse it!

If we all slightly change our habits, together we could make a huge contribution to drought relief in California. So, as we enter a new calendar year and a new quarter at UCLA, please consider setting an intention to save more water in your apartment, dorm, or on campus — it could even be your New Year’s Resolution!

Danielle de Bruin is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also published in the journal PLOS Medicine and the Huffington Post.


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Wed, Jan 18, 2017 AT 7:21 am - Mind Well
5 Non-traditional New Year's Resolutions for the Body, Mind, and Soul

By Aubrey Freitas

Photo via Flickr

Every 365 days, a large, sparkly ball drops in Times Square, New York, and the millions of us that watch it often resolve to make up a list of “improvements” or “guidelines” to stick to throughout the next 365 days to come. Some people, however, opt out of making New Year’s resolutions, because they believe they can make a positive change in their life whenever they want to. I, for one, have never actually made a New Year’s resolution.

The more I talked about this with friends and family, the more I realized that part of the reason New Year’s resolutions can be frowned upon is because many of them revolve around being physically attractive, and, in addition to that, can be overly ambitious, setting us up for failure. However, I believe New Year’s resolutions should promote beneficial change in your day-to-day life, and that they shouldn’t push you too far out of your comfort zone such that you wish to give them up before receiving their benefits. With that being said, here is a list of five unique ideas for New Year’s resolutions that will benefit your overall well-being. Adopt them yourself or use them as inspiration to come up with your own resolutions. Even if you aren’t the kind of person to create New Year’s resolution lists, and even though it is a couple weeks past January first, any of these resolutions can be added to your day-to-day life to create positive habits.

1) Check in with your body daily

No one knows your body as well as you do, so it’s important to listen to it to keep it healthy and running smoothly. With school, work, family, and social lives to balance, among other things, your body is put through a lot of stress and exertion (which can lower your immune system!), so it’s important to take five to ten minutes everyday to assess how your body is feeling. After you check in with you body, it will help you decide what it needs. Maybe your body needs a rest so you stay inside and read a good book, or maybe it’s feeling energized so you take a walk. Our bodies are our homes, and our most relied upon mode of transportation, so understanding how they are feeling will lead to better, happier days.

2) Smile every morning

Smiling is not only contagious, but can also lift our mood, as well as the moods of those around us, so when rolling out of bed for that early morning class, take a couple seconds to exercise those cheek muscles. The act of smiling causes neuropeptides to be released, which send neural messages throughout your entire body, triggering the release of Dopamine, Serotonin, and Endorphins, all of which create a feeling of euphoria. It may just make that blaring alarm sound a bit more soothing, and the rest of your day seem all the more pleasant.

3) Keep a dream journal

The idea of a dream journal being beneficial for mental health has been around since the time of Sigmund Freud.  We can only remember a small portion of the dreams we have every night, and, without writing them down, we will eventually forget even that. Keeping track of your dreams and reflecting upon them can give you a better look inside of yourself, as well as benefit your psychological and emotional health through its therapeutic nature and possibility to help one work through unprocessed material of our minds during sleep. On top of being a great destresser, dream journaling can also boost creativity, which is useful in just about every aspect of life.

4) Read more poetry

Poetry, and sometimes literature in general, can seem so daunting or challenging that it makes us stray away from it, but don’t let those be excuses for not picking up a book and diving into a different world. The benefits of poetry are vast, ranging from improved critical thinking and innovation skills, to allowing for more creative problem solving solutions, as well as increasing the reader’s empathy and emotional wellbeing, and those are only to name a few. Everyone can benefit from acquiring these skills, especially college students who have their brains tested every day of class. One more plus to reading poetry on your own is that you can choose to read whichever authors, or themes, or time frames you are interested in, and since you are in control of your poetic experience, you will be more apt to continue with it throughout the year.

5) Volunteer more

There are over seven billion people on the planet, many of which need help in one way or another. Furthermore, there are many, many organizations that allow for supportive connections to be made for just about any cause you may be interested in. Volunteering produces double the benefits; you benefit from partaking in something you care about, and others benefit from you donating your time and support. Some great organizations to get involved with are Let's End Poverty, A Place Called Home, and the Young Storytellers Foundation. Don’t worry if you don’t know about any specific organizations that you would like to join, or if you don’t know what exactly you would like to get involved with; there are several resources available that can assist in the process, and give you ideas for local organizations, as well as ones abroad, which may be just what you’re looking for.

New Year’s resolutions are all about you, so if you’re going to create a list of resolutions, compile one with things that you like, but may not have made enough time for in the previous year, or maybe things that you want to find out if you like or not. There is no rulebook for making resolutions, so let your list take you wherever you want to go. If, after reading this, you’re still opposed to making New Year’s resolution lists (like myself), then maybe try out one or two of the things mentioned above in your daily life for no reason other than it makes you happy, or if you’re happy as is and don’t want to make any additional changes, then you don’t have to. If you have any ideas for non-traditional resolutions that didn’t appear on the list that you want to share with others to inspire a new addition to their collection, comment below or online. Cheers to another round of 365 days of possibilities.

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.


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Tue, Jan 17, 2017 AT 1:44 pm - Eat Well
Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Blog Series: School Gardens Grow Healthy Students

By Meghan O’Connell

Photo via Meghan O'Connell

What degree/program are you pursuing at UCLA?

I’m a second year graduate student pursuing my Master’s in Public Health (MPH). I study nutrition and food systems because I think the food we eat is integral to our health and well-being.

What is the Global Food Initiative Fellowship?

The UC Global Food Initiative (GFI) was launched by UC President Napolitano in 2014.  It asks each of the 10 UC campuses to think critically about how we can nutritiously and sustainably feed a population that is expected to reach 8 billion by 2025.  This issue is of direct importance to the UC community, where food insecurity among students and staff is of growing concern. The GFI Student Fellowship program provides funding to students working on research, internships, or other projects with a focus on food.

Can you tell us a bit about your project as a Fellow?

As a GFI Fellow, I spent my summer working with Seeds to Plate, a volunteer organization based at Mark Twain Middle School in Mar Vista, CA. Six years ago, Seeds to Plate created a gorgeous 1/3 acre garden at Mark Twain that they use as a living classroom. Their mission is to “create and maintain a school garden that is integrated into the academic environment. The garden promotes a healthy food culture, nurtures physical and mental well-being, and provides hands-on gardening and eating experiences for students, families and staff to foster mutual respect, appreciation of diversity, community spirit, and sustainability of the earth.”

Seeds to Plate has a growing body of lessons that teach core subjects (math, science, history and language arts) through exploration of the garden. This summer I helped developed their curriculum.

How do school gardens align with the GFI’s mission?

Gardening can have a meaningful impact on many aspects of a student's well-being.  A 2009 review of 11 garden-based interventions found that working in a garden helps students build self-efficacy, fosters positive mental and emotional health, and aids in the formation of healthy eating and physical activity habits.

The review determined that youth who participate in school gardens experience a connection with nature that often results in successful academic and personal outcomes by building critical knowledge, attitudes and skills. Growing their own food also increases students’ willingness to try fruits and vegetables. Plus, they get a chance to be physically active in the process.

Teaching students from a young age to grow their own food, appreciate nature, and feed themselves nutritious food can go a long way to ensuring future generations approach food self-sufficiently and sustainably.

Can you talk about your favorite lessons that you worked on with Seeds to Plate?

Every lesson has three components: a classroom presentation, a hands-on gardening activity, and a healthy snack. My favorite lesson I worked on is a 7th grade history lesson on the Columbian Exchange. The lesson begins with the students taste-testing a batch of very basic guacamole, using only the ingredients native to the Americas: avocados, tomatoes, and jalapenos. Students are asked to identify the flavors they think are missing. They are then presented with a map of the world showing the place of origin of most of the edible crops they see at the grocery store or farmers’ market today.  

A discussion follows that touches on the major economic and social effects of the Columbian Exchange on Eurasia, Africa and the Americas. Students are asked to think critically about colonialism, the globalization of our food system, and how the exchange of food crops during and after the Columbian Exchange impacted the foods we eat today. Finally, students get a chance to go out in the garden and harvest the remaining ingredients for their guacamole (onions, garlic, cilantro, and limes). They finish making it together and then eat it with corn chips.

I loved this lesson because it got the students thinking critically, being physically active in the garden, working on their cooking skills, and trying a healthy snack all at the same time. It was exciting finding ways to use their own garden to teach the students more about the world and to make them aware of the origins of ingredients that they eat all the time.

Some other favorite lessons include a math lesson that lets students plan and plant their own garden bed to learn about perimeter, area, and volume; a science lesson that uses peas from the garden to teach about Punnett Squares and genetics; and a history lesson that challenges students to design their own irrigation system after learning about agricultural techniques in Mesopotamia.

What was most challenging part of your fellowship?

This project was definitely a challenge for me.  I have previous experience working in schools — I worked at a secondary school in Kyrgyzstan while I was in the Peace Corps helping to develop their English as a Second Language and Health curriculums.  But this was my first time working in a garden and with the Common Core standards. I also had to familiarize myself with the 6-8th grade curriculums for math, science, history and language arts. Trying to develop interactive lessons that incorporated all of these elements was pretty tough!

The most rewarding part?

Getting to see the students participate in lessons I worked on was a great experience for me. I think there is so much value in learning that happens outside of the traditional classroom. I watched core subjects come alive for students when they could actively experience them instead of just reading about them from a text book. The garden became a space for students to explore learning outside of their comfort zones.  The lessons teach students to explore nature with inquisitiveness and appreciation instead of fear, disgust, or indifference. They learn about each component of their garden’s ecosystem, from the soil, to its water source and climate, to the birds and insects that pollinate the plants, to the fruits and vegetables that they plant and watch grow.

The garden helps establish healthy social norms in their school and provides them with the knowledge and skills they need to form healthy habits. When students learn what it takes to grow their own food they understand its value in a way that is not possible to comprehend by eating a bag of chips in front of a television screen.  

I was honored to work with Seeds to Plate this summer and to see firsthand the benefits of garden-based education in middle school students.  Their future goals include implementing a basic version of their curriculum in other neighboring schools.  The opportunities they provide students at Mark Twain are so valuable and I am excited to see the program grow!

How can other students get involved?

You can learn more about Seeds to Plate here. They are always looking for volunteers!

Photo via Meghan O'Connell


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Fri, Jan 13, 2017 AT 11:16 am - Mind Well
New Year, New You? Mental Health and New Year’s Resolutions

By Danielle de Bruin

Photo via Google Images

While the New Year appears to present a positive opportunity for us to “reinvent” ourselves and make ourselves “better,” the process of setting New Year’s resolutions can negatively affect our mental health.

In the days surrounding January 1st, we are bombarded with articles and advertisements that suggest we, as we currently are, are not enough. Whether you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed or a reputable news site, you’re likely to come across articles with tips on how to “get in shape,” “watch less TV,” or “finally quit drinking” this year. Before I became a body image advocate, I devoured articles like these. I wanted to know what I could do this year to lose weight, eat more healthfully, or be more confident. I saw setting New Year’s resolutions as an opportunity to better myself and my life; I bought into the idea that a “new” and “better” me (where “better” was defined by these articles I had read, not myself), would be a happier me.

Though the New Year is supposed to be about positively impacting your life, these New Year’s resolutions had negative impacts on my mental health and self image. Resolutions pushed me to change myself instead of cultivating self-love and encouraged me to use my current dissatisfaction with parts of my body and life to fuel this change. Focusing on what I didn’t like about myself made me even less comfortable in my own skin, resulting in feelings of depression and anxiety. However, what was negatively impacting my self-image was not my resolutions in and of themselves, it was the motivations behind my resolutions.

Like the majority of Americans, my resolutions tended to be health-related. In 2016, for example, one survey found that 41.1% of respondents wanted to “live a healthier lifestyle” and 39.6% of respondents wanted to “lose weight.” These statistics were consistent across age groups. While living a healthy lifestyle and losing weight can be positive goals, they are only positive if they are positively motivated. If someone resolves to lose weight because the $64 billion diet industry has convinced them that only certain body types are attractive or tries to “live healthfully” because they dislike parts of their body, they, like me, will inevitably experience feelings of low self esteem. I would resolve to lose weight because I hated my stomach or wanted others to find me attractive, and it was these negative motivations that triggered periods of poor mental health.

So what can we do to remain mentally healthy in the wake of New Year’s resolutions? It’s important to remember that you by no means even have to set a New Year’s resolution! Even if everyone you know has set resolutions and the media is pressuring you to “better yourself,” please do not feel like you have to change anything about yourself! You are allowed to be happy with yourself and your life as is.

If you do choose to make a resolution, ask yourself why you want to make a change. Make sure your reasoning comes from a place of self-love (e.g. “I want to drink more water so I have more energy to do the things I love), not a place of self-hate (e.g. “I’m going to lose weight because I hate the way I look”). Furthermore, ignore the many people, businesses, and industries telling us what we need to change about ourselves, and make resolutions for you, not them. Your life and your resolutions are up to you and no one else.

Danielle de Bruin is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also published in the journal PLOS Medicine and the Huffington Post.


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Tue, Jan 10, 2017 AT 10:48 am - Eat Well
Developing a Healthier University with Walter Willett

By Phillip Cox

Walter Willett has become a household name to the thousands of professionals working in the expanding field of food science and nutrition. He has achieved more than you can imagine. The physician, nutrition researcher,  Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, and chair of the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health is the most cited nutrition researcher in the world and the second most cited author in clinical medicine, with over 1500 published scientific articles, a full nutrition textbook, and 3 best-selling diet and nutrition books. It’s safe to say he holds a lot of influence in this field, playing an especially large role in the science of the American diet. Willett is now a Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and the Chairman of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, as well as a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

I had the opportunity to attend a seminar where Dr. Willett talked about all his experiences within the food realm and the initiatives he is a part of early February of 2016. At first, to me he was just a man with an unmistakable mustache, talking about how he once had a McDonald’s veggie burger at an airport that was so unbelievably revolting that he was convinced McDonald’s made it bad to turn people away from the healthier option. However, it took only took a few more sentences for me to become mesmerized by Willett’s discussion of food issues and projects.

Harvard’s Food Literacy Project

As Chairman of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, Willett has taken the lead on food and nutrition initiatives at Harvard, running a similar program to the Healthy Campus Initiative here at UCLA. The professor is working with Harvard’s food services to develop a Food Literacy Project that consists of educating students about healthy foods, guiding on food resources available throughout campus and Boston, and conveying the principles clinically at Harvard Health Services. His program is school wide and advocates for a healthier lifestyle through better knowledge of the nutritious value certain foods bring as well as the food resources available to students.

Willett had early success with his program. In a joint effort with food services, Willett removed trans fats and reduced sodium in all foods of Harvard’s dining halls by 25% without students even noticing. Through this program he is teaching active fellowship students about the food system at Harvard, introducing them to the leadership involved, and utilizing students’ connections to other students in order to engage the community and connect food-related initiatives and projects to students.

Harvard utilizes a housing system where 90% of the students live in houses all 4 years and eat dining hall food during this time. The Food Literacy Project is efficient in getting connected to students by utilizing its fellows in each of the houses to act as the go-to source for food education. Similar to how the Healthy Campus Initiative here at UCLA is establishing a student presence by utilizing its student connections and outreach within the resident halls and through a variety of clubs. Through their Literacy Program, table tents that come on a rotating basis are set up near the dining halls with fellows and other individuals there to educate people about healthy food choices with posters and other materials. Through this program, they’ve even noticed a 50% increase in students from freshman year to senior year choosing brown rice over white rice.

Struggles Faced

However, Willett highlighted that a real struggle of the overall program is a lack of a formalized curriculum. They get passionate students and researchers involved in the program, but after 4 years they are gone. The problem Willett is facing is that there is a lack of a formalized curriculum and organization that would allow a continuous recycle of information from older students to younger ones. This lack of organization leads to many active students graduating with valuable information that is not utilized in subsequent years. Furthermore, the lack of career advantage for professors to teach these types of courses limits the numbers of courses they can provide and thus diminishes the interest he could gain from students. Willett’s passion for nutritional science is clear as he strongly says that he’s seen people even change career directions entirely because of some courses they took. He remarks that this field is open to a variety of different people with different interests from biology, physiology, education, public policy, to large-scale data research. Though he’s really disappointed that some of the most popular classes such as Global Nutrition, Nutrition, and Health, can’t be offered as much because they just do not have the resources for them.

Tackling Sugary Soda at Harvard

One example of Willett’s success is the change in availability of sodas at Harvard dining halls. At Harvard, he ideally does not want to eliminate those soda options, (partially due to the company contracts they have in dining halls), but just encourage students to move away from them or provide less sugary options. He’s developed a 3 color categorization for sugary drinks, with red (obviously indicative of being bad) being for drinks above 1g/oz of sugar, yellow being artificial sweeteners, and green being no sugar. By labeling these drink options at the soda machines with small stickers and providing a sign with the corresponding description of each color, he was able to influence student decisions towards less sugary options. Harvard dining has even made great leaps to reduce their 100% fruit juice to 50%, decreasing the sugar intake by a lot.

Tackling Sugary Soda at UCLA

Right here on campus at our very own lovely Bruin Plate, or BPlate, we have no commercial sodas served. All of the drinks at BPlate are made with carbonated water and fruit extracts that make for a delightful spritzer in our mouth. According to a BPlate Manager, these sodas have reduced sugar content over commercial sodas. I remember when Bplate opened, everyone was very excited about those spritzers. UCLA has done an exceptional job with BPlate being the ideal and premier healthy campus dining hall.

Harvard Food Literacy Project, https://dining.harvard.edu/food-literacy-project

Beyond the Universities

Willett is clearly a man with hands in a thousand different pots and his visions for a healthier world are inspiring. He truly wants to bridge this gap between science and diet, to create a reformed policy that overall benefits all of society, whether it be at Harvard or in small towns. His impact has even been seen when he was part of the program that influenced Starbucks to include wheat products into their menu of foods as opposed to pure white flour.

Walter Willett’s visions for a healthier campus and a healthier society are not far from our reach. As students we can make those visions reality by telling our friends and spreading the word about resources, like the Healthy Campus Initiative. Soon enough we will realize that it doesn't take much to make a change. As an undergraduate student here at UCLA, Walter Willett taught me from his seminar that being a part of something bigger than myself, like the Healthy Campus Initiative is truly empowering and gets me excited about what I can do to make a change on my campus. In writing my blogs, I hope to reach a large community and influence people to live healthier lives and learn more about all the initiatives going on around campus.

UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, http://healthy.ucla.edu/

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the EatWell Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.


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Mon, Jan 9, 2017 AT 12:37 pm - Eat Well
Global Food Initiative launches online toolkit to improve school food

By Meghan O’Connell, MPH student and Healthy Campus Initiative and Global Food Initiative GSR

Photo via Adobe

The University of California’s Global Food Initiative (GFI) has launched a free online toolkit aimed at providing anyone working with preK-12 schools with resources to help improve school food, nutrition education, and sustainability.

In 2014, over 17% of children and adolescents nationwide were obese. The National School Lunch Program provides over 30 million lunches per day to students across the country, with school meals providing almost half of daily calories for kids enrolled in breakfast and lunch programs. This puts schools in a uniquely important position to both serve healthy food to students, and also to provide them with the tools and education they need to form healthy, lifelong habits.

“What you eat not only impacts health, it also is strongly linked to academic achievement,” said Wendy Slusser, associate vice provost for UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative, who led the GFI project. “This toolkit offers resources to help organizations provide students with equitable access to healthy food, so they can eat better and maximize their opportunities for academic success.”

The newly launched Good Food for Local Schools website brings together resources from all of the UC campuses and beyond to provide educators, school administrators, community organizations, and parents, with resources to make good food a reality in their schools and communities. Resources span various sectors from full nutrition and gardening curriculums, to toolkits that guide operational change, to relevant research and policies surrounding school food, to service oriented projects and programs.

The range of resources includes the following:

a school nutrition curriculum,

• guides for rethinking school lunches and planning school menus,

an agenda for creating a new regional food system,

research to support healthy school meals,

a sample school food donation policy, and.

a documentary about the school food chain.

The toolkit was developed by members of the UC GFI community, who work with school districts all over the state to procure, cook, serve and teach about healthy and sustainable food.  The site was created in close collaboration with the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, as well as representatives from local school districts and experts from community nonprofits.

The EatWell Pod of UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative is featured on the site, serving as an exemplary model for how a university can engage with local food systems through curriculum, on-campus programming, and community engagement.  

Other UCLA featured resources include:

1. Food Studies Graduate Certificate Program

2. DIG Campus Garden Coalition

3. Fit for Healthy Weight Program

4. Transforming Corner Stores: Integrating Health, Food and Community

5. How to Set Up a School Salad Bar Manual

For more information about Good Food for Local Schools, please visit http://goodfood.ucla.edu.

____________

UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative works closely with the UC Global Food Initiative.  The GFI, launched by UC President Janet Napolitano in 2014, addresses the critical issue of how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2025. The initiative aligns the university’s research, outreach and operations in a sustained effort to develop, demonstrate and export solutions — throughout California, the United States and the world — for food security, health and sustainability.


Mon, Dec 19, 2016 AT 1:01 pm - Be Well
Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Ideas

By Miso Kwak

Photo via Google Images

With the holidays fast approaching, many of us are busy brainstorming gift ideas for family members and friends. As college students, we often hunt for gifts that are affordable, chasing different sales and deals. But have you ever thought about giving gifts that are eco-friendly?

Here are a few gift ideas that can have long-term positive impact on the environment and well-being:

Reusable, portable utensils

When we eat at a restaurant, especially those that provide a quick service, it is not uncommon to find plastic utensils. They may enhance convenience, but they are detrimental to our environment.

According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 8 million tons of plastic trash leak into ocean annually, and that amount is continuously increasing.

As a consequence, an increasing number of fish are consuming microplastic particles. This recent study found that when larval perch have access to microplastic particles, they only eat plastic and ignored their natural food source of free-swimming zooplankton. As a result, larval perch display abnormal behavior and stunted growth.

The negative consequences of plastic waste do not stop in the marine ecosystem. Plastic waste also has the potential to negatively affect human health through consumption of seafood .

So consider giving reusable utensils to your family and friends. It may seem like an small gift or small step forward, but it will be a step to the right direction in fighting the battle with increasing plastic particles in our ocean today.

Reusable shopping bags

Another common source of plastic waste comes from plastic grocery bags. However, with the passage of Proposition 67, it is the perfect time to give a reusable shopping bag as a gift. As this LA Times article points out, the proposition will not be effective unless we take an action to be conscious about using a reusable shopping bag.

Plants

Finally, consider giving a gift that can grow whether it is a potted plant, tree planting kit, or seed paper. It could be an excellent gift for a wide range of people in your network, from your friend living on the Hill, to your parents working in the office, to grandparents who may simply enjoy gardening at home. Growing plants not only supports the ecosystem but also benefits human health, as a study found that the presence of plants in the office setting and workers’ tension were negatively associated. In other words, giving a growable gift will positively change the built-environment for our family and friends in such a way that promotes both a greener planet and better health.

So, this holiday season, express your love and gratitude while also doing good for the environment! If you have any other eco-friendly gift ideas, please let us know via comments and social media platforms.

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.

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Wed, Dec 7, 2016 AT 10:13 am - Mind Well
Expanding Your Perspective on Self-Care

By Maya Ram

In order to be a successful student, being healthy and well is pretty much vital. Therefore, self-care should be a priority to manage the stress that accompanies life as a UCLA student. Self-care can be described as “engaging in activities and practices that promote wellbeing and a balanced lifestyle” (GRIT Peer Coaching Program). A balanced lifestyle includes getting enough sleep, eating regular and satisfying meals, and exercising. However, there are many components of self-care that are less normalized but equally important. Self-care goes beyond the physical, to include psychological, emotional, interpersonal, and even academic practices. Look at each category to see how you can improve your overall wellbeing.

Physical Self-Care

Taking care of the body can be one of the first things to go when faced with back-to-back deadlines and exams. When time is limited, our campus culture tells us that all-nighters are the only way to study weeks worth of material, and that eating “real food” is a luxury only for those who do not have an exam tomorrow. In order to improve your physical self-care, you must be aware of your body’s needs. Grounding yourself by taking deep breaths and stepping away from your work can give you insight into what your body needs, whether that be sleep, nutrition, or a good stretch. Examples of physical self-care also include taking time off when you are sick, thinking positive thoughts about your body, and wearing clothes you enjoy.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Psychological Self-Care

We are so lucky to have CAPS, MARC, and other mental wellness services on our campus, but self-care to complement these professional services can improve mental wellbeing. Psychological self-care is equivalent to taking a mental break and bringing awareness to your current state of mind. Throughout the day, we encounter stressors that we cannot always process in the brief moments between class, work, and meetings. Taking time to self-reflect can make a huge difference when it comes to building your awareness of stress triggers and your ability to cope with stress. To improve your psychological self-care, try taking day trips or mini-vacations, reading something unrelated to school, and saying “No” to extra responsibilities to make time for yourself.

Emotional Self-Care

When you’re a student, stressful situations come up so frequently that they begin to seem normal. These situations can cause you to engage in coping behaviors that end up making you feel worse. In order to get to the root of stress, exploring and labeling our emotions is very helpful. Withholding emotions eats up a lot of energy, which may be why you feel so drained after an emotionally-heavy week. Emotional self-care is about doing things that can help improve your emotional state and clear away negative emotions. This can include spending time with people whose company you enjoy, expressing things that bother you directly to the person(s) involved, allowing yourself to cry or express emotions, and giving yourself praise and affirmation.

Relationship Self-Care

Relationships are a huge part of the UCLA experience, whether you are making new friends, building upon current relationships, or keeping in touch with old friends and family. Social connections are a form of support and relieve stress by reminding us what is important. When time is a precious commodity, spending it with people you love can be challenging. In order to improve relationship self-care, prioritize your time with friends. Allow others to do things for you, and try to ask for support when you need it.

Photo bia Flickr

Academic Self-Care

Although academics can cause major stress for UCLA students, academic self-care is rarely mentioned. But it makes sense to channel your self-care towards the parts of your life that create stress. Finding comfort in where, when, and how you study can drastically improve your productivity. Studying in spaces where you feel productive, seeking help from academic resources, taking intentional study breaks, and scheduling regular times to study are all examples of academic self-care.

Self-care is not about excelling in every strategy. It is for you alone to decide which tools work for you when moving towards a more balanced lifestyle. To plug into a program that emphasizes self-care and holistic wellness, check out the GRIT Peer Coaching Program, a free one-on-one peer coaching program that any student can utilize for a supportive and empathetic listening space.Taking care of yourself and prioritizing your own needs is a process, but these strategies and resources can support you at any stage of your growth.

Maya Ram is a third year World Arts and Cultures major and Public Health minor, and she represents the Bruin Research Center in the HCI Living Well Coalition.


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Mon, Dec 5, 2016 AT 9:51 am - Eat Well
Chocolate Crickets: A Beginning to Food Week

By Phillip Cox

Photo via the Daily Bruin

News articles across the internet and random links on Facebook are constantly expressing how harmful it is to eat meat because of how the meat is made and processed. However, few of these sources provide alternative, delicious options. Take for example this news article by PBS, which cites scientific studies showing the correlation between consumption of processed meats and colorectal cancer. It’s difficult to truly listen to what articles like these are trying to get across when most meats are so widely accepted in society and used in many foods today.

Attending the Food Day Panel Discussion a few weeks ago, organized by UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative was extremely eye opening. National Food Day is recognized annually on October 24 and was established by the Center for Science in the Public Interest to celebrate healthy, affordable, and sustainably produced food (National Food Day). This panel celebrated Food Day with a discussion featuring experts in nutrition, environmental sustainability, and food science. Specifically the panel featured Dr. Dana Hunnes (Senior Dietician at UCLA Medical Center), Elliot Mermel (CEO and Cofounder of Coalo Valley Farms), Dr. Jennifer Jay (Professor at UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability), and moderated by our own Dr. Wendy Slusser, Associate Vice Provost of UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative.

When I first walked into the event at 12pm Monday of October 24, I immediately encountered a table full of vegan dishes. Food from apple vegan chicken to beet salad to kale and quinoa salad and finally some delicious cucumber water filled the tables. This was what they called a “Flexitarian Lunch.”  A flexitarian diet is one that is primarily plant-based with the occasional inclusion of meat products. This type of lunch gave attendees like me the opportunity to experience what a common lunch is for those who follow a flexitarian diet.  

Photo via Phillip Cox

The Food Day Panel first started off talking about the damage to the environment that is caused by meat-based farms. They emphasized the increase in greenhouse gases is mainly caused by cows and pigs. Some European studies have even identified an increase in greenhouse gases upwards of 18% to 31% of the total EU emissions as a result of livestock farming (European Commission, 2006). The panel discussed alternatives to eating meats, which included many different types of plants as substitutes. One strong point that they made was that an individual could receive the necessary amount of daily protein from eating a reasonably-sized portion of vegetables instead of meat. A common approximation is a 3 oz portion of chicken equaling 1 cup and 2.5 tablespoons of lentils or 1-1.3 cups of black beans. This was very informative because I feel that many people do not realize the amount of nutrients you can get from simply eating plant-based foods.

After a general discussion about the effects of eating meat, Mermel began talking about his unique cricket farm.  Attendees were offered samples of his chocolate crickets, and I found them quite delighting. I initially found the crunchiness of the cricket exoskeleton a little unsettling. However, after swallowing it and letting my taste buds really marinate the chocolate taste, I could not taste the cricket at all. It was sweet and creamy as any chocolate would be. I’m thankful I tried them, but would you have tried them? The crickets eat an all-organic diet of fruits and vegetables that are grown on the farm as well. Thanks to people like Mermel, eating insects is becoming more and more popular and socially acceptable now!

Not only are the crickets nutritious, but they are raised in an environmentally friendly way as well. Mermel talked about how the farm utilizes an aquaponics system. This aquaponics system combines conventional aquaculture (raising fish) with hydroculture (growing plants in water instead of soil). The farming requires little resources and the resources that are used (water) is continually recycled. In addition to the discussion of the cricket farm, Dr. Hunnes briefly talked about the effects of processed meat on our bodies and lifestyle while Dr. Jay discussed the impact of agriculture on the environment.

Reflecting on the panel’s discussion, I’ve come to realize that educating and convincing people seems to be the biggest struggle. Even my friends are not as open to making changes in their current diet because they are comfortable with their current lifestyle. Stepping out of that comfort zone takes not only a risky jump but also an open mind. Consequently, T\the panel stressed the importance of sharing information and continuing to educate friends and acquaintances about different alternative options to meat.

Attending this discussion made me more aware of alternative diets and I look forward to potentially incorporating some of these ideas I learned about into creating delicious and environmentally friendly meals! I’ve even already looked into some new flexitarian recipes.  It’s events like these that truly make me think about what I’m eating and I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn about something important to me outside of my immediate educational curriculum. I look forward to attending more events like these that make me mindful of what I’m eating.

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the Eat Well Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.

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Thu, Dec 1, 2016 AT 10:09 am - Move Well
The Benefits of Stretching during your Study Break
Photo via Monica AguilarPhoto via Monica AguilarPhoto via Monica AguilarPhoto via Monica AguilarPhoto via Monica Aguilar

By Monica Aguilar

As the quarter is wrapping up, students find themselves having a bazillion things to do. From finals to papers, deadlines are soon approaching! So, you’re studying and you’re losing focus. Students might not realize it but during those precise moments taking a five minute fit break and stretching out your muscles is a great way to recharge and refocus.

Stretching isn’t only for the playing field or the gym it is also for the workplace and any other place. Studies have shown that stretching affects the neurological system in a positive way by regulating heart rate and blood pressures which often tend to rise when one is under stress. Stress also causes muscle tightness, which can be relieved by stretching. When you stretch your muscles become relaxed therefore relaxing you and reliving your body of its stress.  Taking a break while you study to move around and stretch is the best way to get the most out of your studying. Researchers found that any physical movement optimizes your brain functions, increases your IQ, and increases your focus. Therefore, next time you’re studying and you find yourself losing focus get up and give yourself five minutes to move around, stretch and de-stress. Before you try to go straight into stretching you want to make sure you warm up your muscles by performing some dynamic movements.

Below are some dynamic movements and stretches that you can easily perform while sitting down or standing up next to your favorite studying place!

Neck Tilt:

1. Tilt your head sideways to one side, reaching towards your shoulder, then to the other side.

2. Maintain your hands at your sides, hanging loosely.

3. Hold each side for 6-8 seconds.

4. Repeat as desired.

Photo via Monica Aguilar

Finger Stretch: Your fingers need a break too! All that typing and writing causes them to get stressed as well, so stretch them out!

1. Make a fist.

2. Open your fist and stretch your fingers by opening them widely.

3. Repeat 5 times for both hands.

Photo via Monica Aguilar

Arm Circles:

1. Extend out your arms on either side of your body.

2. Slowly start moving your arms in circles forward 10x

3. Switch directions by moving your arms back in circles 10x

4. While performing this movement make sure your back is straight and your core is tight.

Trunk-Twist (standing):

1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Twist your trunk to the right and pivot your left foot at the same time.

3. Repeat by twisting to the left and this time pivoting your right leg.

4. As you are twisting, simultaneously swing your arms with the momentum of your twist.

Photo via Monica Aguilar

High Knees:

1. Stand hip width distance apart with your arms hanging loosely by your side.

2. Begin with a slight jog in place

3. As you are getting rhythm begin jumping from one foot to the other by bringing your knees up high above your hips

4. Make sure you are touching the ground with the balls of your feet and your arms are moving with the motion of your feet.

Back Stretch: You can perform this stretch while sitting or standing up.

1. Begin by leaning your body forward as far as you can and trying to touch your toes.

2. Make sure to keep your head down and your neck relaxed as you are are leaning forward.

3. Hold for 6-8 seconds.

Photo via Monica Aguilar

Hamstring Stretch: This stretch helps untighten your legs and glutes after being seated for a long period of time.

1. Point your right heel to the ground in front of you.

2. Meanwhile, keep your left leg slightly bent.

3. Gently lean forward to your right and try to reach your toes. Hold for 6-8 secs.

4. Alternate legs and repeat.

Photo via Monica Aguilar

Now remember next time you find yourself studying make sure you take a fit break in between to enhance your focus and learning. Simply perform some of the movements/stretches above, but always make sure that you do not continue performing the stretches if at any point you experience any pain or discomfort. Studying in groups? No problem! Get your friends involved and share the great benefits of stretching during your study break!

Monica Aguilar is a third-year undergraduate Chicano/a Studies major and Spanish minor at UCLA. She is the current project director for [FITTED] a student-run program established in the Community Programs Office which is designed to assist students and maintenance personnel in incorporating lifelong health into all aspects of their lives.


Wed, Nov 30, 2016 AT 9:05 am - Move Well
Quarterly Check-In: What’s Shaking with Move Well?

By Tiffany Hu

Hello, my Bruin Fitness Pals!

We are finally in the home stretch! Two more weeks left until winter break (or maybe even less for you lucky ones with early finals)!

As the quarter comes to a close, I want to give you all one last update on the programs and projects Move Well has been working on this year thus far.

1. Flexible Fridays

Photo via Ellen Gerdes

If you are a lover of yoga or if you’ve ever wanted to try it out, this program is for you! On “Flexible Fridays,” Move Well offers yoga classes that are completely free! These classes happen every single week at locations both on campus and on the Hill. Since there are multiple sessions each Friday, there’s bound to be one that fits into your schedule. You can even go to multiple if you are really getting into the yoga mood! So come around if you want to join in or just want to observe. The times are 10:05 – 10:55 AM at Wilson Plaza (below Janss Steps), 11:10 – 11:55 AM at the Court of Sciences, 3:30 – 4:30 PM at Sunset Rec, and 5:00 – 6:00 PM at Hedrick Mov Studio. For more information about Flexible Fridays, you can also visit @YogaAtUCLA on Facebook! The page also provides updates if a certain session may be cancelled due to acclimate weather or a possible alien invasion (probably the first one).

2. UCLA Recreation

Photo via Google Images

UCLA Recreation offers dozens of fun and interesting classes each quarter. While most of the instructional exercise classes and workshops have probably ended for this quarter, you can start thinking about what you want to take for next quarter! You can’t enroll just yet but UCLA Rec does have the list of all the classes they have and which quarters they are offered (click here for more!). These classes are phenomenal and are pretty decently priced from the ranges of around $30-50 for the ENTIRE quarter. Most classes are 2-3 days a week so quite a bargain! They have classes in dance, martial arts, arts (like knitting and the art of DJ’ing: didn’t think we offered that, did you?), and even yoga (if Flexible Fridays don’t fit into your schedule)! The skies are the limit for how many classes they offer, so go ahead to their website and check out all of the amazing courses and programs they offer!

3. The Bruin Health Improvement Program

Photo via @BHIP on Facebook

Sorry undergrads, this one is only for UCLA staff, faculty, and graduate students. But for those eligible, this is a fantastic program as well! It is under UCLA’s FITWELL initiative that is trying to help UCLA staff and faculty achieve wellness in various areas of fitness and health. BHIP is a three-month long program that offers participants intensive lifestyle training in areas of exercise, nutrition, stress management and mental conditioning! It consists of comprehensive conditioning of strength training and cardiovascular fitness, while educating the members on becoming more physically active and nutritionally mindful. The Fall 2016 session is over but they will be enrolling for Winter 2017 very soon so keep checking back if you are interested in this intensive program! You can also check out the ongoing events by just going to the session and, possibly, speaking with the coordinator during Week 10 (schedule here) if you want a sneak peek at what the program is about before deciding to enroll!

4. Sitting is the New Smoking

Photo via Google Images

Our wonderful Research Pod has been doing extensive research on how much our sedentary habits are affecting us. This even affects those of us who consider ourselves to be quite active individuals! There is so much sitting incorporated in our jobs and classes, from sitting in meetings, in class, while working at a desk, and while driving! The amount of time we actually sit in a day adds up! The constant sitting can lead to a lot of adverse effects, such as increased risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and possibly even depression, according to this research. UCLA has started to implement “instant recess”, which is an incorporation of 10-minute physical activity breaks during meetings, designed to help improve health and productivity. It is to help combat these sedentary habits while also getting people to recognize how much just a bit of movement can help you refocus and feel refreshed. For more information about the research being done on this and other movement topics, check out this website and scroll down to “Data and Statistics” and “Searching for Research Literature”.

So have fun on your fitness journeys: whether it is exercising your body or mind! And good luck to all you students who are entering the Finals Zone soon! Just don’t forget to keep up your movement!

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics with a minor in Bioinformatics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the co-Director of the Student Health Advocates, which focuses on educating students on various intersections of health. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship, which helps students volunteer at all departments in the UCLA Medical Centers.


Mon, Nov 28, 2016 AT 10:17 am - Mind Well
8 Ways to Beat the Stress of Finals

By Aubrey Freitas

Photo via Creative Commons

Finals week signals the end of weeks worth of students’ hard work and dedication, so it should be a cause for celebration, right? Unfortunately for many students, finals is usually clouded by stress and anxiety. Everyone faces the rigors of stress at one point or another throughout the school year, but finals week is generally the most stressful time for students during the academic year. However, learning ways to manage stress can make finals week far easier. Here are some tips to try this week:

1. Take a time-out from studying to give your brain a break during long cram sessions. Go to the gym or practice yoga to allow your mind to focus on something other than hitting the books; both options are great distractions for the mind, and for the body. Physical activity is very beneficial in burning away any tension or frustration that stress may bring.

2. Count to ten slowly, take deep breaths, or listen to your favorite music. All three practices have calming effects on the body and mind that will allow you to gather your thoughts and distance yourself from your stress.

3. Making sure to get enough sleep and eat well-balanced meals. Sleep and adequate nutrition are necessary for your body and mind to function at its best. Ever heard of the motto “put good in, get good out?” Properly preparing yourself to take on the day’s tasks will make them easier to handle, reducing the level of stress they produce. Learn more about what a healthy and balanced diet consists of here, and check here to find out if you are getting enough sleep, and if not, how to fix it.

4. Don’t spend time worrying about things that are out of your control, like what grade you will get on a test after you have taken it. Worrying about the uncontrollable only adds to whatever stress or anxiety you may already be feeling. Accept that all you can do is give your best effort (perfection doesn’t exist!), and be proud of whatever work you produce.

5. Talk to someone, whether it’s friends and family, or a professional like a physician or therapist. UCLA’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is a resource available to all UCLA students. Outside of counseling, engaging socially is the quickest way to reign in stress, as communicating with another person allows one to feel safe and understood, which calms the nervous system.

6. Avoid unnecessary stress. Some causes of stress need to be dealt with in life (e.g. bills, school assignments), but there are ways to diminish the avoidable ones, like pushing yourself too hard or trying to control the outcome of events. Know your limits, because you can only do so much; don’t be afraid to say “no” to something that will be more than you can handle. Avoid people and environments that could trigger your stress.

7. Take care of yourself by making time for fun and relaxation in your everyday life. Write in a journal, spend time in nature, or read a good book. UCLA offers pet therapy during finals, which is just another way to alleviate stress. Nurturing yourself is a necessity that will allow you to be in a better place in life when dealing with stressors.

8. Stay positive. Changing the way you view a situation can change the situation itself, so build yourself up instead of tearing yourself down. Instead of saying “I can’t do this” remain positive and say “I will do the best that I can.”

Implementing these tips into your daily routine during finals week can assist in the reduction of stress, teach you healthier ways of coping with it, and leave you better prepared to face any stress that may come in the future. Everyone is affected by stress differently, so there isn’t just one sure-fire cure. Try testing different methods to find out which one works best for you, and share your experiences with your friends and other students who may be going through stressful times as well. If you have a way of dealing with finals stress that wasn’t on this list, please share it with us in the comments below or on social media!

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.


Wed, Nov 23, 2016 AT 8:42 am - Move Well
Fitness Busters: Myth or Fact?

By Tiffany Hu

“When there’s something strange, in your fitness plan, who you gonna call? Fitness Busters!”

Do you ever wonder if some of the most common fitness sayings are fact or fiction? Does it keep you up at night to know you could be working out in a way that is better for your body? Well if you have, then this blog is here to help!

(But if this questions aren’t ones you think about, keep reading anyways because some of these tips might still apply to you! If you’re not working out properly, it could really hurt you in the long run.)

So let’s see if some of these common fitness sayings are myth or facts to help ensure that you all are getting the most out of your workouts today and for the future!

MYTH OR FACT #1: “Always stretch before you exercise!”

Photo via Google Images

MYTH! Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Wait so it’s bad for you then?” Not at all! It just is not all that necessary. The myth that has been surrounding the fitness world has always been that stretching will help prevent injury. According to personal trainer Maik Weidenbach, stretching may actually do harm! It weakens the muscles by about 30% and that reduced tension could lead to injuries. It would be better to simply start off with a warm-up of some kind before exercising. For example, if you go on a run, start off with a brisk walk just to get your muscles working. Similarly, if you are doing intense weight training, start off with some lighter weights and build up for the workout.

Now, stretching AFTER you exercise is definitely recommended! Now, remember: it won’t help you recover faster either though. A study at the University of Milan has indicated that there were no changes in blood lactate levels, an indication of muscle fatigue, when comparing those who do and don’t stretch after exercising. But it will help with joint flexibility, which is definitely a plus as that will help with long-term effects of exercising.

MYTH OR FACT #2: “No pain, no gain!”

Photo via Flickr

MYTH! Now, for all of you biology students, I know that you are thinking, “But what about all the times that my muscles are feeling a burn due to lactic acid? That’s just the body telling me I’m pushing myself a bit. I thought that was good for exercise!”

And you are right! But some people take “no pain, no gain” to mean something a bit more extreme. The phrase almost denotes that the more pain you are in, the more you are probably gaining or that all pain acts as some sort of indicator that you are working out in the correct way. Both of these statements are false. Just because you are in pain does not mean that you are doing the exercise correctly. By how serious that pain is, it probably means that you are actually doing it wrong or that you are taking on too much!

If you are experiencing any sharp or acute pain, please STOP! Exercising is not about who can handle the most pain so they can achieve their desired outcomes. Any sign of serious pain means that you are hurting yourself, whether it’s in your muscles or elsewhere. It is normal that you feel a slight burn, as that is just your muscles telling you that you are pushing yourself to do better and handle a bit more strength. But by no means does this tell you to injure yourself. As Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer David H. Williams has said, “There is a difference between discomfort and pain.”

So just keep in mind that if you are experiencing pain during your workout, try and assess if it is a normal burn or something more serious. If it is, there is no shame in stopping! It’s always better to know your limits and just increase the intensity of one of your normal workouts before trying something completely out of your comfort zone.

MYTH OF FACT #3: “Only certain exercise machines at the gym are good to use”

Photo via Google Images

FACT! Some of these machines could actually be very harmful to various areas and muscles of your body, even when these are used properly!

For example, a good portion of these exercise machines incorporate some form of sitting while trying to exercise a certain portion of your body...but isn’t sitting bad for you? According to Justin Russ, a strength coach from IMG Academy in Florida, sitting is harmful, as it could lead to “increased heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or obesity.” By engaging in regular free-weight exercises that incorporate natural human body movement patterns like squatting, it’ll help you exercise the right areas of your body while ensuring you don’t engage in other harmful activities.

That being said, not all exercise machines are bad for you!

Here are two examples that are fantastic machines to help you work out and don’t require sitting:

1. The Cable Biceps/Triceps BarIt’s built so you’d be working out your biceps and triceps. You essentially just pull the bar, which is attached to weights, up (to workout biceps) and down (to workout triceps). It is especially great because it’s a bit less dangerous than having to work with free weights as people tend to swing those around a bit and may hurt either themselves or others. It is also great because it helps you build up the strength in your triceps and biceps to engage in push-ups or pull-ups. So if you can’t quite do many of those yet, this machine is a safe option for you to build up that strength!

2. The Hanging Leg RaiseEven though in the title it refers to the legs, this awesome machine actually helps work out the core and hip flexors. You put your arms on the arm stands, while your legs are hanging. Then you use your core to lift your legs! So this is a bit of a tougher machine to use, but if you think your core can handle it, then give this one a try as well!

MYTH OR FACT #4: “You have to spend more time exercising to stay in shape!”

Photo via Google Images

MYTH! This is a super big myth! Especially for those who are just getting into the groove of working out. This will probably do more harm than good! This is true for both day to day and in the long run.

Although studies have recommended that people should get some sort of physical work out for 30-50 minutes, 5 or so days a week, you should never over-do it! You don’t even have to do all of your working out at once each day. According to a study done at Arizona State University, those who split up their 30 minutes of their daily walk into three 10 minute sections had, on average, lower blood pressure readings than those who took their daily walks at 30 minutes per day.

For long-term, you definitely need to take rest days, especially after long workouts, as you could potentially injure yourself. According to celebrity trainer, Ashley Borden, by working out too often, you would be preventing your body from ever recuperating and improving to take on more challenging workouts the next time.

So just remember: work out often but don’t forget to listen to your body! Your body will tell you what it requires, whether it’s food, rest, or breaks in between exercising.

STATEMENT #5: MYTH OR FACT: “Movement helps with stress!”

Photo via Google Images

Fact! Movement helps reduce stress due to neurochemical effects.

According to articles from Harvard Health Publications and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercising helps reduce the stress-inducing hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. By helping to reduce those, you will be less likely to feel stress at various situations since your body won’t be filled with higher levels of those hormones. Also, exercise actually helps stimulate the production of endorphins, or what I like to call the “happy” chemicals. These are the hormones that produce the effects as seen with painkillers or elevating your general mood.

Likewise, this amazing fact also refers to mental exercises, those that help your body as well, such as meditation, can also help reduce stress. Meditation has been known for helping “slow the heart rate, lower the blood pressure, reduce the breathing rate, diminish the body's oxygen consumption, reduce blood adrenaline levels, and change skin temperature”, according to studies of Indian yoga masters. These will counteract the general effects that are associated with stress, which are elevated blood pressure and racing of the heart.

There is even a form of meditation that is referred to as progressive muscular relaxation. By tightening your muscles, holding that for 20 seconds, and slowly relaxing, you’ll be able to both release your body’s physical strains and stress while also releasing your mind’s stress!

So here are all of the facts and myths that I think are the most important to know about fitness! Remember to always do your research about common fitness sayings before you believe them or even performing them!

Good luck, once again, and you all will do wonderfully as you embark on your unique fitness journeys!

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics with a minor in Bioinformatics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the co-Director of the Student Health Advocates, which focuses on educating students on various intersections of health. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship, which helps students volunteer at all departments in the UCLA Medical Centers.





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Mon, Nov 21, 2016 AT 10:31 am - Move Well
Free Self Defense Classes at UCLA: Protecting the Mind and Body

By Ellie Benitez

Photo via Vanessa Mejia

What if…

  Imagine walking back from a late night at Powell Library. Its tenth week, and you’ve spent the past few days studying for your upcoming final. Day in and day out, you’ve labored over past midterms and practice tests, keeping yourself awake with liters of coffee and Yerba Mate tea. Eventually, you decide to throw in the towel for the night and make the long trek home to your cozy apartment. All your friends called it quits hours earlier, so it looks like you’re walking alone at 2AM with minimal light to guide your way once you exit the safe confines of UCLA’s campus. As you round a corner, two clowns jump out at you from behind the bushes and nearly scare you to death. They charge at you, and you stand there, motionless in fear, your fight or flight instincts muting each other out. Do you run? Do you attack?

  Riley Woolvett, a fourth year undergraduate student here at UCLA, could relate to this hypothetical. As Riley walked home from her on-campus job one late night this Fall Quarter, she was met by two masked clowns on the corner of Gayley and Kelton. She instantly pulled out her pepper spray and ran as fast as she could in the opposite direction towards a friend’s apartment. After chasing her a few yards, the clowns ceased their ghoulish noises and retreated with snickering laughter.  Although shaken, Riley was not physically hurt, and has since warned her friends and coworkers to be extra wary about walking home late at night. She also highly recommends that everyone at UCLA take the weekly free Bruin Self Defense class offered in the John Wooden Center — it could one day save your life.

Wait, FREE Self Defense Class?

  That’s right! Every Wednesday from 5:30 pm to 7:00pm, the Bruin Self Defense class (BSD for short) takes place in Yates Gymnasium on second floor of the John Wooden Center. It’s free for all UCLA students, and is arguably one of the best kept secrets of this campus (maybe second to the Food Closet?). Instructors Lance Wisdom and Vincent Pham cover a plethora of basic self defense moves, including strikes and blocks, as well as self defense topics, ranging from weapons defense, car attacks and sexual assault defense. The instructors start the class by asking for student recommendations and input, and structure the day’s routine based based on the focus participants want. If no hands go up, no worries, Lance and Vincent are prepared with a lesson plan of their own.

  Emily Lopez, the Martial Arts Student Coordinator, stresses the importance of knowing basic self-defense techniques. She says, “We obviously touch on the physical aspect of self defense, but we also go over the mental side. Our instructors facilitate discussion about being prepared and aware of your surroundings at all times.” Since UCLA is an open campus, it is especially important to be conscious of common crime areas in Westwood, and aware of exits and escape routes in lecture halls and public buildings. The BSD class uses on-campus scenarios to prepare students for incidents that may occur while the university is in session, but are widely applicable to other situations.

  BDS is an adaptive class, and accommodates people of all genders, religions, and abilities.  So, to reiterate, the Bruin Self Defense class is FREE and INCLUSIVE of all people. Can you find a reason not to go? Knowing how to protect yourself from an attack is empowering, and having control of your state of mind and body is important for a healthy and happy life.  As busy UCLA students, it’s hard to commit to a martial arts instructional program that costs extra money and meets biweekly. BDS is designed to be an accessible resource for all students, without causing financial distress. The Martial Arts Program plans on extending the Bruin Self Defense platform to include safety information while travelling and “everyday carry” essentials, must have items to have in your back pocket if you were to face an assailant.

  If you want more information about topics and moves covered in BSD, you can click here to visit their Facebook page. This site is also a great source of information on crimes that occur around the Westwood area, such as the dual kidnapping and car theft that occurred earlier this year.

Sign me up!

  One caveat, these classes are available only to the first 40 people who show up or have reserved a spot online through the UCLA Recreation website. So just log on to the website, click on “Bruin Self Defense,” and register for the Wednesday you would like to attend. But if you’re walking by and see there’s spots available, just hop on in and sign the waiver! Make sure you’re wearing athletic attire, and bring water.


Ellie Benitez is a 3rd year undergraduate Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics major and Society and Genetics minor at UCLA. She currently serves as the HCI representative for UCLA Recreation, where she is a Student Supervisor for Intramural Sports.

Fri, Nov 18, 2016 AT 10:25 am - Mind Well
Perfectionism, Procrastination, and the Practice of Self-Care

By Mandy Mikhail

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

For most of my academic career, I prided myself in being “one of the smart kids”. Homework was completed the day that it was assigned, and tests were taken without much thought or fear of repercussions. In my AP European History class in high school, for example, I remember coming home everyday, sometimes after a long day of extracurriculars, and feeling compelled to take an additional three hours worth of notes. Yep, I was that kid.

Coming to UCLA opened my eyes in a multitude of ways. For one, I was no longer the top of my class — putting hours into my classes didn’t automatically guarantee me a good grade. Furthermore, I no longer had to be the top of class — my identity could be founded upon so much more. At UCLA, I was more than just my GPA. The world was my oyster. I didn’t want to look back on college years and recall days of turning pages like I had in high school. In doing so, I thought that I could finally relax the unrelenting pressure I put on myself to succeed.

However, I thought wrong. The pressure, the negative self-talk, and the rigorous standards remained. They just changed their face. Instead of putting in hours upon hours of work to succeed in my academics, I put in next to none. I would procrastinate, waiting to the very last minute to begin a homework assignment, let alone study. The days leading up to a test would seem carefree on the surface. I would enjoy my time with friends or immerse myself in Netflix. But the anxiety was under my skin like an itch, growing more and more pronounced as time would go on. Come time for the test, and I would be sitting in seat, vacillating between utter indifference (one of my many self-defense mechanisms) and excessive anxiety about how the results would ruin my future.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that my perfectionist standards and my procrastinating tendencies were actually closely related. Even though I thought I had been relaxing my standards, I had really just been pushing them to the side. In hindsight, I can see that I did this for a multitude of reasons. For one, I was frightened. I was frightened of losing an aspect of my identity that had come to define me for so long. For another, a part of me simply thought I couldn’t make the cut at UCLA. Despite my getting accepted, a part of me still denied that I deserved a place here. So I shut down, thereby having an external excuse such as my not studying rather than an internal deficiency to point at should I fail.

However, while studies support a link to procrastination and perfectionism, they also point to the existence of underlying distress. As students notorious for balancing academics, friends, work, extracurriculars, and sleep all in the span of 24 hour days, it can be hard, even seemingly impossible, to take care of one’s well-being.

Contrary to the popular notion that wellness is limited to physical and perhaps even mental health, wellness has multiple dimensions. The UCLA Student Wellness Commission, or SWC, is a prime example of how the promotion of health and wellness can span across topics ranging from mental health, body image, nutrition, fitness, environmental sustainability, and sexual health. Moreover, the ways in which in individual can promote his or her own wellness, or self-care, are endless. There is no “right” way to practice self-care; so long as an individual is meaningfully and deliberately prioritizing his or her overall well-being is an act of self-care.

So how do I self-care? As an avid user of Google Calendar, I’ve taken to scheduling in times when I can breathe and just treat myself. Sometimes this means spending time with friends. Other times it means watching episode after episode on Netflix. On the rare occasion, I can even be found blowing bubbles and making intricate balls out of Play-doh. But my favorite form of self-care by far is sleep, the benefits of which are immense. Want better skin? Sleep! Want to do better on a test? Sleep! If my explanation points aren’t enough to convince you, check out this article.

One last fun fact: Journaling has often been heralded as a wonderful way of promoting mental health. So much so that studies even show that writing about test-related anxieties immediately before taking an exam actually improves your test score. What a win-win, right?

How have you been putting yourself first lately? How do plan to start? Take some time to reflect, breath, and live. Try to remember that self-care isn’t selfish.

Mandy Mekhail is a 4th year undergraduate Psychology major and Disability Studies minor at UCLA. She currently serves as the Assistant Commissioner of the Student Wellness Commission, a student organization dedicated to promoting holistic health and wellness in the UCLA community.


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Tue, Nov 15, 2016 AT 9:20 am - Mind Well
What to Eat or Drink in Class to Stay Awake and Focused

By Aubrey Freitas

For many college students, the one thing we can’t seem to get enough of is sleep. Sleep deprivation leaves us groggy, with bags under our eyes, and probably reaching for a cup of coffee to keep us awake while attending lectures or studying for midterms.

What can students do to stay focused in class and improve their alertness? Eat! There are numerous foods out there that give the body the boost it needs to function at its best (even while running on a lack of sleep), so I’ve compiled a list of some great options for students to bring to class. However, please remember that sleep is extremely important to your overall well being, and these foods should not be used as a substitute for it. Instead, consume them to provide boosts of energy, when needed, throughout the day.

3 Snacks that Please the Stomach and Mind

1. Fruits with Vitamin C — These fruits are a source of many vitamins and minerals that have health benefits for the body all around, but fruits with high amounts of vitamin C are best for staying focused and alert. Fruits contain natural sugar, which provides quick bursts of energy, without the intense crash that sugar in candy brings. Fruits also help convert fat into energy, which wards off fatigue in the body. Try bringing some of these fruits that are high in vitamin C to class on days you’re feeling sluggish: oranges, pineapples, strawberries, grapefruit, guava, kiwi, or many more that can be found here. Fruits that are high in potassium, like bananas, raisins, and pears have also been shown to boost alertness. Find more potassium rich foods here. Maybe even combine the vitamin C and potassium rich foods to make one killer, energy packed fruit salad.

Photo via Flickr

2. Protein — This macronutrient offers a slow release of energy after consumption to provide consistent energy throughout the day. Since the boost occurs over an extended period of time, it is best to consume a few hours before you think your body will need to use it, maybe for breakfast to start your day strong or during a break between classes to keep you going until the end of the day. Yogurt, beef jerky, and string cheese are great sources of protein and more options can be found here. If you have dietary restrictions to dairy or meat, peanut butter, nuts (especially pistachios and almonds), and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, and chia) are great alternatives. Find more vegan/vegetarian sources of protein here.

Photo via Flickr

3. Dark chocolate — Cocoa contains a natural source of caffeine, so the darker the chocolate, the higher the caffeine content. Dark chocolate may be considered a healthier substitute for other forms of candy on the sugar spectrum, but it should still be consumed in moderation when reaping its benefits, such as antioxidants and flavonoids, which are heart healthy. Pack some dark chocolate in your backpack to regain some energy when sitting through long lectures.

Photo via Flickr

2 Drinks that Provide Energy Benefits

1. WaterDehydration can make you feel sleepy, so it’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Everyday activities can drain your body of water, and if it’s not replenished it can negatively affect your mood and energy levels, as well as your memory and brain performance. Check here to find out more about how much water you should be consuming every day.

Photo via Flickr

2. Green tea — This beverage option contains less caffeine than coffee, so it doesn’t cause an immediate crash once the caffeine has worn off. This means you may be able to skip that afternoon nap you take when you drink coffee, and spend that time studying (or having fun!). On top of its abilities to keep you awake and alert, green tea is also very good for you. Its benefits include supplying plenty of antioxidants to the body, and reducing the risk of heart disease and many cancers.

Photo via Flickr

Fall quarter is winding down, and these last few weeks of lectures and discussions are the final hurdles students need to make it through before the arrival of finals (and a much awaited winter break!). Use these snacks to eat your way to a more energized day, and a more focused mind. Pack your bags with some of these snacks and experiment with which ones help you through the day best, then please share your experiences with students around you or online!

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.


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Wed, Nov 9, 2016 AT 8:11 am - Be Well
How Sidewalks Can Dis/Able Us

By Miso Kwak

Whether you are walking to class, going to the gym, or getting groceries, the sidewalk may be something you take for granted. Many of the different parts that make up our daily built-environment go unnoticed. For some people, however, the built-environment can be a significantly limiting factor that literally “disables” them.

In the fall quarter of my sophomore year, I took Disability Studies 101: Perspectives on Disability Studies. It was an introductory course to Disability Studies exposing students to different perspectives that frame people’s understandings of disability. One of the angles the class used in discussing disability was social and policy perspectives, which covered a wide range of topics including aging with disability, chronic illness, and the built-environment. I still vividly remember one of articles I read for the class that discussed how the built-environment affects persons with a disability almost two years later. The author, Christopher Baswell, was a visiting professor from the University of York who uses a wheelchair. Baswell’s main point in the article was how certain buildings in his university make him “crippled” more than other buildings do. For example, in the British Library, he was “able-bodied” because he could “move about as easily as other library users.” In Bodleian Library of the Oxford University however, he was “crippled, reduced to begging for help on the pavement outside.” Although it is not explicitly mentioned in the article, we can infer that the British Library was build such that wheelchair users can navigate the library independently, whereas the Bodleian Library lacked facilities such as ramps and elevators that would enable wheelchair users to move around easily. In sum, the article was a clear example of how our environment constructs how we experience disability.

As a blind student, I could relate to Baswell on a personal level, and I could immediately think of a number of areas on UCLA campus that “disable” mobility for people with different physical challenges. One such area was a sidewalk in front of Schoenberg Music Building near the Inverted Fountain. As shown in the picture below, the sidewalk was narrow and bumpy because of tree roots that were sticking out of the ground.

Before construction; Photo via Sanna Alas

As I write this post, however, I am happy and grateful to say that this area is no longer “disabling.” A construction project took place at the end of the 2016 winter quarter, making this part of the sidewalk safe and accessible. Every time I walk by this place, I feel hopeful because it is a proof that UCLA is taking the right steps toward making the campus welcoming and accessible to everyone.

After construction; Photo via Ana Bonilla

One of projects in progress for the BE-Well pod this academic year is Sidewalk Campaign. Through this project, the BE-Well pod hopes to address the importance of having safe and accessible sidewalks on and around the campus. A study has shown that having a well-maintained walking surface was the main functional factor that is associated with people getting out and walking. Addressing the issue of accessibility and safety of sidewalks on and around the campus will not only make our built-environment “non-disabling,” but also encourage the UCLA community to engage in walking more, thereby living healthier.

Can you think of any areas on and around campus where the quality of sidewalk could be improved? Share on social media or comment below if there’s an area on UCLA’s campus you’d like to see improved by the Sidewalk Campaign!

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.

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Mon, Nov 7, 2016 AT 8:20 am - Mind Well
Implementing Meditation into your Life: How to do it and Why you should

By Aubrey Freitas

Photo via Flickr

As a college student, there are so many things to think about simultaneously: studying for tests, finishing essays, balancing hours for your work schedule, paying bills, thinking about what you’re going to eat for lunch, etc. With so much to balance, life can feel hectic or overwhelming at times, so wouldn’t it be nice to step away from those tensions and relax? UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) and the Healthy Campus Initiative are offering ways to do just that by supplying opportunities to engage in the practice of meditation.

How to Begin Practicing Meditation

Mindful awareness is the process of connecting one moment to the next, and one actively observes and experiences their mental, physical, and emotional state. Free drop-in meditations are held on and around UCLA’s campus at various locations and times Mondays through Thursdays by various accomplished professors. All of these sessions are open to anyone wishing to learn how to be more present and less stressed in their everyday lives. Free drop-in mindfulness sessions are also occasionally offered to the public, which further explore the mind-body connection and different ways to implement the practice into your life. Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) classes are also offered to help people develop individualized meditation practices, as well as understand the basic principles of mindfulness, through weekly two hour group sessions for a period of six weeks. The MAPs level one class offers instruction on mindfulness to work on physical pain, common obstacles faced by many in the practice, cultivating positive emotions, and many more. As MARC is in support of the Healthy Campus Initiative, all current UCLA students are able to sign up for these classes for free, yet another great resource offered at our university that promotes mental wellbeing. Check the MAPs class schedule here for upcoming dates and class registration. If you feel that physically going to a class or a group setting isn’t really for you, MARC offers a wide variety of free online classes, like mindfulness for daily living, and cultivating positive emotions, as well as free downloadable guided meditations.

Why you should Practice Meditation

Mindful meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce stress , improve attention, boost the immune system, reduce emotional reactivity, and promote a general sense of health and wellbeing. The practice has also been linked to the improvement of metabolism , getting a better night’s sleep, as well as reducing aging. The benefits of meditation go far beyond that of simply feeling an inner sense of calm. Because of the mind-body connection, one will experience physical benefits along with the mental ones, such as reduced risk of heart attack or stroke, normalized blood pressure, and reduced anxiety and depression, which have all been associated with mindful meditation.

Take advantage of the wonderful opportunities offered on campus to improve your mental health. All drop-in sessions and classes are open to anyone interested, so don’t worry if you haven’t figured out the meaning of life just yet, or feel as though you don’t quite know how to meditate-- it’s all a learning process. A curiosity in the practice of meditation could lead to the development of a daily practice that will improve your day-to-day life! Stop by one of the drop-in meditations, or register for one of the MAPs classes, and share your experiences with us or online, so that more people can get involved with changes that will improve their wellbeing.

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.


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Thu, Nov 3, 2016 AT 10:34 am - Be Well
The Era of Vaping

By Joyce Lan

The Transition from Smoking to Vaping

Imagine this, you are sitting outside on your balcony, enjoying the gentle night breeze, as you unwind from your long, stressful day at work. However, as you close your eyes to relax, your neighbor lights up a cigarette on his balcony. Immediately, the gentle breeze blows the smoke your way, surrounding you in a murky cloud of second-hand smoke. To avoid the fumes, you quickly leave the premises and head inside for a drink of water. What a fantastic way to end the day!

Studies show that the current public perception of smoking has come a long way, evolving due to people’s increased awareness of smoking hazards. Unfortunately, many still choose to put the cigarette between their lips again and again despite knowing the health risks involved with smoking, which include coronary heart disease and the development of lung cancer.

Although some may have initially developed the interest as a way to alleviate stress, or to socialize more with their co-workers, their inability to quit demonstrates the toxic chemical power packed into that small roll of paper.

So, what is the alternative to quitting cold turkey or using nicotine patches? The latest, most popular solution is e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes), also known as vaping.

Photo via Google Images

Vaping, in A Few Words

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines e-cigarettes as a product advertised by manufacturers as the safer alternative to smoking. It lacks tobacco, along with its toxic carcinogens, therefore making it ‘safer’. It is a device designed to help smokers gradually quit. But who is truly benefiting from the marketing of e-cigarettes?

The WHO report calculates that the global industry earns approximately 3 billion dollars from the marketing and distribution of the product. Also, there are about 466 brands selling the product and related versions alike. Furthermore, with the availability of approximately 8,000 unique flavours on the market, it’s no wonder more people are vaping instead of smoking!

Photo via Google Images

The Cause for Concern

E-cigarettes and vaping are often thought of as the safer form of smoking. You get the “coolness” of smoking without the dire health consequences… Right?

Contrary to popular opinion, current professionals’ findings suggest otherwise. Currently, Dr. Avrum Spira, a pulmonary care physician and professor of medicine and pathology at Boston University, urges people to be wary of what they are breathing into our bodies.

E-cigarettes vaporize liquid that contains nicotine and flavouring, but is that all? According to Spira, the conversion of liquid to vapor changes the chemical composition of the liquid, causing you to potentially breathe in other chemicals besides the vaporized nicotine.

Moreover, the results of Spira’s preliminary research is not positive. It demonstrated that when e-cigarette chemicals come into contact with the mutated human lung cells of smokers who are about to develop lung cancer (their cultured cells), the lung cells became “more cancer-like”.

The Other Side’s Argument

On the other hand, there are also others who believe that the vaping ‘issue’ is not really an issue at all. Boston University Public Health Professor Michael Siegel strongly believes that the use of e-cigarettes will aid cigarette addicts and continue to do so. In fact, he believes that research regarding vaping should be redirected towards a more positive note. It should not restrict the utilization of vaping and condemn users, but help current smokers gradually quit smoking. In other words, e-cigarettes should should fulfill its original purpose, and help the addicted eventually quit.

To Vape or Not Vape, That Is the Question.

At present, it appears that there are conflicting views within the medical community regarding the benefits and regulation of e-cigarettes. While the WHO, the FDA, and Pulmonologist Avrum Spira assert that there may be negative health consequences related to vaping, Public Health Professor Michael Siegel and his supporters advocate for the continued marketing and use of e-cigarettes, along with more (positive) research regarding the effects of vaping. And so, the debate, and the research, continues. Which side will you take?

Joyce Lan is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Linguistics & Asian Languages and Cultures. She is the Website & Media Chair of BreatheLA at UCLA, a club that seeks to raise awareness of UCLA’s tobacco and vape-free policy.




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Wed, Nov 2, 2016 AT 8:08 am - Be Well
UCLA to Experience a New Level of Bikability

By Jimmy Tran, UCLA Transportation Bike and Pedestrian Planner

Santa Monica’s Bike Share hub at City Hall; Photo via UCLA Transportation

Short term bike rentals, popularly known as bike share, are appearing across Los Angeles County. From the green Hulu bikes in Santa Monica to the blue bikes in Long Beach, bike share programs give residents and visitors alike a new way to experience a sustainable and healthy mode of transportation. UCLA is gearing up to join the ride with the launch of its bike share program this spring! Like many of the Westside cities, UCLA will work with the vendor CycleHop to bring a bike share program to campus. The bikes and hubs will be located on key parts of the campus and in Westwood Village where there is already a significant amount of foot traffic. There will be 16 hub locations, including Powell Library, Luskin Conference Center, UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, and Broxton Avenue in Westwood Village.

A major appeal of existing bike share programs are their user-friendliness. CycleHop utilizes ‘smart bikes’ where real-time information is available to report bike and hub availability, remaining rental time, and distance biked. UCLA students, staff, and visitors will be able to rent these bikes using smart phones, Metro TAP cards, or via the kiosks at larger bike hubs. Flexible memberships and pay-as-you-go options will accommodate the needs of riders. CycleHop summarizes the rental process in four steps: Reserve, Release, Ride and Return.

The process for renting out bikes from CycleHop Bike Share Programs; Photo via Santa Monica Breeze Bike Share

With this user-friendly bike share program, UCLA continues it’s efforts to improve and upgrade campus infrastructure. In 2015, UCLA attained Silver status in the League of American Bicyclists’ Bike Friendly University program by increasing the number and quality of bike lanes. This is important as UCLA aims to attract riders who are interested in biking, but concerned about the availability of protected bike lanes.  Additionally, UCLA provides numerous amenities and programs across campus including: the UCLA Bike Shop, numerous bike racks and repair stands, shower access for commuters, benefits for members of the Bruin Commuter Club, bicycle traffic safety classes, a new bicycle citation diversion process, and an Earn-A-Bike program. Implementing a bike share program will further strengthen the University’s role as a leader in promoting bike culture and safety.

Earlier this year, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) released a report that found bike share programs in seven different U.S. cities experienced increases in the amount of cycling and decreases in the risk of death or injury for each individual rider. The report highlighted how bike share programs improve the visibility of cyclists, which makes bike riding safer for everyone. NACTO emphasized that bike share programs fared better for safety outcomes when coupled with protected bike lanes.  

Good bike infrastructure already exists at UCLA with more to come in time for the launch of its bike share. UCLA will install several protected bike lanes on campus including westbound on Strathmore Place, on Westwood Plaza between the Gonda building and the Westwood/Strathmore intersection, and on Charles E. Young Dr. South near the Center for Health Sciences. In addition, supplementing ongoing Bike Friendly University efforts with bicycling awareness and education programs will be key to tackling safety issues and making bike share enjoyable to all Bruins.


National Public health Week participants begin the 2016 tour of UCLA’s bike Infrastructure led by Stantec Engineer Rock Miller (pictured far right). Photo via UCLA Fielding School of Public Health



Mon, Oct 31, 2016 AT 8:29 am - Eat Well
Tricks to Enjoy Your Treats: How to Mindfully Enjoy Your Candy on Halloween

By Danielle de Bruin

Photo via Google Images

Halloween is my second favorite holiday (nothing beats Christmas for me!). I love dressing up in clever costumes and going to parties with my friends. However, there is one part of Halloween that can be hard and stressful for me: the candy.

I have a huge sweet tooth, so I would always want to partake in the tradition of fun sized candy bars and pumpkin-shaped peanut butter cups on Halloween. However, sweets were a huge trigger for me. I thought of candy as a “bad food” and eating it made me feel guilty and shameful. As a result, I had a really hard time finding a balance with Halloween candy. Some years I’d eat so much that I’d be doubled-over in pain from a stomachache, while others I’d restrict myself to just one or two pieces and then jealously watch my friends enjoy the Kit-Kats and Reese’s Pieces I so desperately wanted. Whether I was restricting or binging, I’d worry about the impact those extra calories would have on my waistband.

It wasn’t until I learned about mindful eating that my relationship with Halloween candy, and other foods, began to improve. To eat mindfully is to eat with intention and attention; it is to eat with the intention of bringing yourself both nourishment and pleasure and with careful attention to what you’re eating, your feelings about your food, and the effect food has on your body. In today’s society, it’s incredibly easy to eat mindlessly; I often find myself eating in front of the TV or on the way to class, and when I’m focused by the TV or putting one foot in front of the other I’m certainly not paying attention to the food I’m putting in my mouth. To put it simply, if you’re not paying attention to your food, how could you possibly fully experience it and enjoy it?

When I would eat candy on Halloween, I was never just eating it; I was thinking about how many calories were it in, wondering if people were judging me as I ate it, and repeating over and over to myself “Candy is bad for you” or “You shouldn’t be eating this.” In other words, I wouldn’t eat my candy with attention or the intent to enjoy it and was consequently left unsatisfied because I had never fully enjoyed the candy. Furthermore, without feeling satisfied, I would often reach for another piece, and then another, and then another...until I had acquired a stomachache and feeling of self-hatred for letting myself go “too far.”

However, since I learned about mindful eating, I’ve established a much better relationship with Halloween candy and learned some tricks to help me cope with the anxiety that used to plague me every Halloween. If you’ve ever experienced stress or anxiety around sweets, here are my tricks to enjoying treats on Halloween:

1. Actively enjoy your candy. Eat it mindfully and be completely present while you’re enjoying your sweets. That means don’t eat it in front of the TV or while you’re writing that essay that’s due this week. Savor the flavors, textures, scents, and shapes of the candies you choose to enjoy. If you fully engage with your food and give it all your attention, you’re more likely to enjoy it and feel satisfied later.

2. Lose the rules. When you tell yourself you can’t have something, or you can only have a fixed number of something, chances are you’ll want it even more. For me, when I told myself I couldn’t have more than one or two pieces of candy, all I could think about was candy and how much I wanted it. So, even when I ate those one or two pieces I didn’t enjoy them because all I could think about was how I wanted more.

3. Instead of imposing rules on yourself, listen to you body. Are you full? Are you hungry? Do you really want that Hershey’s Kiss or do you want it just because it’s sitting right in front of you? If you’re really craving something, your body will let you know, so listen to it! Also, remind yourself that the candies associated with Halloween are available year-round. If you’re not in the mood for candy today, today’s not your only opportunity to enjoy it! You can always have it as a treat on another day.

4. Remind yourself that foods are not inherently “good” or “bad.” These are labels that society has attached to certain foods, not explicit qualities of foods. Yes, some foods are more nutritious than others, but it’s also important to remember that we eat for nourishment and pleasure. Less nutritious foods can still be a part of a nutritious diet when they’re enjoyed in moderation. So, if you find yourself labeling candy as “bad” and something that should be avoided, remind yourself that it’s okay to eat less nutritious food for pleasure from time to time.

I hope these tricks help you enjoy your Halloween to its fullest. If you have any tricks that weren’t listed above, please share them with me by sharing on social media or commenting below!


Danielle de Bruin is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.


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Thu, Oct 27, 2016 AT 11:09 am - Mind Well
Taking Care of Your Mental Health in College: 3 Common Challenges

By Aubrey Freitas

Photo via Flickr

College is often a wonderful experience for young men and women, providing a path to discover more about themselves and their desired field of education. However, this journey can also bring with it many rigors that may affect one’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Poor mental health of students on college campuses has been on the rise since 2013, and it’s important to know what the major mental health issues affecting college students are, so students can better take care of their own mental health, as well as that of those around them.

3 Major Mental Health Challenges Faced by College Students

1) Depression: Depression is the feeling of sadness for at least a period of two weeks, causing changes in one’s life, such as the lack of interest in daily activities, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of energy or concentration, significant weight loss, feelings of worthlessness or extreme guilt, and thoughts of suicide. Depression is the most common mental health issue faced by college students and the disorder contains many different branches, such as Major depressive disorder, Persistent depressive disorder, and Seasonal affective disorder, among many others. Some causes of this illness are hormone imbalances, inheritance through genetics, a change of environment that may make you feel uncomfortable, and biological differences in the brain, such as defective neurotransmitters. It’s important to recognize that a person can feel depressed from time to time without having major depressive disorder or any of those associated with it.

How to find help: The Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) center at UCLA is a valuable resource when needing a professional to talk to. Students can either walk in or schedule an appointment at CAPS. Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” is the most popular method of treatment for depression, which aims to help people understand their illness and to teach them ways to diminish unhealthy thoughts. Medication, such as antidepressants, are also treatment options, when recommended by a medical professional. GRIT Peer-to-Peer Coaching is an on campus resource that provides one-on-one sessions with trained coaches to promote the academic and personal success of students. The Resilience Peer Network (RPN) offers one-on-one help from trained undergraduate counselors through self-guided internet based cognitive behavioral therapy. Other beneficial care options include exercising daily, getting enough sleep, surrounding yourself with supportive family and friends, and tackling large tasks by breaking them down into smaller ones, so that they don’t seem so overwhelming.

2) Anxiety disorders: The definition of anxiety is an emotion described as bringing tension or worried thoughts that are persistent or recurring over a long period of time. These feelings are accompanied by physical changes in the body, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate. There are several different forms that are associated with anxiety, including general anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Anxiety is the most common psychiatric illness, affecting almost 40 million adults in the U.S.; a large portion of those 40 million are college students. The disorder results from a series of factors including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events (like the possibly stressful transition into college). While many are affected by anxiety disorder, it is important to note that a person that is not diagnosable with an anxiety disorder can also experience feelings of anxiety.

How to find help: A wide variety of therapies have proven to be effective, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy , acceptance and commitment therapy , and dialectical-behavior therapy. Medications are also available, as prescribed by a psychiatrist or other medical professional, to help those with intense or chronic anxiety. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at UCLA is a beneficial resource for students to seek professional advice on campus. Meditation, yoga, and acupuncture have also had positive effects on mental health through their release of energy flow, relaxation, lowering heart rates and relieving stress. Check out HCI’s event calendar for dates and times of their drop-in meditations, and look into yoga classes offered at John Wooden Center to experience their benefits.

3) Relationship problems: challenges in romantic partnerships. Some examples are a lack of fairness/equality, not respecting one partner’s feelings, and feeling pressured to change for your partner. Other signs of an unhealthy relationship are a lack of privacy, or physical violence, that begin to negatively affect one’s emotional/mental health and overall wellbeing. It is often seen that college signals the beginning of many students first romantic relationships, or at least their first serious ones, and although these partnerships are thought of as blissful, they can sometimes become unhealthy. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that 35.8% of students visiting their college’s counseling centers were there seeking help for relationship problems that had begun to affect their mental health. Romantic relationships aren’t the only ones that can negatively affect mental health, friendships, and family ties can be equally as disruptive if they share the characteristics mentioned above.

How to find help: Along with CAPS, UCLA offers other helpful resources for those seeking help in their personal lives including Campus Assault Resources and Education (CARE) which offers counseling and a confidential place to talk for students who have faced domestic violence and/or stalking, or the UCLA offices of Ombuds Services which aims to offer fair and balanced assistance in settling disputes.

There are several different ways to go about treating the aforementioned mental health issues, but every individual is unique and may not respond the same way to certain recommended treatments. It’s good to explore as many of the options as possible to find out what works best for you. Use the symptoms described above, as well as your own research on websites like the American Psychological Association or the National Institute of Mental Health , to help you know what to look out for in your own mental health, as well as your fellow students. Good grades and an active social life may be important aspects of college, but taking care of our mental health is an important aspect of life that will remain with us forever. Are you currently struggling with one of the mental health issues mentioned, or have struggled with one in the past, and feel like sharing your experiences with other students? If so, comment or post online to spread the word about the importance of mental health in college and reach out to others who may be going through similar experiences.

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.


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Tue, Oct 25, 2016 AT 8:08 am - Eat Well
The Healthiest Building On Campus

By Phillip Cox

Photo via the Luskin Center Website

As every UCLA student, staff, or faculty member must know by now, there stands a newly finished classic red, brick building next to Pauley Pavilion. Many, however, still wonder what exactly this building is. Most are just thankful for the construction project being complete!

This new tall building is the newly finished Luskin Conference Center, arguably the healthiest building on UCLA’s campus. It’s quite a building, accompanied with 254 welcoming guest rooms, a full-service Mediterranean-inspired restaurant and lounge called Plateia, a fitness center, and valet parking. This building is open to host a variety of conferences, meetings, and events, bringing together “scholars, innovators, leaders and the diverse campus community setting the stage for building relationships, exchanging ideas and making breakthroughs possible” (Luskin Conference Center Information).

What’s equally as amazing is that the Luskin Conference Center is Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified. The building features a number of green building elements: 30% of the building materials are comprised of recycled materials and 10% were procured from within 500 miles, 50% of the wood used is FSC certified from sustainably managed forests, all materials used in the interior of the building are low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), and the construction team diverted 96.5% of construction water from landfill through the use of advanced recycling techniques (Luskin Conference Center Sustainability).

Specifically, the Food-Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative had great influence in the development of Plateia, the in-house restaurant at the conference center. Plateia is a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant serving seasonally fresh vegetables and fruit with a minimum of 20% coming from sustainable, socially responsible, and humane sources. Dr. Wendy Slusser, the head of HCI, and Eat Well pod members ensured their healthy principles were heard by restaurant designers and executive chef Todd Sicolo to ensure the restaurant was serving a healthy and balanced meal that not only students could go to, but visitors to our campus. With food grown within 500 miles of the campus, environmentally friendly USDA Certified Organic ingredients, fair trade certified, and cage free or free-range food, Plateia is healthy, fresh, and sustainable. It even gives the resident B-Plate a run for the healthiest food option on campus! As Plateia is part of a public university, its waiters cannot accept gratuity for service. However, some diners still leave tips after dinings, so the Eat Well pod is in the process of discussing how these tips can be put towards other healthy initiative’s on UCLA’s campus, such as the food closet in the Student Activities Center.

During the Luskin Conference Center’s grand opening on October 7, 2016, the Healthy Campus Initiative was given the prestigious opportunity to host an exhibit in one of the smaller conference rooms. With the Tobacco Free Campus initiative fully established for a few years now, Breath Well Pod members were discussing working on improving enforcement practices with active volunteers on the look-out for those breaking the rules. With dance music coming on every 15 minutes, Move-Well pod demonstrators got us shaking our arms and legs for 5 minutes. They even encouraged us to give their hand-pedal machine a try. With EEG headpieces lined up like a sci-fi movie, the Mind Well table drew me in and helped me discover what it’s like to have your brain signals monitored. Get excited Bruins because according to the Be Well Pod, Bruin Bikes for quarterly rent will be available throughout campus starting next spring; so, say goodbye to those long treks we all know about! Making my final stop at the Eat Well Pod table, I popped a miracle berry in my mouth and what it appeared to be magic made a lime taste as sweet as an orange. It’s not actually magic, check out the science behind it here. The Healthy Campus Initiative established a great presence at the event and spread awareness of their principles and initiatives revolving around healthy living to many people who had not yet discovered our great organization.

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the Eat Well Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.

Mon, Oct 24, 2016 AT 9:08 am - Eat Well
Battle of the Burritos: Understanding the Footprint of What We Eat

By: Hannah Malan, Graduate Student Researcher, UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative EatWell Pod

Photo via Eat Well Pod

As part of our Food Day celebration this year, the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative EatWell pod collaborated with Jennifer Jay, Professor of Environmental and Civil Engineering, to create an infographic that compares the nutrient data and environmental impact of two different recipes for one much beloved food item: the burrito.

We created two burritos – one bean and veggie, one beef and cheese – and compared their overall nutrition profile as well as the carbon footprint of the ingredients inside. The results were impressive. While similar in calories and protein, the beef burrito had 10x the footprint of the veggie burrito.

We asked UCLA Health System Senior Dietitian, and Fielding School of Public Health Adjunct Assistant Professor Dana Hunnes to comment on our results.

From a dietitian’s perspective, can you help us better understand the difference between eating a veggie versus meat burrito?

Swapping out plant-proteins and vegetables in general is always great for your health and the environment (as we can see from this infographic).

From the perspective of our health, there are so many vitamins and minerals that are present in plant-based foods, along with antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and just a whole host of nutrients that can only be found in plant foods.

We do not need nearly as much protein as “we’ve been ‘taught’ to believe” that we do. In fact, according to Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), we really only need roughly 0.8g/kg of protein per day, even for active adults!

What does this mean?

It means that a 135-pound female (~61kg) only needs about 49 grams of protein each day. A 180-pound male (~81kg) only needs about 65 grams of protein each day.

These are really quite easy to obtain! After all, almost everything has protein in it! Not only that…but, this study shows that body builders, really only need around 1.3-1.5grams/kg of protein…so, even if you’re a body building athlete, you still only need ~105grams of protein per day, not the stereotypical 3x as much protein.

The bean burrito has 23 grams of protein! That’s nearly 2/3 of what a healthy female needs over the course of the day, and roughly ½ what a healthy male needs. The beef burrito has slightly more protein (28 grams), but a much larger (10x) carbon footprint. It's also important to note that we can only absorb up to 30 grams of protein at any one time, so both burritos are approaching that limit.

You also wrote your PhD dissertation about climate change and sustainable dietary patterns. Can you comment on the environmental impacts of the two burritos?

Aside from all the healthy nutrients that are more likely to prevent and/or mitigate chronic diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, kidney disease), plant-based proteins (think: beans, legumes, quinoa) and a plant-based diet is extremely good for the environment.

As you can see from the side-by-side comparison of carbon equivalents from the two diets, the plant-based burrito is much better. Roughly 10% the amount of CO2 equivalents as the beef burrito.

In addition to driving less and using less electricity, the FASTEST, EASIEST, AND BEST way to reduce our carbon footprint is to eat a plant-based diet. We do NOT need meat in our diet, and in fact, there is evidence to suggest that meat-heavy diets increase the risk of and exacerbate already-present chronic diseases, and are pro-inflammatory.

So, from a personal-health perspective, and an Earthly-health perspective, the best thing we can do is eat a plant-based diet.

What are Americans actually eating?

According to the FAO’s 2012: World Agriculture Towards 2030/2050 report, average per capita intake of meat for the United States is roughly 200 pounds per person per year, and will increase to 212 pounds per person per year in the next decade.

In developing countries, current intake is roughly 62 pounds per person per year, and is expected to increase to roughly 93 pounds per person per year over the same time frame. This represents a huge problem since the developing world’s population is going to increase far faster than the developed world’s.

We in the United States and other developed countries need to demonstrate our commitment to reducing our meat consumption if we expect the rest of the world to follow suit.

But aren’t high protein diets good for weight management and keeping us full?

Consuming a whole-foods plant-based diet – meaning non-packaged, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, avocados, healthy vegetable fats (olive oil) – increases satiety because it has such high volume and water content.

Of course, consuming packaged plant-based foods (i.e. Doritos) will lead to weight gain and low satiety because there is minimal volume, for a lot of calories.  But, consuming multiple foods from those listed above will increase satiety, and can certainly help with weight management and weight loss.

It’s about diet quality!  Protein does enhance satiety, but overdoing protein can just lead to more fat-storage. Any time you omit a food-group you are likely to lose weight, which is what Atkins/high-protein diets essentially do. I am advocating that we omit the animal-proteins group…similar concept; but switches the ‘food pyramid.’

Learn more about our Food Day campaign, check out our favorite food films, and see what UCLA Dining is doing to reduce our campus ‘foodprint.’

Read more from Dana on her Huffington Post blog.

Join the conversation #FoodDay2016 #UCFoodForAll #UCLALiveWell


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Mon, Oct 24, 2016 AT 7:28 am - Move Well
Let’s Get Moving! The 2016 PAC-12 Challenge

By Tiffany Hu

Photo via UCLA Recreation

Hello my fellow Bruin Fitness Pals!

Something very exciting is brewing at UCLA. I’ll give you a hint: it’ll give us all a shot at beating ’SC!

In celebration of Movement Week (10/24-10/28), all of the PAC 12 schools are getting into some healthy competition! During Movement Week, all twelve schools are promoting healthy living through exercise and movement. They hope to show students that all kinds of exercise or movement are fun and fantastic for our health!

Research has shown that excessive sedentary habits (like sitting at a desk, studying, and playing video games) can be detrimental to your health – physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Take the time now to take care of yourself by giving yourself movement recuperations — celebrate movement in your life and at the same time make UCLA the best of the PAC-12 in this challenge!

So, what exactly is the PAC 12 challenge? During this week of October 24 - 28, the schools will be competing to see whose supporters can log the most minutes of activity. Any movement counts! Taking a stretch or movement break in class or at work? Log those minutes! Walking to class or work? Log those minutes! Taking a yoga class? Log those minutes! Attend /participate in one of the FREE offerings by student groups and REC center programs during this week?  Log those minutes! Any movement counts!

Anyone that is a UCLA supporter is eligible to participate — all you have to do is sign up on the PAC-12 Challenge website and log your minutes of movement (however, there is a 120 minute per day cap). Need a reason to participate beside getting the chance to beat USC? The top 500 loggers for the week will receive a free PAC 12 Challenge t-shirt! Top loggers per day will be eligible to win a Fitbit or a yoga mat!

To help UCLA supporters log as many minutes as possible and beat USC, UCLA Recreation is offering a variety of opportunities from free Group Exercises classes to free classes at the Marina Aquatic Center to drop in FITWELL Games. In addition to these movement opportunities, there are a number of other fun opportunities happening this week, including  Eat Well cooking demos at the Bruin Plaza Farmer’s Market, Martial Arts demos, and a Drum Circle (which helps with anxiety!).

In case you’re looking for even more resources to help get you moving, UCLA has loads of fun programs to get you moving, including the following:

  • UCLA Rec: They offer loads of fun classes to help get active from different types of arts, dance, sports, etc! (And they are only $25 for the whole quarter!)
  • Yoga: There are both classes in UCLA Rec but also FREE options! It is called Flexible Fridays: the classes are weekly and there are a couple times on each Friday to help accommodate your busy schedules!
  • Competitive Sports: If you are interested in something with a little more competition, these programs are great for you! We have Club, Intramural, and Unified teams! The Club teams are generally for the fun of competing with your fellow Bruins and other schools but they are largely student initiated. For something a bit more fierce, we have Intramural teams which are in a whole “league” of its own: because it consists of tournaments, leagues, meets, and special events! Last, but certainly not least, we have our Unified teams for anyone who wants to promote inclusion between those with and without disabilities, using sports to bond!
  • Adaptive Programs: UCLA Rec provides more great therapeutically-based programs for those with cognitive or physical disabilities to help widen their access to opportunities that will help them get active and promote wellness!

Now that you have all this information on ways to get active on campus, go sign up to participate in the PAC-12 challenge! Anyone can participate who is a UCLA supporter.  Whether you're a student, faculty or staff member, alumni, or fan of UCLA you're welcome to join us and go for the championship! Have fun with getting active and I hope you all join this amazing competition to prove we’re the healthiest campus...and for the free stuff, fun programs, and to stay healthy!

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics with a minor in Bioinformatics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the co-Director of the Student Health Advocates, which focuses on educating students on various intersections of health. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship, which helps students volunteer at all departments in the UCLA Medical Centers.

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Thu, Oct 20, 2016 AT 11:10 am - Move Well
No Time, No Problem!: 5 Tips for Getting Active with a Busy College Schedule

By Tiffany Hu

I know exactly what you are thinking — it’s already Week 4 and you’ve been to the gym a total of, let’s just say, “a few” times. You’ve just been too busy joining new clubs, meeting new people, catching up on that monster load of homework, or contemplating what life even is. With so much on your to-do list, it’s easy for gym-time to be the last thing on your mind.

However, it’s incredibly important to stay active for your health: it helps you cope with stress, combat illnesses, and maintain your mental health; furthermore, it gives you more energy and helps you live a longer and stronger life! To reap all these benefits, the Department of Health and Human Services and the American Heart Association recommend 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week.

Now you’re probably saying: “I know it’s good for me but I just don’t have enough time!”

What if I told you that you can get active in less than ten minutes a day and it will cost nothing and be done at your leisure? I know it sounds too good to be true, but it’s possible, my fellow Bruins! You’ll be able to stay active, finish your homework, and avoid AECATG: awkward eye contact at the gym!

Here are 5 tips and tricks to get active in whatever time you have!

P.S. You can use some of these tips multiple times a day, so that you can reach that goal of 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week!

TIP #1: Use home goods lying about as weights!

Photo via Vimeo - Google Images

A great alternative to dumbbells or barbells are ordinary objects you can find in your home! You can use soup cans or water bottles for some great 1-pound hand weights, but if you think you can handle bigger objects, try one of the following options:

  • For a great alternative for 3-pound weights, grab that sack of oranges and lift! Great for exercise and a boost of Vitamin C later for your diet!
  • For 5 pounders, you can grab a sack of potatoes or a gallon of whatever is in your fridge! Try to stick with two of the same objects though if you plan on taking one in each hand while exercising. Similarly, if you want to work with ten pounders, try using some large bottles of laundry detergent!

Some easy lifting workouts you can do with these alternative weights include the following:

  • The sumo squat! You take two soup cans or water bottles in you hands, ready to do bicep curls, and have your legs about two feet apart. While you do the squat, that’s when you do the bicep curl. Then, together, straighten your legs and arms. Repeat this for 10 times for 1 set.
  • The upright row! This is when you keep your feet about shoulder distance apart. Then keep your palms, closed around your weight, facing you. Then bring the weights up so that your elbows will bend to the sides. Then slowly bring it back down. Repeat this as well for 10 times for 1 set.

Also: remember to always be careful! Even though they are household items, you should still treat them as you would weights. Here’s some tips to keep in mind:

  • Remember to work at your own tempo when handling weights: meaning that you should never overestimate how much weight you can handle.
  • Start off small and then build up!
  • The weight should be a bit tiring by the last two repetitions in a set but you can still do in good form.
  • Try to also work out with another fitness pal so that they can spot you in case the weights are just too much.

TIP #2: Try some high intensity workouts!


Photo via Pixabay - Google Images

Studies have shown that short high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts are actually better than longer low intensity workouts. You know what that means? For all you people who hate distance running, you can switch to short high intensity intervals. Or if you just don’t have the time to run, this is a great alternative!

High intensity workouts are amazing because they can help you develop a stronger heart, while also burning fat! According to research associate in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Howard Knuttgen, interval training is an example of aerobic training, which is designed primarily to enhance your cardiovascular system. This means that you can develop a greater endurance, while devoting less time from your busy schedules to exercising.

A great example of these high intensity workouts is the New York Time’s Scientific 7 Minute Workout! All you have to do is jumping jacks, wall sits, push ups, ab crunches, step-ups with a chair, squats, tricep dips with a chair, planks, high knees running (in place: I promise, no endurance running), lunges, push-ups with rotation, and side-planks. You only have to do each of those for 30 seconds and you get a 10 second break in between each of them. Sounds great, doesn’t it? There are more great examples of these in 7-minute workout apps or online!

TIP #3: Why sit when you can stand?

SPOILER ALERT: sitting has been deemed to be the new smoking. Now what does that even mean? It means that we got to get up and start moving! I know it does not seem like sitting could have much of an effect on the way we live but it does! Researchers have been finding more evidence that it increases the chance of developing serious illnesses like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Because once the effects of long-term sitting begin, there will be no way to reverse them. So start now! Stand when you are watching television, seeing as you already sit doing homework (trust me guys: it’s called “taking a break.” I know, revolutionary). Or take a walk when you are talking to your best friend about your wonderful days! Just remember to reduce the amount of time your butt is attached to those chairs!

TIP #4: Start the week off great!

Photo via Flickr

Fact: Mondays are awful. But you could bump it up if you start working out early in the week!

By starting your workouts early on the first day of the week, you’ll be setting yourself up to continue working out for the rest of the week! In fact, research has even shown that most people will start their exercise routines on Mondays versus other days of the week. People will psychologically gear themselves up for working out if they start on Mondays! So start off your week right with some fun exercise, as it has many health benefits!

TIP #5: Do the exercising that you like!

Photo via Ellen Gerdes - Yoga At UCLA

Not all exercise is awful, I promise! If you don’t want to go to the gym or workout at home (because it all seems a bit boring), find an alternative! Join some fitness classes or do something with your friends! UCLA Rec offers loads of classes each quarter that are both fun and great in helping you get fit! (Pssttt!: they are also only $25 for UCLA students for the entire quarter!)

Part of getting fit is just enjoying it. Even if it is more than ten minutes a day, it would be well worth it if you enjoy it. If you don’t like your current fitness routine, you’ll be less inclined to do it. I know that sounds really obvious to most of you, but it’s true and you need to hear it! Running is not the only option! Weight lifting is not the only option! High intensity workouts are not the only option! Do what you love and you’ll see that it’ll go a long way! There are programs such as: competitive intramural programs, adaptive rec programs, FREE yoga (it’s so incredible it gets its own category!), and loads of other amazing programs to get you excited for living a healthy lifestyle! Just remember to have fun while you are getting fit!

Now that you all are loaded with these tips and tricks to slaying the fitness game, go out and do what you love while staying fit! I encourage all of you to at least try one of these tricks to see if it makes a difference (or just take my word for it and try them all)!

Good luck and know that we, the Healthy Campus Initiative, are with you on this amazing fitness journey!

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics with a minor in Bioinformatics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the co-Director of the Student Health Advocates, which focuses on educating students on various intersections of health. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship, which helps students volunteer at all departments in the UCLA Medical Centers.


Tue, Oct 18, 2016 AT 9:04 am - Be Well
Far From The Tree: A Book that Will Expand Your Understanding of Disability

By Miso Kwak

Photo via Google Images

As a person with disability and a student pursuing a Disability Studies minor, I have read a lot of literature on disability. While there are many great books on disability, my favorite is Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity.

A friend of mine recommended this book to me just before my sophomore year at UCLA began. At first, I was overwhelmed by the size of the book, as it is over 700 pages long. In fact, it took me most of my sophomore year to finish the book! Ever since finishing the book, however, I have been fervently recommending this book to many of my friends.

In this book, Andrew Solomon explores how horizontal identity affects the relationship between parents and children. By “horizontal identity,” Andrew Solomon means “an inherent or acquired trait that is foreign to his or her parents” due to a variety of reasons, which may include “recessive genes, random mutations, prenatal influences, or values and preferences that a child does not share with his progenitors” (p. 2). Examples may include sexual orientation, gender preference, and ability status. More specifically, Andrew Solomon focuses on deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, severe disability, musical prodigies, children conceived by rape, criminals, and transgender individuals in the book. Each of these topics represents horizontal identity; parents and children inevitably experience the world differently because of these physical and/or psychological differences.

The book is based on Andrew Solomon’s interviews with more than 300 families, but also includes Solomon’s own story of becoming a father. Each story featured in the book is genuine. Solomon did not shy away from including raw, challenging, and, at times, tragic reality of living with what the society considers abnormal conditions. Solomon was also careful to not exaggerate positive aspects, and he successfully avoided inspiration porn. Each story and commentary is insightful and unique in its own ways. However, all of the stories are also tied together by a common thread: a desire to embrace differences, express love, and exercise hope.

Overall, Andrew Solomon sends a message that what the society may see as deviant does not get in the way of living a fulfilling, meaningful life. He also contends that the concept of disability is fluid rather than fixed. Furthermore, it could embody strength. He eloquently writes, “We are all differently abled from one another, and context – which is socially constructed – often decides what will be protected and indulged” (p. 33).

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Despite the ongoing effort to raise awareness and bridge the gap between those who are viewed as disabled and non-disabled, people with disabilities are continually marginalized in many ways. Reading Far From the Tree (even just one of the chapters!) would be a great way to expand your understanding on disability and think about how physical and psychological differences can be valuable aspects of diversity in our society rather than deficits to be stigmatized.


Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.


Mon, Oct 17, 2016 AT 8:21 am - Mind Well
To judge or not to judge in mindfulness

By Lobsang Rapgay, PhD, research psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry UCLA

Photo via Beth Cortez-Neavel on Flickr

Being non-judgmental is a defining feature of modern forms of mindfulness. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, which is the most researched form, is the main draw for many to the practice of mindfulness. Part of the appeal is that many of us feel passionately that it is wrong to be judgmental of others. We might have strong feelings about being judged, criticized, and ridiculed, perhaps because we may have personally experienced their painful effects during childhood and even later in life. So when modern mindfulness says it will teach us to be non-judgmental, many of us buy into it readily.

We assume we are going to learn a special approach for how not to judge others based solely on their looks, gender, or race, or simply because we dislike them, and replace such biases with a more accepting approach. When someone we know is judgmental of others based on physical characteristics, we feel uncomfortable, upset, and wish we were not around such a toxic person.

On the other hand, we want our children to learn to make good choices as they go out into the world.  We want them to make informed judgements about the types of friends to go out with and those to avoid. Making good judgments involves not only making judgments based on one's likes and dislikes, but also by weighing the pros and cons of whether the friendship is rewarding and meaningful.  Research shows that learning to make informed judgements can take a long time and is only fully developed well past adolescence.

Modern mindfulness trains us to avoid making any form of judgments, sometimes at the cost of learning to make informed judgments.  If a child is mean to others, mindfulness teaches us not to judge the child as mean. If someone never completes his or her assignments, mindfulness teaches us not to judge the person as lazy. Calling someone mean or lazy imposes a label that interferes with our ability to experience that person as a whole person. Instead, we identify them with one characteristic. John is not just a person, instead he is lazy John. According to modern mindfulness, this makes it impossible to recognize that John is a complex individual with both good and bad traits.

However, research shows that excessive training in non-judgment can impair cognitive functioning.  A 2015 study provides preliminary evidence for the negative effects of non-judgment training. Researchers found that subjects trained in non-judgment failed to accurately recall words they memorized earlier. The results suggest that excessive training in non-judgment appears to impair certain cognitive functions that are critical for accuracy of memory.  One of these impaired cognitive functions is discrimination: a critical function for differentiating between what words did and did not appear in a set.  When discrimination is impaired, it interferes with memorizing and, consequently, with accurate recall later.  

Given that bias and judgment are virtually built into us – an evolutionary survival mechanism passed on from generation to generation-- we need to question the purpose of being non-judgmental.  Studies show that judgments about various faces made in the first 1/10 of a second rarely changed even when the subjects later saw the same faces for a full minute.  The findings suggest that the instant we see a face, we categorize it-- even before we have time to think about it.  These findings clearly suggest that training in non-judgment may have significant negative consequences on cognitive functioning.

One of the reasons for these inconsistencies lies with the founders of modern mindfulness, who have failed to clearly define non-judgment based on scientific concepts, principles and findings.  Rather, a practice was taken from the East, and poorly translated into a practice to suit the Western mindset. In fact, classical Buddhist teachings do not associate non-judgment training with mindfulness the way it is done in modern forms of mindfulness. Instead they teach the opposite: the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, as taught by the Buddha, begin with discrimination training in relationship to the sensory experience of the breath. In classical mindfulness, thinking is suspended to refine our capacity to fully sense our breath and body moment by moment in a non-evaluative and non-reactive way.  The objective is to reduce our habitual thinking, imaging, and self-narratives in order to experience the sensory world directly.  

Modern mindfulness training in non-judgment is a powerful way to reduce excessive judgmental thinking, worrying, and ruminating, which are responsible for exacerbating common psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression.  The above evidence suggests that we have to learn to be both non-judgmental at one level, and make healthy and informed judgments on another level.

People using modern forms of mindfulness can, therefore, benefit enormously by complementing non-judgment training with making healthy informed judgments. This requires learning when to apply non-judgment and when to make informed judgments. Integrating classical mindfulness provides an excellent means to do this given that it is consistent with current forms of mindfulness.  

When you know exactly when and how to apply non-judgment skills, you can then train yourself in discrimination, as taught in classical mindfulness. Once you acquire the ability to discriminate between various types of sensations associated with the breath and the body, you can extend that skill to discriminate between various types of thoughts, affect, and behavior.  The beauty about classical mindfulness is that such discrimination is not made based on moral values of the individual, but rather by observing, in a non-evaluative and non-reactive way, the effects that thoughts, affect, and behavior have upon you.  

As you acquire insight into the consequent effects of specific thoughts, affect, and behavior, you can verify those insights with further behavioral experimentation to determine if your assumptions and conclusions are valid.  Over time, you may discover a pattern – certain types of thoughts, affect, and behavior lead to distress, fear, anger and a host of other psychological and behavioral imbalances.  On the other hand, other types of thoughts, affect, and behavior lead to awareness, calm, self-regulation, and positivity.  Through personal experience and discovery, you can confirm which of these are beneficial and which are harmful.

In this way, you develop a template of how to think, feel, and act not based solely on what you have been told, but rather based on your personal exploration through an objective yet gentle process of direct experience, complemented with insight and validated with repeated behavioral experimentation.  

Rather than seeing the two forms of mindfulness as contradictory and exclusionary, opening yourself to the full exploration of what both current and classical teachings have to offer, can lead to a life-long, meaningful skill that can serve us well through our quest for growth and development in the midst of a challenging and demanding world.  

 For more information visit: www.integratedmindscience.org 


Lobsang Rapgay, PhD is a research psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry UCLA under the mentorship of Robert Bilder, Phd. He also maintains a private practice in West Los Angeles. His primary area of research is on the neural, physiological, and behavioral correlates of fear reconsolidation. He was a Tibetan Buddhist monk for 18 years and is well trained in the theory and practice of Buddhism.

Wed, Oct 12, 2016 AT 7:48 am - Mind Well
Beauty Inside and Out: Female Body Image and Mental Health

By Aubrey Freitas

Photo via Creative Commons

Every year, thousands of young women head off to college in pursuit of personal growth and higher education. However, this big change can alter the way women view their bodies and themselves. Studies show that college-aged females are particularly concerned with the way their bodies look, which consequently impacts the mental health of female students. Focusing on papers, midterms, and other assignments can be hard enough on its own, but with the added challenge of one not being comfortable in one’s own skin, college life becomes even more challenging.

What is body image?

Body image is a subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body that is influenced both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others. Struggles with body image are not unique to any singular group of individuals, and can affect people of any gender, race, and sexual orientation. Having a healthy body image means having an undistorted perception of your shape, feeling comfortable and confident in your body, and appreciating your individual uniqueness. However, it is completely normal to not feel confident about your body 100% of the time — everyone has off days every now and then. A healthy body image is about having a positive relationship with your body and learning to process and deal with off days or bad body thoughts instead of putting ourselves down.

What’s so important about having a healthy body image? Body image dissatisfaction is linked to higher rates of depression, stress, isolation and insecurity, all of which can take a huge toll on the body and the mind. Working towards a healthy body image is especially important for college students because bad body thoughts and insecurities can dramatically affect their education and work quality.

How Body Image is Linked to Health

Studies show that as many as 40% of college females have eating disorders or serious problems relating to body image. That means two out of every five women on college campuses are not able to get the most out of their educational experience. Furthermore, the number of women that are unhappy with their bodies is at an all-time high of 91%, with 58% of college females feeling pressure to be a certain weight. This is incredibly dangerous, because poor body image contributes to poor mental health, and can consequently interfere with learning. Studies show that people with negative body images have higher levels of depression, anxiety, and suicidality than those without. Bad body thoughts can cause low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and make one feel as though their body is inadequate.

These statistics given demonstrate some of the ways women’s college experiences and self esteem can be affected, and can cause such a heavy burden that it makes it hard for them to function on a day to day basis. Women entering college are in a critical age group in terms of body image, and so it is important that they are provided with resources that can help them to feel comfortable and confident on their college campuses.

Why does college contribute to negative body image?

The college transition can be very difficult because it can often be very different from what an individual may have experienced in previous years of education; the introduction of a new setting, new people, and new mentalities can also influence one’s body image. In an article on Her Campus, one student claims that “college does not promote a healthy body image because there is so much fear over how easily one can gain weight.” There is social pressure to consume unhealthy dining hall food, party on weekends, and drink alcohol, yet at the same time there is a pressure to stay fit and not gain the dreaded “Freshman Fifteen.” These contribute to the anxiety women feel during their college experiences, and can cause them to waver in their studies because of having poor mental health.

The pressures of college atmospheres can force female students to be more focused on what they eat and how much they exercise than on their studies and extracurriculars. Some students suggest that if campuses “promoted a balance between staying healthy and enjoying being young” this that would allow students to feel more confident in their own bodies and minds. UCLA has taken strides to make changes among its campus through offering many resources to help combat negative body image and eating disorders, such as an Eating Disorders Program which offers help to people of all ages, and a research program dedicated to understanding and assisting those with Body Dysmorphic Disorder. There is even a student group dedicated to promoting healthy body image on campus called the Body Image Task Force.

Tips to Build a Healthy Body Image

There are a plethora of ways to work on building a healthy body image, and in turn, maintain one’s mental health throughout college. One way to build your self-image is to build a strong family support system and immerse yourself in it; strong family bonds are beneficial to curtailing outside pressures. Next time you’re feeling down about yourself or your body, try calling a family member or other loved one to cheer you up and remind you that you are loved. You can also work to develop skills to deal with stress, such as taking time out of your day to meditate or listening to your favorite music, which are calming activities that will help to create balance in your life. Additionally, try to be more proactively self-compassionate. One study found that people that actively practice self-compassion are more likely to have a healthy body image and experience a higher quality of life.

College can be a day-to-day struggle, and what’s harder than just that in today’s world? Being a female college student dealing with an unhealthy body image and all that accompanies it. Helping students feel as though they are accepted for their bodies is imperative, and contributing to other’s having positive thoughts about themselves can make a great difference in a female’s college experience. It’s okay to love yourself for who you are, treat yourself right and do what you want to do to be mentally and physically happy. With support from campuses and those around us, awareness of positive body image and mental health of female students can be brought to the light.


Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.


Mon, Oct 10, 2016 AT 12:08 pm - Eat Well
Snap, Post...and then Dig In!

By Phillip Cox

Have you been to a trendy restaurant recently? Standing on chairs, rearranging table settings, or rolling up the blinds to get natural light just to get the perfect picture of your food has become commonplace. Food bloggers, instagrammers, and tweeters of food are rampant, which raises the question: are people going to restaurants to eat and just happen to take pictures or are people going to restaurants to just to get these beautiful pictures? Is instagramming changing the face of how we dine?

I can personally speak for my sister when I say that instagramming has changed the way she dines. Snapping a picture of her food prior to eating her first bite has become a ritual. Just look at these snaps below. The decadence!


"Homemade Thai Yogurt in Thailand" via Kelly Cox (@kelll_e) on Instagram

"Thai Tea Ice Cream Sandwich" via Kelly Cox (@kelll_e) on Instagram

Instagram has become a way of life for millennials; we instagram while we groggily wake up, in between classes, and as we fall asleep. As a result, we are incessantly shown pictures of beautiful food, colorful plates, and locally cold brewed coffee. We are constantly reminded of the endless dining options out there, and thus often may feel a sense of “FOMO” or fear of missing out. And if not FOMO, at least a minor nudge that these are places that provide beautiful food. Subsequently, once you do make it to these hot spots, you want to be part of the trend, and you also stand by the window for natural light, in order to capture the undeniable beauty of the food you’re indulging in.

This cycle indeed changes the way we eat and appreciate food, and from the opposite end, changes the way eateries present and cook their food. Take a look at Trisha Toh, food blogger extraordinaire @TRISHATES and just look at her photo on the left below. Plain and simple, her instagram is art. Or look at @HUNGRYNYC, photo on the right below. You will undeniably salivate looking at these pictures of food. Social media has unintentionally changed the way we appreciate, taste, and indulge in food. NY Mag even notes the show on FYI called Food Porn, in which the most famous instagrammed dishes are shared!

Homemade Curry via Trisha Toh (@trishates) on Instagram

"Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict" via hungrynyc (@hungrynyc) on Instagram

The Journal of Consumer Marketing proves with their research that taking pictures before one eats can actually make food taste better. The Journal specifically notes that when consumers take pictures before eating their food, “it increases attitudes and taste evaluations of the experience when consumption actually takes place.”

Even more interesting, the journal notes that taking pictures as well as seeing others eat healthy foods through their pictures will actually make healthy foods more enjoyable. The world of food is no longer just about being in the moment and enjoying it, it’s about savoring it through social media. Timeout Magazine notes that Instagram has caused consumers to not be able to enjoy their food without a few likes. Countless studies have shown that consumers who take those pre-food snaps perceive the food to be tastier and more pleasurable, explaining why many people have developed this ritual to get the full experience out of their meal.

NYMag studies show that the reason behind the increase in satisfaction after photographing food, is “delayed gratification.” Essentially, by delaying the intake of food in order to take a photograph, we increase awareness thus allowing more savoring of foods. In other words, stop and snap the roses!

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the Eat Well Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.




Fri, Oct 7, 2016 AT 10:26 am - Eat Well
7 Reasons Why I Love BPlate

By Danielle de Bruin

Today, October 7th, is Bruin Plate’s 3rd anniversary since its grand opening in Fall 2013. The health-themed dining hall, lovingly dubbed BPlate by UCLA students, opened my freshman year and has since played an important role in my UCLA experience; it’s where I bonded with classmates over the fear of looming midterms and gossiped with floormates over the latest dorm drama. Beyond its delicious food and the many fond memories I have of it, here are seven reasons why BPlate deserves to be celebrated on its anniversary today (and every other day too):

1. Before I ate at BPlate, I had no idea that chickpeas and garbanzo beans were the same thing nor had I heard of farro or wheatberry. BPlate introduced me to so many new, nutritious foods and gave me the perfect environment to sample them without fear. I likely wouldn’t have ordered seitan or rainbow chard on a menu or bought it at the supermarket, because I wouldn’t have wanted to “waste” money on a food I might not like. At BPlate, however, I could be adventurous without fear -- if I didn’t like something, I could just venture back into the dining hall for something new. BPlate also helped me re-discover foods I’d previously thought I disliked. I used to hate Brussels sprouts and kale, but after trying the delicious BPlate versions I love them both and even cook them in my apartment now!

2. BPlate has done wonders in reducing the stigma surrounding health food on UCLA’s campus. Many mistakenly believe that eating healthfully means cutting out all carbs or eating only salads, but BPlate proves that eating healthfully can be both delicious and exciting. Personally, I used to think that any amount of dessert was unhealthy. However, BPlate’s inclusion of desserts like frozen yogurt, mini tarts, and fresh fruit showed me that dessert can be part of a healthy diet when enjoyed in moderation.

3. BPlate’s architecture is one of my favorite parts about the dining hall. It’s almost always a beautiful, sunny day on UCLA’s campus and when the sun is shining I prefer to spend my time outdoors rather than inside buildings with artificial light. However, BPlate’s floor-to-ceiling windows allow me to enjoy sunlight and delicious food at the same time. The great views of campus are an added bonus.

4. BPlate is incredibly environmentally conscious. Over 30 percent of the food served in the dining hall is sustainable and locally sourced; it serves vegetables from local farms, free-range chickens, cage-free eggs, and fair-trade teas and coffees while composting 100% of pre- and post-consumer waste. Even the floors are made of recycled material. Eating at BPlate makes me feel like I’m doing something good for both myself and the environment.

5. As an incredibly indecisive person, I find eating in dining halls very stressful. There are so many dishes to choose from, which often leaves me feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Before BPlate opened, finding healthy options added to my dining hall stress. BPlate, however, makes finding healthy options infinitely less difficult and stressful. Every dish is created with nutrition and health in mind; all dishes are less than 400 calories and less than 30% of all calories come from fats. When eating at BPlate, I know that any dish I choose will be a healthy, nutritious option, which relieves much of my dining hall stress -- the only problem is that all the healthy options a BPlate are so good that I have trouble deciding between them!

6. While at your average dining hall servers might hurriedly toss a scoop of mashed potatoes or piece of chicken on a plate so they can serve students more quickly, at BPlate servers pay meticulous attention to the presentation of the food they serve. Every dish at BPlate has its own unique design and each plate is a work of art in and of itself. I love the presentation of the food at BPlate, because it makes me feel like I’m eating in a restaurant, not a college dining hall. I also found myself being more appreciative of the food in front of me when someone had taken the time to present it so beautifully. My experiences fall in line with one study, which found that presenting food in an aesthetically pleasing way enhanced consumers’ experience of their food.

7. I grew up in a very meat-oriented household, so before eating at BPlate I thought all vegetarians and vegans ate was salad and pasta. However, BPlate has since showed me that vegetarian and vegan diets are not at all limiting. Many of my vegetarian and vegan friends love BPlate too, because it offers them such a wide variety of plant-based options compared to typical dining halls. BPlate’s vegetarian options are so good that I often choose them over the meat dishes!

What do you love about BPlate and/or what has eating at BPlate taught you? Share your experiences with me at livewellblog@ucla.edu or on social media!

Danielle de Bruin is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.


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Fri, Oct 7, 2016 AT 10:24 am - Mind Well
Mind Well Gives Students Tools to Address Their Mental Health

Photo via Artemisia Valeri

By Ross Szabo, Author Behind Happy Faces

Every week I read new studies, reports, or articles letting us know what’s wrong with college students today. They’re stressed out more than ever. They’re not sleeping. They’re abusing prescription medications. They’re overweight. They’re depressed. The list goes on and on. In some ways it’s like society is normalizing these problems for students instead of giving them skills to deal with what’s happening.  Students hear the news and are overwhelmed when they identify with these issues, but where are the solutions?

In response to these studies, an endless amount of mental health, mental illness, and suicide awareness campaigns address these problems. Grassroots organizations use PSAs, websites, and marketing materials to highlight helpful information to reach affected populations with messaging that students should seek help and end stigma. There are more young mental health advocates today than ever before. Students are standing up and giving a voice to these issues to empower others to come forward.

Moving Beyond Mental Health Awareness

We definitely need to continue the mental health awareness efforts that are being done on campuses. But, we also need to go further. Most universities have been focused on training faculty, parents, and students on what to do when someone has a mental health challenge, but typically the only thing we tell someone who is experiencing a problem is to seek help.

In some ways this is like telling everyone else what to do when someone has a heart condition, without giving the person with the condition any idea of what they can do for themselves. Mental health has to be the only public health issue where we attempt to prepare everyone for a crisis, but don’t give the individuals who are experiencing the problems the tools they need to address their emotions.

This approach creates numerous problems. Counseling centers are overwhelmed. Students can’t afford to seek help off campus. The lucky ones who have access to mental health treatment have to start developing coping skills for the first time in therapy, instead of learning these skills from a younger age. The earlier a person identifies a mental health disorder and accepts it, the better chance they have to manage the issue. Unfortunately, most people are being told they should seek help only after something significant has changed in their lives, instead of receiving proactive education from a young age.

Mind Well Makes a Difference

UCLA has been doing tremendous work to help students with educational efforts from the Mind Well pod of the Healthy Campus Initiative. The goal of Mind Well is to promote wellness of mind, brain and spirit, foster creativity, and enhance social connectedness throughout the UCLA community.

Mind Well has hosted events to educate students about sleep, meditation, mindfulness, and happiness. What makes their approach so successful is full student involvement. For example, this past spring, two students won a contest by creating their own mindfulness-coloring book and successfully distributing it to thousands of students at UCLA as well as other campuses.

Mind Well is currently conducting a Mind Lexicon study to determine the words students use to describe their emotions and assess if students know the meaning of commonly used mental health terms. The results will be a baseline to enhance outreach and educational efforts.

We need to start teaching mental health the same way we teach physical health. Mind Well helps make learning about difficult topics more approachable. Students get the chance to better understand brain development, what affects their moods, how to change coping mechanisms, the symptoms of mental health disorders, and how to manage their mental health.

For more information about our work on campus, visit our website.

Thu, Oct 6, 2016 AT 9:03 am - Mind Well
Play Explores Mental Health and Friendship With Beloved TV Show as a Backdrop

By Gene Gillespie, PhD, HSS Guest Writer

L-R: Nick McLoughlin, Joseph Mango, and Miranda Wynne visited the Friends’ Central Perk set on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. Photo via Elizabeth Lizaola.

I get by with a little help from my friends – The Beatles

Doesn’t everyone have that favorite book they can pick up and read a few pages, and feel the sensation of an old friend’s embrace? Or a song that helps them see hope when it feels like there is none? Or a film that provides an escape from their daily struggles when they feel they can’t continue?

The concept of art as a means of coping and consolation is central to a play being produced by UCLA Semel Institute’s Center for Health Services and Society (HSS). On October 7th and 9th, the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s Tamkin Auditorium will hold two performances of The One with Friends, written by HSS staff member Joseph Mango.  The play follows an aspiring writer (Lucy, played by Miranda Wynne) and a struggling actor (Callum, played by Nick McLoughlin) confronting feelings of depression and isolation as they strive for personal and professional success. The play is being produced in conjunction with a pilot research study that assesses the impact of the arts on stigma and perceptions of mental health. HSS, which also helped bring the story of USC Law Professor Elyn Saks’ battle with schizophrenia to the operatic stage at UCLA in July (see Huffington Post article here), will hold this event as a part of an ongoing effort to raise community awareness and understanding of mental health through the arts.

The play is set primarily in a Santa Monica coffee shop, where Lucy is composing a script for a reunion episode of the beloved television show Friends, which aired on NBC from 1994-2004. Through Lucy’s perspective, the play explores our experience of personal tragedy, and the anxieties and uncertainties of pursuing your dreams in the face of tremendous odds.  “I was so drawn to the character of Lucy, who I find both instantly relatable and hilarious in her desire to alienate others,” says director Ashley Griggs. “It has been such an exciting task to tackle a character with layers like hers; someone who is blunt and kind and cold and vulnerable, all at once.”

The other lead, Callum, suffers from clinical depression, offering a unique yet intersecting perspective to that of Lucy.  Callum’s depression leaves him isolated and only after his therapist assigns him the task of approaching a stranger as part of his treatment, does he meet Lucy.  They build a friendship grounded both in their personal problems, but also in their shared professional interests and aspirations, and the burgeoning hope that there are better times ahead. Chloé Hung, who plays The Model, discussed the connection between the main characters, despite and perhaps because of, their differences: “Callum and Lucy’s relation to depression is very different, but they can recognize a similar quality and relate to each other through their respective experience. The script is incredibly empathetic and emphasizes the need for one another to reach out and just listen.”

Friends is personified as an actual character in the play, and much of the emotional verve brought by the actors is derived from a deep-seated nostalgia for the show’s characters. “I think the reason this show was so successful is because the audience could find something relatable in every single one of the characters,” says Miranda Wynne, who plays Lucy.

The One with Friends aims to bring a deeper understanding of the emotional and mental challenges faced by our fellow human beings, and offers a reassurance that no one is alone. “I think art really helps mental health awareness just by bringing it to light. A lot of these things can be difficult to talk about,” says Lindsey Ford, who plays The Warm-Up Woman.  “When someone on television, in a movie, or in a play talks about having suicidal thoughts or dealing with a bad depression, it not only allows others to recognize that many people deal with these difficulties, it empowers the friends and family of those individuals an entry into conversations about these types of mental health issues.”

For playwright Joseph Mango, the play is a semi-autobiographical account drawing on emotions from his angst-filled teenage years, fraught with social pressures to the distinct anxieties of young adulthood. Throughout these challenges, one television show was a constant, not subject to the rollercoaster of emotion that life can become. “In writing the play, I wanted to emphasize the important role family and friends play, as well as the arts, when a loved one is living with major depression.  While everyone’s experience with depression is different, and medication and therapy aid in the journey of recovery, I always believe that the support of family, friends, and that favorite TV show, movie, or song when you need it most is just as important.  Friends is something that is constant and positive and has been there for me since it debuted in 1994,” says Mango.  

Exploring his personal thoughts and the role of Friends in his life allowed Mango to channel his passion for battling depression stigma through the arts. This inspired him to co-lead a pilot study to assess the impact of his play on people’s knowledge and attitude toward depression and how this might be affected by the arts. With the play, Mango and HSS hope to increase understanding of depression and to celebrate the power of the arts in promoting healing.

For more information about the play and to reserve free tickets, visit: http://www.theonewithfriends.com

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone.  All calls are confidential.


Wed, Oct 5, 2016 AT 7:58 am - Be Well
Loud Yet Easily Overlooked: Noise Pollution in Dorms and Apartments

By Miso Kwak

Photo via Google Images

It was about 11 PM, and, after a long day of moving in, I was more than ready to sleep. However, the street just outside my window was booming with loud music and sounds of people chatting, putting a good night’s sleep just out of reach. It was only the first night in my apartment and I could not help but worry that I might have to deal with sleep-disrupting loud noise throughout the school year.

Whether you are living on the Hill or in an off-campus housing arrangement, my experience may sound familiar to you. According to this study, one of the top five reasons why college students lack sleep was dorm noise. In addition to lack of sleep, living in a noisy environment can negatively affect our health in other ways as well. However, there are many strategies to combat noise pollution and prevent it from negatively affecting our health.

What is noise pollution?

Noise pollution is unwanted or disturbing sound. It can include anything from the loud music coming from your neighbor’s room to the sound of a lawn mower to audible conversations down the hallway. While it may not be something many people think about seriously, noise around us is a part of our daily built-environment that can threaten our health and disrupts our quality of life.

Noise pollution and physical health

Noise may be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This research found that exposure to noise pollution increases blood pressure, changes heart rate, and causes release of stress hormone. This may be because of the emotional stress reaction as body perceives discomfort from the noise and nonconscious physiological stress resulting from the interaction between the central auditory system and other regions of the central nervous system.

Noise pollution and mental health

Noise also may affect mental health. While there is no direct association between exposure to noise and mental health conditions, it may contribute to a wide range of symptoms such as anxiety, stress, nervousness, and emotional instability. Another study demonstrated an association between noise level and aggressive behavior.

Noise pollution and sleep

Lastly, yet perhaps most importantly, noise disturbs a good night of sleep. More specifically, noise may cause difficulty falling asleep and frequent awakening, which lead to sleep deprivation and number of other negative health consequences such as depressed mood, decreased cognitive performance, and fatigue.

What Can We Do?

One option is wearing ear plugs when you are sleeping. You can grab them for free from the Powell Reading Room behind the CLICC desk.

Another option is to communicate with your roommates and/or neighbors. Discuss with your roommate(s) about each other’s sleeping and studying habits and what each other’s comfort level is. Agree on what works for you and your roommate(s). If neighbors next door or upstairs are the source of loud noise, let them know as well. I personally had an instance in which I had to talk with neighbor upstairs about their noise level and was able to resolve the issue by opening up a discussion.

Noise pollution, especially in college living environment, is a loud problem, yet often overlooked. Being mindful and respectful of people around you could be a great first step. When we communicate with one another and are intentional about our behaviors, we could easily make our living space quieter and healthier.


Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.


Mon, Oct 3, 2016 AT 7:21 am - Eat Well
Delicious and Nutritious — Seasonal Fall Foods and Recipes

By Danielle de Bruin

Fall is here...and so are many delicious seasonal fruits and vegetables! From pumpkin to pears to beets, fall is full of delicious flavors. While our global food system allows us to find most types of produce in supermarkets year-round, eating seasonal foods is better for the health of our bodies and our environment. Produce can only develop its full flavor and nutritional content when it’s grown in season, making seasonal foods tastier and more nutritious. Seasonal foods are also better for our planet, because they can be grown locally. This means that the foods do not have to travel as far to reach your local supermarket, reducing pollution and the carbon footprint of your meal. Keep reading to learn what fruits and vegetables are in season this fall and delicious recipes you can use them in!

Photo via Google Images

When it comes to seasonal fall foods, pumpkin is probably the first thing that comes to most people’s minds. However, pumpkin isn’t limited to pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice lattes; it can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes and a 1 cup serving packs 245% of the daily need for vitamin A! Use the squash to make Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Pancakes, or a Caramelized Pumpkin and Gorgonzola Salad.

Photo via Google Images

Brussels sprouts get a bad rap in mainstream media, but the vegetable is incredibly nutritious and can be cooked in many delicious ways. They are high in vitamins C and K and low in calories. Try them in one of the following recipes: Warm Quinoa Brussels Sprouts Salad, Honey Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts, or Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Kale Salad with Apple.

Photo via Google Images

Cauliflower is also super high in vitamin C and is incredibly versatile. There are hundreds of recipes on Pinterest and other websites that can teach you how to turn cauliflower into pizza crust, rice, or tortilla alternatives for an added dose of veggies. You can also keep the cauliflower intact with one of these recipes: Chickpea and Cauliflower Curry, Roasted Garlic Cauliflower, or Roasted Cauliflower Tacos.

Photo via Google Images

Pears make an easy sweet Fall treat, plus they’re packed with fiber too! You can eat them as a snack, as part of your meal or as dessert! Try one of these tasty recipes: Baked Pears with Walnuts and Honey, Sweet and Spicy Pear Salsa,or Pear Balsamic Salad with Dried Cherries and Candied Walnuts.

Photo via Google Images

While the sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows that your aunt makes for Thanksgiving might not be your healthiest option, there are tons of healthy ways to eat nutritious sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are densely packed with many important nutrients; they are great sources of fiber, vitamins A and C, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese. Cook one of these delicious recipes next time you buy sweet potatoes at the Farmer’s market: Vegan Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry, Sweet Potato and Kale Frittata, or Sweet Potato Black Bean Hash.

Photo via Google Images

Butternut squash is another one of fall’s delicious squashes. Like sweet potatoes, the squash is a great source of vitamins A and C, potassium, and manganese, but it has its own unique flavor. Try using it to make Butternut Squash Burrito Bowls, Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna, or Roasted Butternut Squash with Spiced Lentils.

Photo via Google Images

Finally, add some color to your plate with some beets! Beets are a good source of folate and can easily be incorporated into simple dishes. Beet Hash with Eggs, Smoky Black Bean Beet Burgers, and Balsamic Beet Salad are all great options.

So, while it may be hard to say goodbye to your summer tan and weekly trips to the beach, all the new flavors available in Fall make the seasonal change a bit more bearable! 


Danielle de Bruin is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.



Fri, Sep 30, 2016 AT 11:01 am - Mind Well
Putting Your Brain First: 5 Mental Health Student Organizations at UCLA

By Aubrey Freitas

The beginning of another school year brings opportunities for students to get involved with new or different clubs and organizations on campus. UCLA is home to more than 1,000 student groups spanning a wide variety of topics from healthcare to soccer to fashion, so there’s a club for you on campus no matter your interests!

If mental health is one of your passions, there are many groups you can get involved with on campus. Check out this list of student groups and join one that will help you take care of your own mental health while helping others with theirs!

1) Yoga for Flexible Futures is a nonprofit organization that teaches the importance of yoga and nutrition to kids. The health benefits of yoga include increased body awareness; stress relief; reduced incidence of anxiety, depression, and insomnia; and even more. Once every week, Yoga for Flexible Futures members visit the UCLA Community School (a public K-12 school partnered with UCLA that strives to teach students to be multicultural, active participants in society) to teach a yoga class that is specifically designed to capture children's attention. The classes always revolve around a fun theme (like under the sea or Halloween) and incorporate traditional yoga poses into a unique learning experience. The club also spreads the health benefits of yoga on UCLA’s campus by collaborating with other student groups to lead adult classes. New member training, which will be held on October 2nd, will certify incoming members to teach children’s yoga and allow them to instruct classes throughout the year with the club. Check out their Facebook page to apply now and for more information.

Photo via Facebook

2) Active Minds is a national organization that aims to change the conversation surrounding mental health by teaching students the importance of advocating for mental health and working to fight the stigmas associated with mental health. UCLA’s chapter is actually the biggest Active Minds chapter in the entire country! The organization aims to change the way people view mental health by helping everyone realize that mental health is a shared aspect of life we all need to do our best to take care of. The group hosts workshops, events, and educational opportunities to better support those who need help improving their mental health. Check out their Facebook page for upcoming events and for their Fall application. Also, check out the All of Us campaign that recently merged with Active Minds and is now its own committee under the group. All of Us is a campaign that stresses that while not every individual has a mental illness, every individual has mental health that must be proactively cared for. The campaign aims to break the stigma surrounding mental health by holding educational programs, workshops, and events created to educate the community on the importance of seeking help before concerns with mental health become crises.  

Photo via Facebook

3) Bridging Minds Through Art, affiliated with the Painted Brain, is a student group that was created to bring people within UCLA’s mental health community together through the use of artistic expression. The Painted Brain is a nonprofit organization that uses art to bridge the gap between those struggling with mental heath and those who are not through collaborations, a magazine, and vocalized story sharing. Bridging Minds Through Art is made up of artists, poets, musicians, writers, and others who are interested in art that all work together to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. The organization allows people who are struggling with poor mental health to collaborate with others from all backgrounds to create art pieces that reflect what it’s like to live with their mental health struggles. Creative expression is the driving force for this organization in developing a positive community through hosting events at colleges, high schools, and several other locations that mix art and mental health awareness/expression. Get involved by visiting the Painted Brain’s nearby community center (open to anyone with a passion for art), contributing an art piece to be displayed during a showcase, or taking one of the coding workshops offered by the organization.

Photo via Facebook

4) Autism Speaks U at University of California, Los Angeles is a campus chapter furthering the work of the organization Autism Speaks. The organization engages college campuses and local communities to help all of those affected by Autism. The UCLA chapter desires to change the future set for all individuals struggling with any version of Autism. In particular, the club is interested in funding research about the causes of Autism, methods of prevention, and treatments; raising awareness about the disorder; and understanding its effect on individuals, families, and society. Check out the club’s Facebook page for more information and get involved by participating in events like Walk Now for Autism Speaks , the Los Angeles Racket Run by ACEing Autism, and more.

Photo via Facebook

5) Falun Dafa at UCLA is a student organization and Qigong group that offers free meditation. Millions of people all over the world participate in the traditional, high-level Chinese practice involving the use of posture, breathing techniques, and mental focus. The club promotes the meditative art by teaching it to others and also promotes overall social well-being. The practice of meditation has numerous mental health benefits: reducing negative emotions; building skills to manage stress; increasing self-awareness; reducing pain, high blood pressure, and insomnia; and combatting anxiety and depression.  Check out the club’s Facebook page for more information about this specific practice of meditation and upcoming events.

Photo via Facebook

The new school year may have just begun, but it is never too soon or too late to get involved with groups that can help to keep you mentally healthy and happy or to encourage your peers to adopt healthy habits. Check out these organizations for yourselves and see if any of them are a good fit for your own personality and individual mental health needs. Don’t see your favorite mental health club on here? Comment and share your feedback online to connect others with great opportunities to get involved with mental health around campus.


Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.


Wed, Sep 28, 2016 AT 10:24 am - Eat Well
Six Quick, Healthy Meals to Make in Your New Apartment

By Danielle de Bruin

While moving into the apartments comes with many new freedoms (no more room inspections!), the transition is also accompanied by many new responsibilities, including cooking. For many students, this will be the first time they will be responsible for planning their own meals, which can be a daunting task. If you’re new to the apartments and need some inspiration on where to get started, check out one or more of these easy, nutritious recipes!

Photo via goeatandrepeat.com

Greek Yogurt Breakfast Bark

This recipe is easy, versatile, and perfect for when you’re running late to class! Use your favorite berries and favorite granola to customize the bark to your liking. Not sure which berries to use? Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all high in fiber, vitamin C, and manganese and blackberries and blueberries are additionally great sources of vitamin K. Paired with granola and greek yogurt, this bark is also a great source of whole grains and protein. Try making the bark on a Sunday night and placing it in plastic bags so all you have to do is grab a bag on the way to class throughout the week.

Photo via foodiecush.com

Egg and Vegetable Breakfast Sandwich

With egg whites, avocado, and veggies, this breakfast sandwich is packed with protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Avocados also pack more potassium than bananas and spinach is high in iron, which helps red blood cells to carry oxygen around your body. Use your favorite bagel flavor and favorite type of cheese to customize it to your liking. However, the best past of this recipe is that you can make the eggs in the microwave if you’re in a rush!

Photo via yummyhealthyeasy.com

Black Bean and Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

This dish is so easy and filled with important nutrients. The black beans and quinoa in this dish are great sources of plant-based protein and fiber; the black beans also provide potassium and the quinoa contains iron and all nine essential amino acids. The zucchini is also high in vitamin C, which helps to lower blood pressure and protect against clogged arteries. Make extra and reheat it in the oven for lunch or dinner the next day.

Photo via hip2save.com

Chicken Stir-Fry

This stir-fry recipe is super versatile because you get to pick the veggies! Try stopping by the UCLA Farmer’s Market once a month on Wednesday’s or the Westwood Farmer’s Market between noon and 6PM on Thursdays for whatever vegetables happen to be in season. The ginger in this recipe adds a ton of flavor and has anti-inflammatory compounds. Serve with brown rice for an added dose of fiber, manganese, and selenium.

Photo via pinchofyum.com

Sweet Corn and Zucchini Pie

This frittata recipe is a delicious meal you can eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! The eggs are a great source of protein and vitamin B12 while the corn adds magnesium and vitamin B6. To make the dish even easier to prepare, use canned corn instead of cutting it off the cob. Serve with whole grain bread for a complete meal.

Photo via gimmedelicious.com

Roasted Chicken and Veggies

This recipe is packed with nourishing vegetables — including vitamin C-rich bell peppers and broccoli packed with vitamins C and K — and it can be made in just one pan! If you’re new to cooking, the website even has a video instructing viewers on how to assemble the dish. Serve with quinoa, farro, whole wheat cous cous, or your favorite grain.

If you make any of these recipes in your new apartment or if you have another favorite easy, nourishing recipe, please share your experience with us at livewellblog@ucla.edu or on social media!

Danielle de Bruin is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.


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Thu, Sep 22, 2016 AT 10:58 am - Move Well
Check it Out: UCLA Recreation Classes are FREE to Observe during Week 1

By Danielle de Bruin

Photo via Google Images

Looking for a new way to get moving or workout this school year? If so, UCLA recreation has you covered! It offers hundreds of different group exercise and instructional courses every week, so you’re bound to find one that’s perfect for you.

If you want to try out some group exercise classes, you can buy a Group X pass that grants you unlimited access to 59 group exercise classes per week! These classes include spin (indoor cycling), HIIT (high intensity interval training), zumba, booty kickin’ barre, and more. The Group X pass is only $25, making it a much cheaper option than non-UCLA alternatives like SoulCycle or Pure Barre. Check out the complete UCLA group exercise schedule here.

UCLA recreation also offers a wide variety of instructional courses. There are over two dozen yoga classes, some of which are completely free! Yoga classes are available at all levels, so you can find the perfect one for you. In addition to yoga, you can find everything from swim lessons to power lifting to boxing to salsa dancing. Take a look here for a complete look at the courses offered this fall.

If group exercise and instructional courses weren’t enough, UCLA recreation also offers private and semi-private fitness training (with a discount for students!) as well as arts classes including digital photography and improv comedy.

So...how do you sign up for these classes? You can sign up for any of the instructional and art courses online here. For the group exercise courses, you can bring your Bruin Card and $25 to the Sales & Services counter on the first floor of the John Wooden Center (past the basketball courts). If you’re unsure if a class is right for you, you can observe all classes for FREE during week one and then make a decision! If you decide to check out any of UCLA recreation’s classes, please share your experiences with us at livewellblog@ucla.edu.

Danielle de Bruin is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.


Tue, Sep 20, 2016 AT 11:49 am - Be Well
UCLA Health and Wellness Resources 101: A Guide for New Students

By Danielle de Bruin

Photo via Google Images

In addition to the Healthy Campus Initiative, there are many great health and wellness resources for students on UCLA’s campus. If you’re new to campus, use this list to familiarize yourself with the resources that can help you enjoy the best and healthiest college experience possible.

UCLA Recreation — UCLA offers numerous places to workout on campus, all free with your Bruin card: the John Wooden Center, the Bruin Fitness Center (BFit), Drake Stadium, Sunset Canyon Recreation (which boasts multiple pools), and the Los Angeles Tennis Center. UCLA Recreation also offers numerous fitness classes every quarter, from yoga to barbell to salsa dancing, so you can try something new every quarter if you desire! You can also rent bikes at the Bike Shop or camping equipment at the Equipmental Rental center.

UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) — UCLA’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) center describes itself as a multi-disciplinary mental health center. In addition to offered individual counseling session to students, it offers group therapy, wellness workshops, and much more. CAPS is located in John Wooden Center West and is available to all students (though the quantity of services or sessions available depends on whether or not you subscribe to UCLA’s health insurance, UCSHIP). More than one in four students utilize CAPS, so if there’s something bothering you or you need someone to talk to about your college transition, don’t be afraid to use it --make an appointment today simply by showing up at the front desk. Check out this CAPS brochure for a list of all their services.

LGBTQ Campus Resource Center — The LGBTQ Campus Resource Center offers a wide range of services to students, from academic mentors to career counseling to individual counseling. The center has fours CAPS counsellors in-residence that are available for drop-in counseling throughout the week and offers LGBTQ-specific therapy groups. The center also boasts a library, cyber center, and an ally training program, and hosts numerous events for students a quarter.

Student Wellness Commission (SWC) — The Student Wellness Commission is an office within the Undergraduate Student Association Counsel. The commission is made up of 12 student-run committees that address all aspects of student health and wellness on campus, from mental health to consent education to body image. SWC puts on dozens of health-related events for students each quarter and provides free condoms and feminine hygiene products outside its office (Kerckhoff 308). Keep up-to-date on their events by liking their facebook page.

Cafe 580 — Cafe 580, located at 580 Hilgard Avenue (inside St. Alban’s Episcopal Church), provides free meals to financially struggling students. The cafe offers free meals three times a day Monday through Friday and feeds everyone that knocks on its door, no questions asked.

Bruin Resource Center (BRC)  — The Bruin Resource Center, located in Bradley Hall on the hill, provides many resources for UCLA students, including transfers, veterans, active military, undocumented students, and students with dependents. The BRC also runs UCLA’s GRIT counseling program, which offers free peer-to-peer counseling. You can sign up for a GRIT coach here.

Student Activities Center (SAC) — The Student Activities Center, located in Dickson court, is home to numerous campus resources. The Community Programs Office (CPO) contains the Student Retention Center (SRC) which provides services to help retain students, especially those who have historically lacked support in higher education, until graduation. You can also the UCLA Test bank (where you can get a copy of the last final your professor gave by trading in one of your exams), the CPO Computer Lab (with free printing for all students), a nightly Study Hall, the Commuter Van Ride Service, and the Writing Success Program to support the academic and holistic development of students. The CPO food closet, where financially struggling students can find canned foods and fresh produce, is located in room 111 and open from 8am-6pm. SAC is also home to a pool and basketball courts.  

Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars — The Dashew center, located in Bradley Hall on the hill, aims to support UCLA’s 12,000 international students. The center has numerous programs throughout the year, most of which are open to all UCLA students. The center assists international students with visa applications and coordinates programs such as Thanksgiving dinner and language circles.

Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) — The Office for Students with Disabilities works to support and meet the educational needs of Bruins with disabilities. The office offers note-taking services, van rides around campus, support groups, individual counseling, test-taking accommodations, and more.

Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center — The Ashe center is UCLA’s student health center. Here you can make appointments for your annual check-up, get free flu vaccines, pick up a free toothbrush, and fill prescriptions at the pharmacy. Call (310) 825-4073 to make an appointment or learn more about the services Ashe offers.

Title IX Office — The Title IX education amendment prohibits any discrimination due to sex or gender on campus. The office on campus exists to ensure that UCLA’s community remains free of discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. If you ever wish to discuss your rights on campus or feel as if your rights have been violated, the Title IX office’s doors are open to you.



Danielle de Bruin is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.


Wed, Sep 14, 2016 AT 10:17 am - Move Well
Your Healthy Move-In Checklist: 9 things to pack for a healthy start at UCLA

By Danielle de Bruin

Your college move-in checklist probably includes the essential twin XL sheet set, laundry bag, and coffee maker, but does it include the items essential to staying healthy in college? When you’re trying to decide how many pairs of shoes to pack or whether you’ll need an umbrella for the three days a year it rains in LA, it can be easy to forget about health while packing for college. However, you’ll need to prioritize your health before you even step foot on campus to ensure a healthy start at UCLA. Use the Healthy Campus Initiative’s healthy move-in checklist to ensure you don’t forget anything essential to a healthy first year at UCLA.

1. Running or gym shoes — You’ll want to pack your running shoes for two reasons. Firstly, you’ll need them to take advantage of the Wooden center, BFit, and Drake stadium. Exercising is shown to decrease depressive symptoms and increase cognitive functioning, making it a great way to cope with the sometimes stressful college transition. Secondly, UCLA’s campus is huge and getting around is no easy feat! Skip your heels or dress shoes and opt for your running shoes when you have class all day — your feet will thank you later. If you forget a pair, you can pick up a new pair at a sports store, Goodwill, or the Salvation Army in Santa Monica — just a fifty cent bus ride away with your Bruin card!

Photo via Google Images

2. Ear plugs — Living in the dorms can get noisy, which can sometimes make it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep, however, is essential to a healthy life and a healthy college experience. Lack of sleep is associated with lower grades, risky alcohol consumption, and depressive symptoms. So pack a couple packs of ear plugs (and maybe a sleep mask too) so you can drown out your roommate yakking on the phone or the room blasting impossibly loud music down the hall. And don’t worry if you forget, you can find some free earplugs in the Powell Reading Room behind the CLICC desk.

Photo via Google Images

3. Granola bars -— Granola bars, or other portable snacks like mixed nuts or dried fruit, are an absolute college must. Grab one on your way out the door when you’re running late to class and don’t have time for breakfast or keep a couple in your backpack in case you get hungry in the middle of lecture.

Photo via Flickr

4. Mini fridge — Granola bars can get old pretty quickly, so bring a mini fridge so you can stock up on healthy snacks in your room. Keep some Greek yogurt cups or milk and cereal on hand in case you miss breakfast in the dining halls and try carrots with hummus or string cheese as late night study snacks. You can find used mini fridges on EBay or Craigslist for $50 (if you split that between your three roommates, it’ll cost you less than $20 per person!).

Photo via Flickr

5. Gratitude journal — Starting college can be overwhelming and stressful, so it's important to proactively care for your mental health in addition to your physical health. One study found that gratitude writing can boost happiness and life satisfaction and decrease depressive symptoms. Bring a gratitude journal to keep next to your bed so you can take a moment to reflect on a happy moment or something you're grateful for before you fall asleep every day. Get one on Amazon for as little as $5.

Photo via Google Images

6. Yoga mat — Different student groups offer free yoga classes all the time on campus, so bring a yoga mat with you and take advantage of them! No only is yoga a great, relaxing study break, it could also boost your GPA! One study found that practicing yoga increases brain wave coherence, resulting in increased mental performance. So keep an eye out for the free classes provided by groups like Yoga at UCLA (they provide both the instruction and the mats!) or, if you want to practice your downward dog more frequently, you can sign up for quarter long classes through the Wooden center that meet once or twice a week.

Photo via Google Images

7. Reusable water bottle — Dehydration is associated with impaired cognitive function, short-term memory, and psychomotor skills, so stay hydrated! UCLA has water fountains all over campus — all you need is a cool water bottle to refill throughout the day.

Photo via Google Images

8. Condoms — Bring a supply of condoms with you to protect yourself and any potential partner from STIs and unwanted pregnancy. If you feel uncomfortable buying condoms at a drugstore or are afraid your parents might spot you packing some, you can get free condoms on campus outside the Student Wellness Commission Office (Kerckhoff 308), at the LGBTQ resource center, or at the Ashe center. If you want to learn more about other birth control options, make an appointment at Ashe by calling (310) 825-4073.

Photo via Google Images

9. Sunscreen — While LA’s amazing weather is one of the many perks of attending UCLA, the strong sun can also be pretty dangerous. Protect yourself against skin cancer by keeping a small tube of sunscreen in your backpack so you can reapply throughout the day. Make sure that your sunscreen conforms to the standards recommended by dermatologists!

Photo via Google Images


Danielle de Bruin is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.


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Tue, Sep 6, 2016 AT 9:31 am - Mind Well
Tips to Fight Every College Student’s Worst Habit: Procrastination

By Miso Kwak

Photo via Google Images

If you are a UCLA student, you are probably all too familiar with procrastination. In fact, you might even be procrastinating right now as you read this blog post! I am no different; I have lost count of how many times I have submitted assignments just an hour before they were due, telling myself “Never again!”...

According to procrastination research, 80-95% of college students procrastinate, especially on their academic work. Consequently, It is no surprise that procrastination is consistently associated with a lower grade point average. In addition to poor academic performance, another study found an association between procrastination and chronic health problems such as hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, which is likely due to the added stress procrastination can bring on.

Why Do We Procrastinate?

As summarized in a Washington Post article, there are many different views on why people procrastinate; some researchers claim it is due to lack of self-control, while others say it is a coping mechanism people use to deal with tasks they associate with fear or dread. Another proposed explanation is that procrastinators lack an emotional connection to their future-selves, which makes them to think about and relate to the future consequences of procrastinating today. Yet another perspective argues that some people intentionally choose procrastinate because they work better under the pressure.

How Can We Resist the Temptation to Procrastinate?

Whatever our reason for procrastinating may be, understanding how we can reduce resist the temptation to put off important tasks and learn better time management skills can help us to both improve our academic performance and our well-being.

Use Technology Wisely

Dr. Ferrari, an expert on procrastination, argues that today’s technology should be a helpful tool for better time management rather than a means of delay. One practical step you can take is putting your smart phone on Do Not Disturb mode. I do this often when I need to focus on reading, finish assignments in a short span of time, or get a good night’s sleep. By putting my phone on Do Not Disturb, I am able to free myself from the distraction that my phone brings. Another easy strategy is to utilize the calendar and/or reminder function and organize tasks in order of urgency and importance. There are also several apps you can download on your computer or phone to discourage procrastination. On your computer, try downloading the Blocksite extension for Google Chrome, which you can use to block Facebook, Pinterest, or other sites you tend to frequent when you’re avoiding tasks. If you have an iPhone, the app Procrastinatorr will send you notifications if you start to use other apps while you’re supposed to be working on a certain task.

Take a Break

While it may seem counter-intuitive, research has shown that taking a break is an important part of being productive. Some healthy ways to take a break include going on a walk, taking a tea break, meditation, and doing indoor exercises. Just make sure your break doesn’t become so long that it distracts you from moving on to the next task! Using a timer could be a good way to prevent this.

Whether you were reading this post as a way to procrastinate or not, I hope it encouraged you to be more productive and gain greater control of procrastinating. Procrastination may seem like a habit that is unbreakable, but I believe that with practice, we can fight the procrastination. If you have any tools or tips you have found helpful for fighting procrastination, please share them with me at livewellblog@ucla.edu or on Facebook!


Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.



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Thu, Sep 1, 2016 AT 9:26 am - Eat Well
Feed Your Busy Brain: 3 Foods that Will Boost Cognitive Function

By Miso Kwak

Whether you have been enjoying a relaxing vacation, taking classes, or doing an internship, the summer break is now quickly coming to an end. Once the school year begins, we will be once again faced with the fast-paced life at UCLA, consisting of classes, assignments, extracurricular commitments, and packed social calendars. While we’re so busy at UCLA, it is easy to overlook our diet. However, planning our meals and including certain foods in our diets can actually help us to manage our busy lives at UCLA!. Three foods in particular — eggs, tomatoes, and spinach — can boost the health of our brains. These three foods are easy to access, whether you live on the Hill or off-campus, and easy to incorporate into various recipes according to your taste.

Eggs

Photo via Google Images

Eggs are not only versatile — they can be cooked in countless ways, from scrambled to fried to boiled, just to name a few — but also rich in choline, a nutrient that is similar to Vitamin B. A study from Boston University suggests that there is a positive association between choline consumption and cognitive performance. Subjects who had higher intake of choline in their diet performed better on verbal memory and visual memory tasks. In addition, authors of the study indicate that choline plays an important role in producing acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is essential for normal cognition and brain function.

Tomatoes

Photo via Google Images

From sandwiches to soup to pasta sauce, the tomato can be a part of the daily diet in numerous ways. Tomatoes are packed with beneficial nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and a wide array of antioxidants. Among them, the antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene stand out as brain-boosting nutrients. As this Psychology Today article suggests, these antioxidants are helpful in eliminating free radicals, which are highly reactive chemical compounds that can damage important cellular components. Additionally, lycopene regulates genes that influence inflammation and brain growth.

Spinach

Photo via Google Images

Another common, versatile, brain-boosting food is spinach. Spinach can easily be added into a wide variety of dishes such as salads, omelets, curries, smoothies, and quesadillas. Spinach is a rich source of lutein, an antioxidant that protects the brain against cognitive decline. This study showed that over a period of 20-25 years, the frequency of spinach consumption and other leafy vegetables was inversely correlated with cognitive decline. Plus, spinach offers many other health-promoting qualities. It’s high potassium content aids in lowering blood pressure and it’s high fiber content promotes good digestive health.


Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.


Fri, Aug 19, 2016 AT 10:31 am - Mind Well
The Health Benefits of Prosocial Behavior

By Miso Kwak

Photo via Flickr

Today, August 19th is World Humanitarian Day, which recognizes the aid workers who have lost their lives in order to provide humanitarian assistance to people around the world. In addition to recognizing humanitarians, it is important to celebrate the spirit of humanitarianism -- and its health benefits. This article investigates the health benefits of engaging in prosocial behavior, and offers simple, easy ways to incorporate prosocial behavior into daily college life.

What is Prosocial Behavior?

Prosocial behavior refers to voluntary action that intends to benefit other people and/or society as a whole. It encompasses a wide range of behaviors from something as simple as holding the door for someone behind you to making a financial contribution to a charity. Such actions not only benefit those around us, but also our own well-being.

Benefits of Prosocial Behavior on Well-Being

In a recent study on the association between prosocial behavior and daily stress, subjects were asked to report both levels of stress, positive affect, and negative affect and the number of prosocial activities they engaged in for 2 weeks,. The study found that subjects who reported more time engaged in prosocial behavior showed higher levels of positive mood. Furthermore, subjects who engaged in greater than average number of prosocial activities experienced less negative affect in response to daily stress, leading to better overall mental health. In other words, engaging in prosocial behavior may be effective in defusing the negative influence of stress on positive affect and emotional well-being.

Another study compared life satisfaction of subjects before and after performing 10 days of either acts of kindness, acts of novelty, or no act. The study revealed that acts of kindness and acts of novelty resulted in increased life satisfaction, whereas the control condition did not result in a significant difference. It suggests that as little as 10 days of engaging in prosocial behavior or trying something new can positively affect how we feel about our lives.

Incorporate Prosocial Behavior into your Campus Routine

A new school year is quickly approaching. If one of your goals for the new school year is to improve your emotional health and self-esteem, brainstorming creative ways to engage in prosocial behavior may be a strategy to consider. Here are some suggestions:

1. Share your snack with classmates, even if you don’t know them – and even better if it’s something nutritious, like dried fruits or nuts.

2. Smile and express gratitude to maintenance staff in the dorms and dining halls – the clean environment and delicious food would not be possible without them.

3. Write a positive memo for your roommate(s) such as “Have a nice day” or “Thank you for taking the trash out.” Small acts of appreciation can go a long way for developing a positive relationship.

4. Leave a sticky note with positive slogan on the desk in the lecture hall for a fellow student who would sit in your spot for the next lecture – it might be just what they need to get through the day.

5. Hold the elevator for someone if they appear to be in a rush -- we've all been in that situation and know how can those few extra seconds can make a world of a difference.


Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.


Fri, Aug 19, 2016 AT 10:10 am - Be Well
Humanitarian Spotlight: Gino Strada and EMERGENCY Healthcare

By Aubrey Freitas

Photo via Creative Commons

Everyone in this world makes sacrifices and has beliefs they fervently up hold, but humanitarian aid workers, many of whom serve at the front lines in impoverished areas, go above and beyond for those in need. For the past seven years these men and women have been honored on August 19th, World Humanitarian Day. This celebration was established by the United Nations to recognize and commend all aid workers for the bravery and dedication they have displayed, especially because many go unrecognized in day to day life. Over 130 million people require humanitarian assistance globally to survive, so it is incredibly important that we take the time to thank and celebrate humanitarians for the amazing impact they have on our global community.

  There is one man in particular that has made tremendous sacrifices and shown extraordinary bravery through his actions as a humanitarian: Gino Strada. Strada, born in Milan, Italy on April 21, 1948, has been achieving remarkable feats in the world of healthcare for over two decades. The 68-year-old is the co-founder of the UN-recognized organization, EMERGENCY, which is a highly specialized medical humanitarian organization that aims to provide quality healthcare to people of war-torn countries. Since it’s creation in 1994, EMERGENCY has provided care for over six million people in fifteen different countries, and the numbers are only rising, according to The Guardian.

Strada began his humanitarian efforts after graduating from the University of Milan in 1978 as an MD with a specialization in trauma surgery. After coming to the United States in the 1980s, he worked as a lung and heart transplant surgeon at Stanford University and the University of Pittsburgh until 1989 when he left his position to start working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), where he focused on trauma surgery and war victims. Strada’s work with the ICRC lead him to places like Pakistan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Somalia, and is what ultimately inspired him and his late wife, Teresa Strada, to start EMERGENCY. Working with the Red Cross was ultimately not enough for Strada; he wanted to make bigger contributions in the world of medicine by creating hospitals that provided a higher standard of care for citizens of war-torn areas. Strada was not the sole believer in this dream; after their time with the Red Cross came to a close, Strada and his wife were able to gather a group of their coworkers who shared the same mentality, forming the original sector of volunteer doctors that served the organization. Strada’s wife would later serve as president of EMERGENCY, and it is her charisma and dedication to which Strada credits both the amount of volunteers that aided them in later years and the success of the nonprofit in its entirety.

EMERGENCY works in collaboration with local governments. Trainers impart knowledge and skills to local healthcare professionals and leave once the site has proven to be stable. EMERGENCY has built much more than just hospitals; their additions also include specialized surgical, rehabilitation, pediatric, first aid, healthcare, and maternity centers, as well as mobile and outpatient clinics that offer help to migrants and unaccompanied minors. All services provided by EMERGENCY are free of charge, as the organization views healthcare as a basic and inalienable human right. Throughout the years, the organization has created hospitals in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and the Central African Republic. In 1996 they built the first hospital in Iraqi Kurdistan, in 2003 they opened the first cardiac center in Africa, and today they have eight hospitals in conflict areas, as well as 54 first-aid posts and healthcare centers in heavily mined areas, or otherwise close to the front lines.

Strada and EMERGENCY heavily campaign against the root cause of war and human suffering, and protested Italy’s military involvement in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In 1997, EMERGENCY’s protesting influenced the Italian government’s decision to ban the production and use of antipersonnel landmines. Strada revealed in an interview with Right Livelihood that he refused to accept financial support from the Italian Foreign Ministry in 2001 and 2003, because he believed it contradictory for an organization that is involved in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to express desire to help civilians that were harmed by the war.

EMERGENCY is an organization created to help people. It believes in the greater good of people, and all involved with the group campaign for a world without war. Gino Strada took his passion for peace and healing and created something amazing: a health organization that has been improving the lives of those who need it most, yet are often overlooked because of the financial and physical state of their country. EMERGENCY has impacted the world of healthcare by showing that the wellness of all persons is equally important, and that the establishment of healing centers on the front lines is possible with enough bravery and dedication. Gino Strada is a humanitarian who has gone above and beyond the duties of his job description by living his beliefs in his day-to-day life and being a forceful advocate for change. At 68 years old, Strada continues to practice medicine for EMERGENCY clinics and hospitals, along with his daughters who have joined to campaign, and he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

If you are interested in learning more about EMERGENCY, would like to donate to the cause, intern with the organization, or volunteer for them, you can visit the official website here for more information.


Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.


Tue, Aug 16, 2016 AT 1:18 pm - Mind Well
The best mental health book that isn’t a mental health book

By Aubrey Freitas

The best health and wellness book I have ever read is not one in the traditional sense. It is not written by a doctor, psychologist, or other professional claiming to know the answers to how to find peace within oneself. It is written by an ordinary person who faced several struggles in their life and decided to share how they found themselves after a long time of being lost. The book is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, a nonfiction novel that shares the author’s firsthand accounts of her once-perfect life that fell to ruin, and of her journey to three different countries where she learns to put the pieces of herself together again.

The book begins with Gilbert at the lowest point in her life, where she questions why she should continue in a life that seems to have pushed her to her limits. It is a nighttime miracle that inspires Gilbert to prioritize her happiness and take a very special trip around the world. Each of the countries Gilbert visits during her year of adventure brings with it a different step towards healing: learning to love her body, losing the feeling of guilt, learning devotion through yoga, and balancing between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.

Before Gilbert’s journey began, she was plagued with depression, suicidal thoughts, an eating disorder, stress, and anxiety. However, each country she visits during her soul searching mends a part of her that was wounded. Gilbert encourages all who are facing struggles, or who have contemplated suicide, to turn to journaling as an outlet and safe space for releasing fears, anger, sadness, and doubts from the mind, so as to keep nothing but happiness inside one’s head and worries on the paper. The honesty in which mental illness is written about through this novel is striking, parts of which are excerpts from Gilbert’s diary, which she credits for saving her life and helping her regain her mental stability. By including excerpts from her diary, Gilbert creates an intimacy that allows readers to feel as though they are going through the experiences, growth, and healing along with Gilbert. Gilbert offers yoga, meditation, exploration, and indulgence as remedies, from her personal experiences, to depression and anxiety. One significant message the book conveys is that in order to heal one’s scars, they first have to forgive themselves; Gilbert cites this as the best advice she was ever given, which she passes on to readers in hope that it will assist in their own battles. Gilbert admits that if she had not taken such actions to change her life that she would not be alive today. Her story aims to show that there is so much to discover in the world that brings euphoria and peace of mind to people’s lives, and that if actions are not taken to alter one’s unpleasant position, all of the world’s beauty will be missed. By putting herself and her own happiness first, Gilbert is able to return to her favorite version of herself, work through her mental health struggles, and create a piece of literature that is able to help others do the same.

Gilbert’s story exemplifies that we all go through low points, but we do not have to succumb to them or let them ruin us, for, “..perhaps [our lives have] not actually been so chaotic, after all. It is merely this world that is chaotic, bringing changes to us all that nobody could have anticipated” (320). This story is a simple reminder to never give up on ourselves, because we are incredible beings and the world has so much to offer. I have read many books in my lifetime, and never has a nonfiction book touched my heart in such a way, or caused me to alter my life. As this book is filled with diverse content, it can appeal to almost anyone: travel bugs, foodies, hopeless romantics, linguists, yogis, soul searchers, comfort seekers, and many more. It is one of the best books to be read when wishing for a reason to persevere and desiring to find happiness and well-being in one's own life.

Photo by Aubrey Freitas

Photo by Aubrey Freitas


Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.


Fri, Jun 3, 2016 AT 5:00 pm - Mind Well
Resilience in the Face of Tragedy

Students and community members hold up LED lights at vigil for Professor William Klug. Image from UCLA Newsroom 

What can we do to heal from the events at UCLA on June 1? Our student body and facultyare already stretching themselves thin as we close out the final days of the Spring term and head into finals week. Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Waugh, and Chancellor Block have publicized the availability of help for students at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS; 310-825-0768), and for staff and faculty at the Staff and Faculty Counseling Center (SFCC; 310-794-0245), and campus healing spaces have been organized.

A vigil organized by the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science thatis open to campus and community will take place at 4 p.m. today in the UCLA Court of Sciences. We will post notices of upcoming special events related to this crisis on the Healthy Campus Initiative website as these become known. You may also review many other resources to support resilience and emotional well-being (healthy.ucla.edu/pod/mindwell). 

Moving forward as a community, we need to recognize first that each of us experienced theevents differently, and we should expect a range of responses. Many on campus and in thesurrounding areas may have felt threatened, and those off campus watching the events unfold were alarmed. Not everyone will experience traumatic psychological responses, although many will. It is very important to know that there is no “right way” to cope. Some mayexperience distress in the immediate aftermath that can abate relatively quickly, while othersexperience symptoms that persist over time. These responses do not necessarily correlatewith how close you were to the event or how many people you knew who were there. Trauma exposure can impact our functioning, leading to thoughts and uncomfortable feelings that maynot go away immediately. 

Some may find it helpful to express emotions. Talking about one’s fear, distress, and associated physical symptoms, may be healing. We can help one another by reaching out and offering support, and we can help ourselves by actively seeking connections to our friends and families. Listen to others without judgement and spend time with close others. We should anticipate that some members of our community will need more help, and help is available. 

If you or someone you know needs it, please do whatever you can to learn about the effects of trauma and how we can guide others to take advantage of the resources (For students: http://www.studentincrisis.ucla.edu; For staff and faculty: https://www.chr.ucla.edu/behavioral-intervention-team).

We hope to move forward in closer empathic connection to one another, and invite you to share your ideas to help us enhance resilience (Email us at MindWell@ucla.edu). Through shared action, we can build a future where such tragedies become less common. 

Robert M Bilder, Tennenbaum Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and Psychology, David Geffen School of Medicine and College of Letters & Science at UCLA. On behalf of the Mind Well pod, UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative

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Mon, May 2, 2016 AT 9:36 am - Be Well
Bruin Steps: Introducing UCLA HCI's Sidewalk Series

By Miso Kwak

Whether we may be aware of it or not, our daily surroundings have a big impact on our health and safety. An easy example may be how having trees on our streets improve the quality of air we breathe. Another is how the quality of water we use and drink could directly influence our health.

In this light, what seems to go unnoticed often around the UCLA’s campus are its sidewalks. Sidewalks may not seem as important, but they allow for safer walking. In turn, they encourage physical mobility and exercise.

While many of the sidewalks on campus are of fair quality, many of sidewalks surrounding areas of UCLA are poorly maintained. Can you think of a moment when you or your friend tripped over tree roots that are sticking out on cracked surfaces of the sidewalk? How about when a friend who uses mobility aids could not go through because the sidewalk surface was uneven or not wide enough?

Overgrown roots of trees, narrow width, unevenness of the ground, and arrangement of street furniture are some of factors that make sidewalks inaccessible and unsafe. The images included below are just a few examples of those concerns-- and may be familiar to the many of you who traverse the streets of Westwood. 

    

Such characteristics are obstacles especially for people who use mobility aids like wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers. However, they are also factors that degrade usability and friendliness of sidewalk for those who do not use assistive mobility devices. Too narrow of sidewalks or sidewalks that have unstable surface lead pedestrians on to the road regardless of their means of travel, which leads to dangerous situations for both pedestrians and drivers.

What then, makes sidewalks accessible and friendly for every type of pedestrian?

First, as suggested by Heather McCain, the executive director of Citizens for Accessible Neighborhoods, and the United States Access Board's standards for floor and ground surfaces, the surface of sidewalks should be stable, solid, flat, and made of materials that can prevent slipping. Additionally, sidewalks should be wide enough for wheelchairs to pass through.

For visually impaired pedestrians, in addition to having a stable and solid surface, it is also important to have access to raised tactile surface, materials with contrasting auditory properties when tapped by cane, and contrasting color to obtain helpful information for wayfinding.

Lastly, street furniture (e.g., benches, trees, street lamps, and signs) should be arranged in a mindful way that considers pedestrians with mobility impairment and visual impairment prior to considering aesthetics. 

   





Tue, Apr 26, 2016 AT 10:47 am - Move Well
Which Body Position Will Allow You To Sleep The Longest?

Image source: Consumer Reports

By: Emily Lopez, UCLA Undergraduate Student

I am a full-on, free-fall, stomach-down kind of sleeper — and I own it. As a martial artist, I must be aware of my body positions and move in a conscious manner to achieve ultimate results. The same goes for sleeping.

Recently, I realized that not everyone falls asleep and moves the same way I do. I began to wonder: Is there in fact a correct way to sleep in order to maximize a night of sleep?

As it turns out, everyone has their favorite position to sleep in. My sister likes lying flat on her stomach with her leg in a crisscross applesauce form. The guy walking through campus said he slept like a log facing up and not moving at all during the night. We all have our preference, but how does this affect the quality of our sleep?

In a study conducted by the Japanese Society of Sleep Research, investigators looked at four different sleep positions in adults without apparent obstructive sleep apnea: right, left, prone (on your stomach), and supine (on your back). Even though we all have our own creative modifications, we can generally relate to these four distinct directions.

Among the 20-40 age group, researchers did not find a dominant position. However, they did find that females slept longest in the supine (on your back) position and males slept longest in the right position.

So the next time I am rubbing the sleep from my eyes and remembering that zombie cupcake dream, I’ll wonder if it was all because I succumbed to sleeping on my stomach again.

Want to learn more about sleep? Join the #SleepRevolution at the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative Annual Celebration on April 20 - with Arianna Huffington! Learn more and get free tickets here.

Follow UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HealthyUCLA

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Tue, Apr 26, 2016 AT 10:43 am - Mind Well
Sleep Deprivation Is No Joke


By: Carolanne Link, UCLA Undergraduate Student

Recently, I had one of those days where I prioritized homework above sleep. I was in my fourth straight hour of chemistry homework when I made myself laugh. How? Well, while doing an extensive calculation, I picked up my cellphone and started typing into that. I only realized my phone was not in fact my calculator when I couldn’t find operations on the keypad. I chuckled, picking up my calculator and spending the next two minutes typing the calculations in, only to realize that I had never turned the calculator on.

At this point my chuckling started to give way to a bit of worry about my inattention. I’m sure some of you are smirking, imagining this scenario and/or commiserating with this tale while remembering something similar you’ve done. It’s a common “college-esque” incident; students joke about all-nighters, late-night cramming, and, in my case, “binge-homeworking.”

But the problem with this is that we caffeine-infused go-getters brush over how our self-induced sleep deprivation affects our long-term learning. Within 48 hours of my homework binge, I couldn’t have told you what half those problems were about, or how I solved them.

When my TA went over some similar examples during my discussion later that week, some of it came rushing back. Mostly, though, it hit me that if I had gotten these problems on a test or quiz, I would have drawn a giant blank - regardless of how well I did on the homework set! After the shock and internal horror faded a bit, I considered the fact that this was probably the topic of many scientific studies.

A quick search yielded a 13-page report on the “Neurocognitive Consequences of Sleep Deprivation.” I found out from this study that there are three types of sleep deprivation: 1) Partial sleep deprivation = less than 7 hours of sleep every 24 hours, 2) Short-term sleep deprivation = no sleep for an extended period less than or equal to 45 hours, and 3) Long-term sleep deprivation = no sleep for more than 45 hours.

What really grabbed my attention was the following: “When all three measures [mood, cognitive performance, and motor functions] are collapsed together, the mean functional level of any sleep-deprived individual is estimated to be comparable to the 9th percentile of non-sleep deprived subjects. Interestingly, mood and cognition were found to be more affected by partial sleep-deprivation than total sleep deprivation.”

In non-academic speak, this basically translates to two things:

1) If you deprive yourself of sleep, you’re likely to be functioning worse than 90% of the people who actually got a full night’s sleep.
2) Consistently not getting a full night’s sleep can be even worse for you than large binges of deprivation!

Therefore, please don’t be like me and all the other college zombies around! Otherwise, you might find yourself mistaking your phone for your calculator too, and perhaps at a more dire moment than I did. Heed my warning my dear peers, and always prioritize a good night’s sleep.


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Tue, Apr 26, 2016 AT 10:39 am - Eat Well
Wake Up, College Students: Here’s The Science On Sleep

By: Phillip Cox, UCLA undergraduate student

Sleep is something we all love, so why do we constantly put it last on our ever-lengthening list of priorities? You may have heard the sayings, “health is wealth” or “health is happiness.” Well, research has absolutely proven that sleep is key to health and happiness.

More Sleep = Better Life Decisions

Although pop culture claims otherwise, there is more to college life than going to parties, binge-watching TV and doing schoolwork. College students care about being good people and building a rewarding life - it’s a big part of who we are, how we feel about ourselves, and how we understand our place in the universe. And guess what? Proper sleep is a huge piece of that puzzle. In a 2011 study on sleep and unethical behavior, researchers found that sleep quantity is positively related to self-control and negatively related to unethical behavior. In other words, getting enough sleep helps us assess and make better decisions for ourselves - and those around us.

More Sleep = Improved Quality of Life

I think it’s safe to say we all want a sense of wellbeing and happiness. As explained in an article on the emotional brain and sleep, “deprivation of sleep makes us more sensitive to emotional and stressful stimuli and events in particular.” The author notes that our REM-sleep directly affects our next day mood and emotion. Think about it: our days are a constant torrent of emotional events. And it has been proven that sleep determines the way we receive, perceive and cope with these events.

More Sleep = Better Grades

Our foremost purpose in college is to get an education and perform academically to the best of our abilities. Why, then, does the population of college students, around the world, get the least amount of sleep? I’m sure you’ve heard it from your parents, your teachers, and your mentors: “Get a good night’s rest before your midterm,” or “You might think the all-nighter is going to help you do better, but it won’t.” Whether we feel that the all-nighter will give us that edge or not, our teachers, parents, and mentors are correct. I can’t stress how closely connected academic performance and cognitive ability are to quality of sleep. Believe me, I tried researching the benefits of all-nighters and coffee binges! According to the literature, “Sleep loss is frequently associated with poor declarative and procedural learning in students.” When sleep was restricted, neurocognitive and academic performance declined. Period.

Sleep Deprivation = Greater Risk of Chronic Disease 

Did you know that Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, and metabolic syndromes (obesity, blood pressure elevation, high fasting serum concentrations of triglycerides and glucose, and low serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) are all significantly related to quantity and quality of sleep? Take one study that restricted sleep to four hours per night for one week in young, normal weight men. In a single week, these men increased body weight and exhibited endocrine and metabolic changes consistent with the presence of metabolic syndrome! Imagine what more than one week of sleep deprivation can do.

Who is With Me?

Imagine a world of happy, emotionally well-adjusted, morally inclined, over-achieving students. Start the revolution on your campus by getting more sleep!#SleepRevolution #UCLALiveWell

This post is part of our series on sleep culture on college campuses. To join the conversation and share your own story, please email our Director of College Outreach Abby Williams directly at abigail.williams@huffingtonpost.com. And you can find out here if the #SleepRevolution College Tour will be visiting your campus, and learn how you can get involved. If your college is not one of the colleges already on our tour and you want it to be, please get in touch with Abby.

Follow UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HealthyUCLA

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Tue, Mar 8, 2016 AT 3:02 pm - Eat Well
Paging All Chocoholics: Chocolate Is Good For You (In Moderation, That Is)

By Susan Salter Reynolds and Wendelin Slusser

Every month new test results pour in to confirm what all chocoholics know: Chocolate is good for you. Decreased blood pressure, improved blood vessel health, and improved cholesterol levels are just a few of the benefits.

Flavinoids, Our New Best Friends

Chocolate contains flavonoids--antioxidants also commonly found in fruits, vegetables, tea, and red wine. According to Eric L. Ding, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, the polyphenolic flavonoids in cocoa have the potential to prevent heart disease. Flavonoids help decrease "bad" LDL cholesterol among people under age 50, and increase good HDL cholesterol. In addition, chocolate has been found to improve elevated blood pressure.

A Little Bad News

You cannot simply eat as much chocolate as you want without increasing your level of physical activity, or you will gain weight. Raw chocolate contains high levels of cocoa butter, rich in saturated fat, some of which is removed and added back in varying amounts by chocolate makers, as well as other fats, sugars, and milk. Cocoa butter is made up of equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids (saturated fats). While saturated fats have the reputation for increasing the risk of heart disease, stearic acid has been shown neither to increase nor decrease cholesterol. Therefore 2/3 of the cocoa butter fat is either healthful or not harmful. In addition, try to avoid chocolate close to bed time as it (and other caffeine-filled food and drinks) can keep you awake.

Buy the Best

The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidant properties it contains. Darker and finer chocolates also contain higher percent of cocoa butter as the fat (of which the majority of the fat is not harmful, as described above). The specific flavanol thought responsible for these positive antioxidant health effects is called epicatechin and is found in dark chocolate but only found in minimal amounts in white or milk chocolate.

In addition, consuming no more than one ounce every other day of chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa is considered to be the "sweet spot" for not consuming too many additional calories (170 calories) and receiving the benefits from its positive impact on blood pressure and cardiovascular risk.

Of course don't forget to eat other flavonoid rich foods such as apples, red wine, tea, onions and cranberries.

And the Plant is Beautiful

The scientific name of cocoa is Theobroma Cocoa. The tree thrives in a tropical environment and is always full of flowers--yellow-white to shades of pink. The fruits are 15 to 20 cm long, grey or dark red when unripe, bright red or golden when ripe, and contain up to 40 seeds, otherwise known as beans. Like wine, the soil in which cocoa trees grow gives them a specific terroir, a scent and taste that is unique to their ecosystem.

The cacao tree was discovered over 2,000 years ago in the tropical rainforests of the Americas. The first people known to have consumed cacao were the Classic Period Maya (250-900 A.D.). They mixed ground cacao (cocoa) seeds with seasonings to make a bitter, spicy drink that was believed to be a health elixir. To the Mayans, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility. The Aztecs also believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree.

This should be all you need to justify your habit! Few pleasures come so well recommended.

Follow UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HealthyUCLA

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Fri, Mar 4, 2016 AT 1:12 pm - Mind Well
7 Strategies to Optimize Your Sleep Routine

Co-authored by David Baron, MD and the UCLA MindWell Team

The results are in: One in three Americans does not get enough sleep. This is the latest finding in a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that asked almost half a million adult Americans how many hours of sleep, on average, they get in a 24-hour period.

While precise individual sleep needs vary, Experts at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend at least seven hours of sleep each night for adults. According to the new study, only about 65% of us are meeting this recommendation.

Why Sleep Matters

First of all, why does it matter? Who needs sleep anyway? You’ve heard people say, “I can rest when I’m dead.” That’s true, but not getting enough sleep can actually shorten your lifespan.

Sleeping less than seven hours is associated with higher stress, anxiety and depression, poorer cognitive function (sexual function too), obesity, difficulty controlling high blood pressure, and even cardiovascular risks, not to mention loss of creativity and alertness.

And here’s something you might not have thought of: motor vehicle accidents. The number one cause of daytime sleepiness is poor quality or insufficient nighttime sleep. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 846 fatalities in 2014 and an estimated average of 83,000 car crashes per year between 2005-2009 that were drowsy-driving related. One study found that people who drive after being awake for 17 to 19 hours performed worse than those with a blood alcohol level of .05 percent.

7 Strategies to Sleep Smarter

So what’s a work-hard/play-hard, multitasking, over-extended, not-so-well-rested person to do?

We’ve got two words for you: sleep smarter. You may not have a lot of time for sleeping, but you can sleep smarter by optimizing your sleep routine.

1. Cover the basics: Restful sleep generally requires a reasonably comfortable bed in a dark, quiet location that isn’t too hot or too cold. Research suggests an environmental temperature of about 65 degrees is best if sleeping with pajamas and light bedding.
2. Stick to a schedule: Try to consider your sleep time like any other commitment in your busy day. Go to bed and wake up on time!
3. Be smart about screen time: Avoid using electronics (yes, smartphones and tablets, too) late at night as blue-green wavelengths can keep you more alert. Life hack: You can also install f.lux on your devices to remove blue light and adjust your screen according to the time of day.
4. Eat and exercise earlier: Avoid eating large meals late at night, and try to stick to consistent meal times throughout the day. In addition, vigorous exercise within 2-3 hours of bedtime revs you up and makes it harder to fall asleep, while moderate exercise in the late afternoon or early evening can help you sleep.
5. Skip the nightcap: Alcohol can also help you fall asleep but will often wake you up a few hours later (it has a two phase effect on the brain: first sedating, then activating). It’s the same deal with marijuana, which also disrupts normal sleep stage progression (i.e. not as much R.E.M. or Stage IV deep sleep).
6. Make bed a sacred space: Save your bed for sleeping and snuggling. Try not to eat, watch TV, text, or talk on the phone in bed. Note to students: Never study in bed.
7. Get sleepy and try again: If you have trouble falling asleep in 15 to 30 minutes, get out of bed and try doing a mellow activity like reading until you feel sleepy.

The science is clear that healthy sleep is critical for a healthy life. Give these strategies a try before you contact your health care provider about sleeping medications. Your doctor will likely want to talk to you about this approach before writing the prescription. And they should. Sedatives stop working pretty quickly and are generally addictive. In most cases, you can learn to get to sleep and get enough rest without them.

If you don’t believe us, sleep on it.

Get more tips and information from the UCLA Sleep Well Campaign.

Dr. David Baron is the executive director of the UCLA Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center.


Sleep fact sheet co-created by UCLA MindWell, Kendra Knudsen, and Dr. Alon Avidan, Professor of Neurology at UCLA and Director of both the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center and UCLA Neurology Clinic. 


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Fri, Oct 30, 2015 AT 4:38 pm - Be Well
Beyond the Disability Awareness Month

by Miso Kwak




Perhaps some of you already know that October is National Disability Awareness month. There are many days in October relating to a variety of disabilities such as World Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day on October 7th, World Mental Health Day on October 10th, and White Cane Safety Day and Blind Americans Equality Day on October 15th. In addition, there are events that aim to raise awareness of disability, such as resource fair for students with disabilities, presentation by a Paralympian, and American Sign Language (ASL) workshops. Such events indeed raise awareness of disability by facilitating interaction between  those who identify as having a disability and those who do not.

While such awareness days and events engage the public's attention to the idea of disability, celebrating merely a month to gain societal attention is insufficient to truly "raise awareness" of disability. As one of only a few blind students at UCLA, my daily interaction with those who do not identify with a disability on and off campus reflects the shortcoming in the public's understanding of being blind. For instance, it is not uncommon for me to meet people who do not know what the White cane is. Many of them just call it a "stick." Nor do people know what Braille or  a screen reader is. It is only when they ask me, "How do you read textbooks," or "How do you use a computer," we begin to talk about what it is like for me to be a blind student. It seems that many people are hesitant to ask such questions, perhaps out of fear they may seem ignorant or I might be offended. However, I believe that true awareness of disability begins only when we have such conversations.

Even I, who was born blind and grew up being around many others with disabilities, do not understand everything about different types of disabilities. For example, not until I took a course titled History of Deaf Community in America, I knew about the Deaf theater and the controversy of oralism versus manualism, a few of many aspects that make the Deaf culture unique. I am constantly learning too. This is why just a month of trying to engage the public in the discourse of disability is not enough. It is only a starting point. The dialogue that fosters learning about each and every person's different abilities needs to continue beyond the month of October. Only with the continued dialogue, we will be able to have greater awareness of what we now commonly call “disabilities.” My hope is that eventually we will recognize disabilities as different abilities.


Check out this awesome video portraying a regular day in Miso's life while she walks to class!


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Tue, Aug 11, 2015 AT 5:49 pm - Move Well
National Health Center Week 2015


We are in the middle of National Health Center Week! What are health centers you ask? According to the National Health Center Week website health centers are "... local community owned and operated businesses, Health Centers serve over 24 million Americans at more than 9,000 delivery sites in all 50 states." Health centers help to provide affordable and quality healthcare to millions of Americans each year. Check out this infographic to see who uses health centers and why they are so important.

Here at the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, we have compiled a list of the 3 closest health centers near campus. Don't hesitate to call or visit these centers if you are in need of affordable healthcare. If you don't live near campus, click here and enter your zip code to find the nearest health center.

1. Venice Family Clinic - Simms/Mann Health & Wellness Center

2509 Pico Boulevard 

Santa Monica, CA 90408

(310) 392-8630



2. Saban Community Clinic

8405 Beverly Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA 90048

(323) 653-1990



3. Westside Family Health Center

1711 Ocean Park Boulevard

Santa Monica, CA 90405

(310) 450-4773




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Sat, May 16, 2015 AT 5:02 am - Mind Well
Be on the Best Stressed List

By: David B. Baron, M.D.

I’m having a particularly stressful week. So I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity to focus this column on one of the top three reasons people come to see a doctor: feeling  “stressed.”

Well, if you are reading this article then you live in the real world and stress is simply a part of that reality.  What’s the cause? It may be the increasingly rapid pace at which we live, a lost sense of connectedness to our families, friends, neighbors and communities (despite the hyper-connectivity of social media and erosion of personal privacy), or a the lack of control we feel over everything from traffic to terrorism, cars to computers, the price of gas to the gridlock in our government. That’s aside from the individual trials and tribulations we each must face in when we lose a loved one, graduate from school, change jobs, partners or homes.  But the end result is the same; it all affects our peace of mind, and ultimately our health.  Everything from back pain to high blood pressure, insomnia to depression, headaches, asthma, diabetes, esophageal reflux and stomach ulcers may be caused by and/or aggravated by stress.  

I am not licensed or likely to be able tell you how to eliminate stress in your life.  Nor should that necessarily be the goal, since what challenges us often offers us opportunities to grow, innovate, and evolve as individuals and as a society.  But to paraphrase an old expression, whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger if you cope with the stress adaptively.  Unfortunately, I all too often see people doing exactly the OPPOSITE of what a reasonable, intelligent person might suggest to a friend who is struggling with undue stress in their life. What I generally recommend is to try to eat regular meals and a nutritionally balanced diet, do some vigorous exercise most days of the week, get enough sleep, avoid alcohol, smoking and drugs, try meditation, yoga, journaling, or therapy, and consider seeking help from a doctor or therapist if you need it.  Instead, many people seem to quit going to gym, eat more fast food and junk, drink more, smoke more, sleep less, dabble in drugs, hide problems from friends and family, stop going to their houses of worship and refuse to see a therapist or try something new that might give them an hour or two of peace and quiet contemplation or just plain fun and release. That’s what I call “maladaptive coping.” 

Whether or not it’s “human nature” to wallow in the misery, lick your wounds, drown your sorrows, stuff your feelings, sweep it under the rug (take your pick of common formulas for making matters worse) or try to ignore the problems and hope they’ll go away, the results of these types of maladaptive coping are pretty predictably unpleasant and unproductive.

So, think about whether the habits you have and the choices you make are actually CONTRIBUTING to your stress, or helping to alleviate it. There are many more ways than just the ones I’ve mentioned to keep you more balanced, resilient, healthy and growing, even in the face of an unpredictable world in which we’re all struggling to get by. It often takes only incremental, small changes practiced consistently to protect and improve your health in a hurry.  That shouldn’t stress you out too much.

This article also appeared in the Daily Bruin. 








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Tue, May 12, 2015 AT 4:27 pm - Eat Well
When it Comes to Bacteria, Trust Your Gut

By: Monica Morucci

If asked, you would likely define yourself as human. Technically, however, you are only 10% human; our human cells are outnumbered by bacterial cells 10 to one.

The trillions of bacteria that live on and inside us, called the human microbiota, are often associated with illness, but are important for many processes that maintain our health.

The gut microbiota — the community of bacteria in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract— is the densest community, numbering 1012 bacteria per gram.

Some of the plant foods we eat contain starches and sugars that our body is unable to break down; our gut bacteria do this for us so that we can harvest energy. Additionally, bacteria produce precursors to vitamins B1 and B6, which help the body process nutrients. Perhaps surprisingly, our main sources of vitamin K are bacterial synthesis and leafy green vegetables.

Gut bacteria can also contribute to unhealthy forms of metabolism. A 2009 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that obese and normal-weight individuals have distinctly different intestinal communities. They hypothesize that these distinct bacteria promote an increase in energy uptake from the intestine, resulting in obesity.

The phenomenon of “gut feelings” may have support in new research between the gut and the brain. Increasing evidence suggests that gut bacteria influence gut-brain communication through the gut-brain axis—the bi-directional communication route between the GI system and the brain. Additional human studies are needed, but current science suggests that the gut microbiota may affect anxiety, mood, cognition and pain.

So, how can we support “good” gut bacteria? Probiotics, or preparations of living bacteria that improve’s the host’s intestinal bacterial balance, can be consumed as dietary supplements or as components of fermented foods like yogurt, kim chi, and kombucha. The beneficial effects of probiotics may be temporary, however, as they often last only a short time after ingestion. Another approach is to consume prebiotics, or fibers that can enhance the growth or activity of good bacteria. These are found in onions, bananas, wheat, artichokes, and garlic.

Understanding of the human-bacteria connection is still in it’s infancy, but it is apparent that our actions, like what we choose to eat, can affect our bacterial residents, which in turn have profound influence on our health. Stay tuned as more breakthroughs change our concept of what it means to consider ourselves “human.”

Read more about the human microbiota in my article “Say Hello to Your Little Friends” in Volume 15, Issue 2 of Total Wellness Magazine. Visit http://labs.pharmacology.ucla.edu/lilab/ to find out about the microbiome research occurring right here at UCLA.


Image ​source :http://bflm.wzw.tum.de/index.php?id=11&L=1, TUM Technische Universität München







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Fri, May 8, 2015 AT 12:10 am - Move Well
UCLA Community: Are you ready for the Angel City Games?

Move Well is committed to fostering campus wide access to culturally sensitive programs, events and opportunities to MOVE and BE MOVED.  As part of this initiative, Move Well is proud to highlight the Angel City Games on June 19-20, 2015 at Drake Stadium on the UCLA Campus. This will be the first ever Los Angeles Paralympic Competition, Clinic, and Exhibition.

This exciting event is open to qualifying adaptive athletes, volunteers, and interested spectators from the entire UCLA community.

Through collaboration with a core volunteer team known as Team Ezra, UCLA Recreation is proud to co-host the only multi-sport competition for children and adults with physical disabilities in Los Angeles.

Adaptive Athelete Ezra Frech, seven-time national champion in Track and Field. 

Photo Credit: Jason Gould

About Team Ezra


For spectators and participants, this dynamic inaugural event includes Competitive Track and Field events and clinics, and a Wheelchair Basketball Clinic and Exhibition. Attendees can also walk through the vendor village to learn more about adaptive sports and active living. All events are open to the public, and all children, adults, veterans, active duty military personnel with physical disabilities are welcome to register and participate.  Families can take advantage of the Kids Zone, where children can participate in multi-ability Obstacle Course, Basketball Hoops, a Bounce House, Face Painting, and more.


Are you an adaptive athlete interested in participation in the clinics, exhibitions, or competitions?

All athletes need to be classified for the Track and Field competition, and can go through an evaluation if they have not done so already.  To register as a Paralympic athlete with the Angel City Games on June 19-20, 2015, click here.

The Angel City Games is sanctioned by USA Track & Field and Wheelchair and Ambulatory Sports/USA (WASUSA) and is IPC (International Paralympic Committee) approved.

Are you an adaptive athlete ally interested in supporting the event?

For those interested in volunteering with event coordination, management, and chaperoning athletes, you can volunteer to be an “athlete angel” by clicking here.

Questions? For additional information, contact: info@theangelcitygames.org or mgarafola@recreation.ucla.edu







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Sun, Apr 19, 2015 AT 2:56 pm - Eat Well
Meet Our Speakers!

Meet Our Speakers!

This month we would like to highlight three speakers who will be presenting at the Healthy Campus Initiative Symposium on behalf of the Eat Well Pod on April 30th from 4pm-8pm in Covel Commons! We asked our speakers to provide their name and job title, the title of their presentation (as a teaser – you’ll have to come to the symposium to get all the juicy details!) and the answers to a few fun questions.

We hope to see you at the HCI Symposium on April 30th from 4pm-8pm for activities, interactive presentations, and a delightful meal! All of these things are FREE for students. Email HCISyposium@ucla.edu to register!

Ashleigh Parsons - Creative Director and Founding Owner of Alma Restaurant

Presentation title: A Case for Imperfection

If you could only eat 1 food for the rest of the year, what would it be and why?

Kale because it's healthy and delicious

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be and why?

Learn fluent French because I love the way it sounds

What was the last amazing meal you ate that left you craving more?

I like to cook for myself with friends & the people I love -- those are the meals I crave more.


Alexa Delwiche - Managing Director of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council

Presentation title: The Good Food Purchasing Program: Building a Local & Sustainable Food Economy for Los Angeles 

If you could only eat 1 food for the rest of the year, what would it be and why?

I eat an organic apple from my local farmers' market every day, unless it's seasonally unavailable. BUT if we are talking fantasy world, I would eat a breakfast burrito from the Cantina in Isla Vista, CA every day (note that I did try that in college with disastrous consequences for my wallet and waistline). 

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be and why?

Speak another language - I've tried unsuccessfully many times

What was the last amazing meal you ate that left you craving more?

I'm a working mom of a six-month old baby - any meal that someone else cooks for me is amazing. My husband has become my favorite chef.  


Alice Bamford - Creative Director and Founding Owner of Alma Restaurant

Presentation title: A Biodynamic Perspective

If you could only eat 1 food for the rest of the year, what would it be and why?

One Gun veggies and salad

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be and why?

Grow wings and fly! Freedom and Perspective.

What was the last amazing meal you ate that left you craving more?

Grilled Langoustine sprinkled with oil and lemon, Salt baked whole Seabass with homegrown olive oil and a simple salad of tomatoes and arugula finished with freshly picked figs and homemade lemon, mint and Leoube rose sorbet. [It was] south of France at my family's organic Vineyard Leoube.

It was a happy celebration for my Mum and my birthday surrounded by close friends and loved ones at the end of Spring last year.



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Tue, Apr 14, 2015 AT 7:52 am - Mind Well
The stranger within: Connecting with our future selves

The stranger within: Connecting with our future selves. UCLA social psychologist studies the emotional disconnect between our present and future selves.



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Tue, Apr 7, 2015 AT 3:04 pm - Be Well
Westwood Boulevard bike lanes are back on the table

See this exciting new update on Westwood Boulevard bike lanes from Be a Green Commuter!










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Tue, Mar 10, 2015 AT 6:38 am - Move Well
Training in martial arts = strengthening self-confidence and the ability to adjust to change.

For our March blog, the MOVE WELL Team wanted to follow up on our January Blog (scroll down), which featured information on the HCI sponsored course, entitled “Martial Arts, Phenomenology, and Personal Empowerment’ (WAC174).

WAC174 will host a martial arts demonstration on Wednesday March 11th at 11am in the Blue Room of the John Wooden Center. Students and instructors will demonstrate skills learned and contextualize research findings from this 10-week course.

While HCI and MOVE WELL promote a wide range of movement (and stillness!) activities as routes to personal health and wellness, here are some things that UCLA students took away from the regular practice of rigorous physical training in martial arts over the course of the 10-week quarter:


“…I initially took the class because I was attracted by the idea of self-empowerment. The word has a positive ring to it. I wanted to empower myself to feel comfortable with my physicality in every aspects of my life not just in athletics; having been an athlete my entire life, people naturally assume that I was capable of many things beyond my sport and it’s been difficult living up to that expectation. I often let my fear and ego get the better of me when pursuing goals but the biggest concern of all, is that I was unaware of those elementary issues I have which hindered my progression as a student in life. Gavin De Becker had a quote in The Gift of Fear that stuck with me. He said that we as people ‘...want recognition, not accomplishment.’ We tend to care so much for our ego but forget that progress is the only thing that will last. In our class discussions, we brought up how kids are able to learn so much quicker than adults…We would rather not try at all than to risk the potential of humiliating ourselves, which is why it’s so much harder nowadays for us to pick up new skills.

During our martial arts studio sessions, Shifu would always start us up with 10 to 20 minutes of warm up…I find it interesting to take command of my body in the setting of martial arts. I’ve never been one who is satisfied with the way I carry my body in everyday life so naturally I came into my first session with a lot of expectations-I was eager to learn the maneuvers of a Kung Fu master; to pick up insane fighting moves so I can showcase how smooth I am in combat, but Shifu quickly clarified things for me. He told us that every technique and every drill he teaches has a practical purpose. Fancy movements are only good in movies as real life combats are unpredictable. There’s no combination of attack that will work all the time; we have to adapt to the different scenarios.

Training martial arts is, essentially, us strengthening our ability to adjust to change.

We do it to defend ourselves and not to show off because, just like how Rory Miller puts it in Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Violence: “Here's a rule of life: You don't get to pick what bad things happen to you.” Therefore, you have to stay a fighter, always. This mentality is the most important realization I’ve made thus far in my pursuit of self-empowerment.”

-Haiyang (Kevin) Yang, WAC174 student

Sophomore, Year World Arts and Cultures Major


“Martial Arts had been part of my life ever since I was in first grade, but with the demands of school and work, I gave it up a few years ago. The result was that slowly, almost without noticing, I became anxious and a bit paranoid about my surrounding. I didn’t like to go to unfamiliar places, or stay at home alone, without always feeling like I was uncomfortably on guard. Despite years of training, I felt like I couldn't defend myself anymore if something were to happen to me.             Joining this class has meant a full turnaround for my self-confidence. I am more vigilant than I was before, but I also have more peace of mind. I'm no longer scared or anxious. This class has given me a new sense of self-empowerment, and it has made me feel like I am more capable of handling unexpected situations. The studio training has been full of great self-defense tactics as well as exercises to ease the mind. The class readings have given me a different outlook, allowing me to see the world through the eyes of people who have made Martial Arts a part of their lives. Interesting comparisons and contrasts make me look at some familiar problems from a more critical angle, and I have also started to think about many things I never gave a second thought before.            Whether you want to learn self-defense, get better discipline or gain self-confidence this class is for you. It is perfect for all skill levels, and good for the soul.”

-Nicole Tata, WAC174 student

Senior, Sociology Major


What moves you?

For a complete list of UCLA Martial Arts classes at John Wooden Center, visit:

http://www.recreation.ucla.edu/martialarts/



.

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Wed, Mar 4, 2015 AT 8:24 am - Mind Well
Insights about sleep

See this Daily Bruin Ashe About Your Health article by Dr. David Baron the executive director of the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center.


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Wed, Mar 4, 2015 AT 8:17 am - Eat Well
Celebrate National Nutrition Month®

By: Catherine Hu, 4th-year Undergraduate at UCLA studying Psychobiology

Juggling multiple exams, papers, and extracurricular activities are just a sample of the busy life of a college student, so throwing in healthy eating habits into the mix can be challenging. As stress builds and late nights heighten sweet and salty cravings, students often binge on less nutritious items; eventually, these continued habits can take a toll on their health.

In support of National Nutrition Month®, a campaign that encourages mindful eating and exercise, here are some ways to “Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle.”

Snacking Instead of chips, reach for a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, or a carton of low fat yogurt to curb pangs of hunger. Nutritionally dense snacks can help provide fuel for optimal studying. Not only will these alternatives help meet nutrient needs for the day, but they can also prevent overeating at the next meal.

Meals For your meals, try to incorporate fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and tuna into your diet. This nutrient is correlated to improved brain function and cognition, perfect for increasing focus during lecture. Look for whole grains for energy, as well as leafy green vegetables chock full of antioxidants to help delay brain aging.

Students often eat too quickly so that they can return to their schoolwork, only to feel too full and lethargic in doing so. It takes about 20 minutes for the body to indicate fullness to the brain, so it is easy to overeat if only 10 minutes are spent eating. A way to combat this is to have meals with friends, as the time spent socializing may help slow down eating. In addition, instead of scrolling through your phone or watching videos during dinner, consider focusing solely on the meal in front of you and savoring the flavors of each bite. This can help increase awareness of the food and the time taken to consume it.

Hydration Since the body is 60% water, be sure to drink adequate amounts of water daily (about 2.2 to 3 liters). Water is important, because food that is consumed and stored as energy in the body need to be hydrated with about 4 times as much water per gram of food. In addition, water helps flush body waste as well as deliver oxygen throughout the body. Carry a water bottle around to as a reminder to drink, and make sure to increase intake of water during exercise.

By making a couple of changes and substitutions in your diet, it is not too hard to have good nutrition as busy college student. Once National Nutrition Month® is over, continue to maintain these habits for a healthier lifestyle.

For more information on National Nutrition month, visit http://www.nationalnutritionmonth.org/nnm/


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Tue, Feb 3, 2015 AT 5:58 pm - Move Well
The Life Changing Popsicle


By: Nicholas Jensen, UCLA '15 Political Science

In one of the most trying experiences I’ve had at UCLA, I was saved by a life changing popsicle. Looking back, I hesitate to say that it was actually “life changing,” but in that moment it certainly felt like it.  When I ate this supposed “life changing” popsicle, I had been standing on my feet for 13 straight hours and had another 13 hours ahead of me; I must have been crazy to sign up for 26 straight hours without sitting.  However, I was doing Dance Marathon, a 26-hour dance-a-thon fundraiser that takes place every year in Pauley Pavilion.  Participants—called “Dancers”—pledge to take a literal stand against Pediatric AIDS and the stigma that surrounds the disease by fundraising at least $260 (often more) to dance at the event.

But I digress; let’s get back to my life changing popsicle. I was only halfway done with the event and was struggling to stay standing. Anyone who has done Dance Marathon can tell you about the highs and lows one goes through over the course of 26 consecutive hours of standing.  It was around midnight and everything was going downhill: my attitude was waning and my whole body was exhausted.  My feet were especially sore, so I grabbed my trusted tennis ball (every Dancer is given one) to roll and massage my aching feet.  It was like pure bliss in a ‘hurts so good’ type of feeling.  As I was massaging my sore feet, that’s when it happened: the popsicle.

A guy I did not know wearing a green shirt walked up to me, handed me a popsicle from a box he was carrying, and said “You’re halfway there, keep it up!” As soon as I tasted that popsicle my spirits soared and my attitude completely changed. Suddenly, everything was better.  To be honest, I now can’t even recall the flavor of my life changing popsicle, but what I do remember was the kind stranger who gave it to me.  The fact that someone else empathized with my situation and offered me a small token of kindness was just the boost I needed. To this day, a stranger handing me that life changing  popsicle at midnight remains one of my favorite memories from Dance Marathon 2014.

I later learned that the kind stranger was a moraler. Moralers register for 3- hour shifts during the event, and their job is to bring high energy and boost the morale of the Dancers. Moralers are an integral part of Dance Marathon. It’s the perfect way to still be involved with the event for those who are worried about completing all 26 hours, concerned with fundraising, or do not have the time to commit. A 3-hour shift is the perfect way to experience Dance Marathon and bring the energy to pump up the other Dancers. Energy and excitement are infectious at Dance Marathon and Moralers can be that “life changing popsicle” for a Dancer.

Register to Morale at Dance Marathon 2015! This April 18/19 in Pauley Pavilion!

The special UCLA Community morale shift is April 18th from 3p-6p, it’s catered to UCLA Faculty, Staff, and Families! Cost is $30 ($15 for kids ages 16 and under) and includes a DM shirt! Register starting in mid-February online here! Email Nick Jensen at pac.university.ucla@gmail.com with questions!



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Sun, Feb 1, 2015 AT 4:12 pm - Eat Well
Resolve to Un-Diet


By: Eve Lahijani, M.S., R.D. UCLA Residential Life Nutrition Health Educator

Dieting to lose weight is among the most popular resolutions of every new year. Unfortunately however, 95-98% of the people who go on a diet with the intention to lose weight - either don't lose weight at all - or if they do lose weight, they eventually gain it back, and usually with additional pounds and even more obsessed with food.

Furthermore, despite our past 'failure' with diets, many of us return to them year after year to achieve our weight loss goals. Each time the weight is not lost or finally regained we blame ourselves. This frustrating pattern can be repeated indefinitely until we feel hopeless and defective for being unable to simply weigh less!

After all, how hard can it be, right?

The truth is, it is not your fault!  Diets don't work, they actually set you up to fail!  That is, dieting itself causes food obsession, cravings and binges - which usually results in weight gain!

Here are some of the reasons diets suck:

·  Restrictive mentality: feeling deprived triggers the survival mechanism that backfires in the form of binges.

·  Denies enjoyment: feeling guilty for eating can make it difficult to savor meals leaving us unsatisfied at best, causing us to eat even more.

·  Encourage disconnect between body & mind: following arbitrary diet rules alienates us from our body's inherit wisdom.  Those who get good at ignoring hunger are also good at ignoring fullness and are more likely to over eat.

·  Loss of power: following rules and regulations set by the The Diet is not natural, enjoyable or sustainable.  The inner rebel comes out and has you do the exact opposite of 'the rules'!

·  Avoids the issue: for many, eating may be due to stress, boredom, loneliness, excitement, etc - dieting makes food more emotionally charged - so you are more likely to eat emotionally if you restrict food!

**Ugh, it's all so crazy making!... And solvable :)

So this year instead of going on a diet learn how to:

•  Make conscious food choices that are supportive and satisfy YOU!

•  Enjoy food, tune in to every bite so you can finally feel satiated (and easily stop eating)!

•  Reconnect to your body's wisdom to know exactly when, how much and what to eat!

•  Redeem your power and finally be in control of what you eat!

•  Face the issues by distinguishing between physical hunger and emotions - and address each of them accordingly!

By mastering the above points weight will naturally adjust to what is right for you! Not to mention all of the other benefits that come along with eating consciously - including, improved wellness, better focus, increased energy, less medications, enhanced enjoyment, etc!!  

**Warning: making peace with food may make you happier, activate inner peace and cause spontaneous joy**

Happy Eating!  

Eve

See this blog post, and many others, by Eve at: http://www.vitamineve.com/Nutrition_Nibbles


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Sun, Feb 1, 2015 AT 4:03 pm - Be Well
Westwood’s walkable street culture should be prioritized

Are you familiar with walkable street culture? Are you curious to know more about the potential that Westwood Village has in this regard? See this Daily Bruin opinion piece by Bruin Nate Holmes.


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Wed, Jan 14, 2015 AT 8:51 am - Be Well
One year later: UCLA’s bike counting system

Have you noticed the bike counting system on the southern side of Strathmore Place?  See this Be a Green Commuter article about what we have learned a year later.



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Mon, Jan 12, 2015 AT 6:37 pm - Eat Well
Influencing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015

By: Janet Leader, MPH, R.D. 


The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), established jointly by the US Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, drives the policies behind federal food programs and nutrition education.   While many of us wish the DGA would be more specific, more progressive and a little less industry-influenced, this is what we have for now.  Before 1980, there were no national guidelines at all.

As a nutrition advocate, I asked the question:  how do we influence the next DGA in 2015?  This is the challenge I put to students in CHS 130, Nutrition and Health.

A little background:  Every five years, the DGA is reviewed and updated, a process that takes almost two years.  According to their website, the government “appoints a Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) consisting of nationally recognized experts in the field of nutrition and health. The charge to the Committee is to review the scientific and medical knowledge current at the time. The Committee then prepares a report for the (HHS and USDA) Secretaries that provides recommendations for the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines …”

The DGAC provides a public comment website, open to everyone. This is how the students worked together to influence the next set of policies.  Working in small groups, they selected issues they felt passionate about and wrote opinion papers.  Topics included:

·  Requiring industry to fortify non-dairy milks (nut, soy, rice) sold in schools with vitamin D

·  Encouraging the promotion of vitamin D to African-American populations of child-bearing age

·  Establishing a behavioral strategies section in the DGA to provide helpful ways to implement recommendations

·  Requiring the integration of nutrition education into the national Common Core standards for education

·  Reducing sugar-sweetened items sold in schools, based on the California model

·  Using the DASH diet to influence food package labels

·  Adding water to the My Plate model

Over the next few months, you will see some abbreviated versions of these papers in the Eat Well blog.  Or, you can go to the DGA 2015 website to see them online.

Be on the lookout for the 2015 edition of the DGA to see if they were successful!


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Mon, Jan 12, 2015 AT 8:25 am - Move Well
How do you bring a sense of power to your daily self?

By: The Move Well Pod

This Winter, HCI has sponsored a brand new course that explores the links between martial arts and personal empowerment. Through a hybrid approach combining critical readings in phenomenology (philosophy of experience) with weekly martial arts practice at the UCLA Department of Recreation, this seminar introduces UCLA undergraduate students who are new to martial arts to the practice and critical study of martial arts as a road to personal empowerment. Taught by Professor/Dance Historian Janet O’Shea (World Arts and Cultures/Dance) in collaboration with UCLA Martial Arts Program Director Paul “British Ninja” McCarthy, WAC174/Martial Arts, Phenomenology, and Personal Empowerment generates discussion and practical experiences centered on notions of power, embodiment, survival, self-defense, and physical mastery.

If you are a non-enrolled UCLA student or member of the campus community with an interest in learning more about how regular, rigorous physical practices like martial arts contribute to health and well being, the WAC/174 class is hosting an end of quarter martial arts demonstration, during week 10 of Winter Quarter. The martial arts demo is tentatively scheduled for March 12, 2015, date/time TBD. Check back with this blog and the Move Well Pod for details as the date draws near.

OR IF YOU CANNOT SIT STILL, AND WANT TO TAKE ACTION…

The UCLA Martial Arts program offers over 25 different styles of Martial Arts practices from over 10 countries to the entire UCLA community at UCLA Wooden Center. Martial arts classes are organized in an array of programmatic formats (classes, club sports, self defense program, etc.,).

More information is available here.

To view the UCLA weekly Martial Arts Schedule click here

If you’d like a free introductory experience, consider enrolling in Bruin Self-Defense.

Here’s to practicing your best self!   






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Tue, Nov 25, 2014 AT 10:25 am - Eat Well
Discover Dig at UCLA

By: Ian Davies, 4th-year Undergraduate at UCLA studying Environmental Science and GIS

Every Sunday at around 12:30, students gather at a little plot of land tucked away in the back of Sunset Rec. They pass through a modest bamboo fence, arm themselves with shovels, watering cans, and hoes, and descend on the fourteen vegetable beds and surrounding fruit trees.

This motley crew of undergraduate and graduate students might not look like a gardening collective, but their volunteer work helps operate the largest student garden on campus. Dig at UCLA: The Campus Garden Coalition, is a group I help run which repurposes underutilized spaces on campus into productive fruit, vegetable, and herb gardens for student use. None of us were experienced gardeners when we began. Rather, we were experienced eaters brought together by a mutual interest in food policy and the worrying disconnect between consumers and food production.

The result is delicious and educational. In the warm weather, we feast on fiery-colored tomatoes and curiously-shaped summer squash, while in the winter we enjoy dark leafy greens and root vegetables.

We nourish our minds as well as our bellies. We host workshops on gardening techniques, offer tours of our garden space, and transform our modest plot every week into a space for discussing food and sustainability.

Caring for own my food from vulnerable seedling to harvest has conferred a deeper appreciation for the farm systems which feed us all. I’ve also realized that for all of us, a little ingenuity can transform even the most cramped spaces into urban gardens, be it an apartment balcony or a bathroom windowsill. Gardening may not have been the easiest hobby to pick up at the beginning, but I’m happy to say I’ve found a life-long passion that I love sharing with others.

Dig at UCLA meets every Sunday at 12:30pm in the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center. No experience necessary! Visit us online at http://digucla.weebly.com to keep up with the latest updates, including the upcoming construction of a new community garden at Hershey Hall.



           

 


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Mon, Nov 17, 2014 AT 8:38 pm - Be Well
UCLA Should Revive Green Spaces on Campus


See an opinion piece in the Daily Bruin about reviving green spaces on campus here.



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Mon, Nov 3, 2014 AT 9:07 pm - Mind Well
Did you see that story on the news last night?

By:  Doug Barrera, Ph.D., Assistant Director, UCLA Center for Community Learning

Ok then. Why don’t you tell me what you would do about immigration? No, really. Tell me what you would do to address immigration concerns in this country. Or, how about Israel and Palestine? What should we do about that? What about the student debt crisis? Or climate change? Do you think there’s about to be a race war in America? How do we ensure all people access to clean water and healthy food? Or should we?

These are the types of discussions you should be having at UCLA. College is meant to be the place where you are asked your opinion of what’s happening in the world; the place where those opinions are challenged, and where you in turn challenge others’ opinions. It’s meant to be the place where your mind is expanded by listening to the experiences of others. In essence, this is where your critical thinking skills about the world around you should be developed so that you graduate not only more knowledgeable about a certain academic discipline, but prepared to be an informed and active civic participant as well. And yet, in the current culture of higher education, such inquiries are happening with lesser and lesser frequency. Rather than being asked, “What do you think?,” you’re being told, “Here’s what you should know.” After all, it’s hard to ask each student for their opinion when you’re sitting in a class with 200 of your closest friends.

But this problem goes beyond the campus. The sources of information that is put in front of us seem infinite. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, The Daily Show, Bill Maher, Rush Limbaugh, Huffington Post, Daily Kos, TMZ, ESPN. Not to mention all those posts from your “friends” on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. (And then there’s always the old school – newspapers and news magazines – if you care to go there.) Rarely do any of the contributors to these actively seek your opinion. Instead, they want you to know what they think. And that’s a problem.

You’ve probably heard the expression:  “Never talk about politics or religion at a party.” So I once asked a student, “Do you ever talk politics in your sorority house or at a fraternity party?” She told me that she never does, and would be scared to do so. When I asked why, she commented that if she ever did, she’d probably be attacked for what she believes and told that she was wrong. And you know what? She’s right. That is what would happen. Our standard modus operandi is to tell others why they’re wrong and why they should think just like us. We’re not interested in truly listening to others, because that might, possibly, cause us to reconsider what we believe.

But that’s the point of being at a place like UCLA. You don’t come here to have your views cemented. You come here to hear – to hear the perspectives of those different from you, to discuss what you believe, and hopefully, to be asked why you believe what you believe. That’s our responsibility. As Henry Giroux asserts in Take Back Higher Education, if colleges and universities are to be the “crucial sphere for creating citizens equipped to exercise their freedoms and competent to question the basic assumptions that govern democratic political life, academics will have to...(offer) students knowledge, debate, and dialogue about pressing social issues.”

So then, what do we do with all of this information that we are inundated with? How do we make sense of it all? How do we know what to believe and what to toss aside? Perhaps more importantly, how do we change the institutional and cultural barriers that inhibit our critical analysis of the information so that we may use it to become active participants in the global community? Well, one step is to actually talk with others about what’s happening.

That is what we try to do in my Fiat Lux course, Civic Engagement 19, “Social Justice and Democratic Citizenship: Developing a Critical Consciousness.” The goal of the course is to provide a space to interrogate our assumptions and our understanding of how the world works. Through rich conversations, we reflect on the lenses through which we view the world, as well as how we put on those lenses in the first place. Our challenge is to see beyond the status quo and consider how, by being more aware, we can begin to work toward social change. The bulk of the course is spent on discussing the current events of the day – anything from immigration to education to the distribution of wealth to food deserts. The students decide the issues that we discuss, and are charged with leading those discussions – essentially, it becomes their course. And by engaging in such discussions, the hope is that students will not only become a little more informed about what’s going on in the world around them, but will be encouraged to engage their peers further.


Dr. Douglas Barrera is an assistant director with the UCLA Center for Community Learning. He oversees the Civic Engagement minor and the Astin Civic Engagement Research program for the center, teaches classes in the Civic Engagement subject area, and conducts research and assessment for the center, including an evaluation of student learning associated with service learning. He previously served as a research analyst for the UCLA Center for Community Partnerships and the Higher Education Research Institute. Before coming to UCLA, he was program director for a non-profit community organizing agency in San Diego, and taught methods of community engagement at U.C. San Diego and the University of San Diego. He is co-author of the Council of Europe publication, Advancing Democratic Practice: A Self-Assessment Guide for Higher Education, and the Higher Education Research Institute’s publication, First in My Family: A Profile of First-Generation College Students at Four-Year Institutions Since 1971. Dr. Barrera received his Ph.D. and an M.A. in Education from UCLA, and an M.A. and B.A. in History from San Diego State University.

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Sun, Nov 2, 2014 AT 9:35 pm - Move Well
Move Mail

By: FITwell Director Elisa Terry and and Move Well GSR Sarah Wilbur

You’ve heard the news: sitting is not good for your health.



It’s easy to sit at your desk for hours without moving, so FITWELL experts at UCLA Recreation have devised a way to inspire the UCLA community to get up and moving!

Introducing MOVE MAIL: a new daily email reminder program that includes quick (10-15 minute) workouts, instructional videos, walking routes, nutrition information, details about free campus movement classes, and more incentives to shake up your daily movement practice.

UCLA staff, students, and faculty who work predominantly at a computer can all benefit from Move Mail’s variety of suggestions. By signing up for MoveMail, you will receive daily messages from this team of movement experts at 10am and 2pm each day. While we encourage you to get up and move around during your daily routine as much as possible, these messages will keep your ideas and approaches “fresh” and support your commitment to moving often and moving well, towards positive health!

To subscribe to Move Mail, please click here.

MoveMail is among the newest FITWELL initiatives supported by the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative (HCI). The program compliments the diverse campus-wide movement programs that are currently available through UCLA Recreation, including:


For more information

Contact the FITWELL desk by calling (310) 206-6130, or e-mail us at fitwell@recreation.ucla.edu.

Or, you can visit the MoveMail webpage and social media handles:

http://www.recreation.ucla.edu/movemail

https://www.facebook.com/bruinmovemail

https://twitter.com/bruinmovemail

Onward we MOVE!

- The Move Well Pod




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Sun, Jun 1, 2014 AT 9:37 pm - Mind Well
“What is an artists’ book, exactly?”

By: Robert Gore,  Visual Arts Librarian and curator of the artists’ book collection in the UCLA Arts Library

“There are no limits to what artists’ books can be and no rules for their   construction – and fortunately there is no end of their production in sight.”

  -Johanna Drucker, A Century of Artists’ Books (2004), p. 364.

“What is an artists’ book, exactly?” It’s a question I am often asked, and it is a good question!

Trying to answer it, however, is a bit daunting. Sometimes I want to say, it’s a work of art produced in a book-like form. Or, it’s a book made by an artist. Another answer: it’s not a book-like structure, but more like an art work, but it has a narrative component or story attached.

In my Fiat Lux class, Artists’ Books in the UCLA Library and Beyond, I don’t answer the question, but I do provide an environment for students to consider the question and come up with their own answer(s). During the class, they have a chance to learn about zines, hear about book design from an award winning letterpress printer and book designer, visit or be introduced to collections of artists’ books in four different libraries on and off campus, and see examples of artists’ books that students at UCLA and elsewhere have created.

By week ten they have seen quite an astounding array of artists’ books and on the final day of class they present their main assignment – an artists’ book of their own. As the class moves along, they have seen a variety of different ‘book’ structures, some elaborate and some very simple. I try to encourage them not to get too caught up in making something that is too challenging; I want them to have fun with the process and become familiar with the concept of translating their ideas, research, drawings, collages, and other elements into a creative, book-like form. I also ask them to write an artist’s statement, which can be as short or long as they like – a reflective activity that gives them some exposure to how professional artists approach their own work.

The UCLA Library has one of the largest collections of artists’ books in North America. Each of the libraries or departments that collect artists’ books has a different focus.  The Arts Library’s collection, drawn largely from the private collection of Judith A. Hoffberg, contains many important historical examples of work by well-known contemporary artists including Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, and Gordon Matta-Clark. The UCLA Library Special Collections in the Young Research Library collects artists’ books in limited editions, unique (one-of-a-kind) books, pop-up books, and books by many well-known as well as emerging California book artists’ and printers including Julie Chen and Ninja Press. The William Andrews Clark Memorial Library’s collection includes artists’ books that highlight innovative uses of typography or lettering. The History and Special Collections for the Sciences (the Library Special Collections division located in the Biomedical Library) has a unique collection of artists’ books that relate to the history and practice of medicine, botany, and the natural and physical sciences.

At a conference I recently attended, Mo Dawley, a librarian who works at Carnegie Mellon University, talked about how artists’ books “resist dictating outcomes.” In the past, when teaching and giving presentations, I have characterized the making of artists’ books as a democratic and genre bending opportunity – there really are no limits to where you can go. A good thought for students to be left with when they complete the class!

Face Book, Samantha Masunaga, Fiat Lux, Spring Quarter 2010

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Tue, May 6, 2014 AT 2:26 pm - Eat Well
What I know, what I do…
By: Michael Goldstein, Associate Vice Provost, Healthy Campus Initiative

Everyone has a favorite comfort food.  For me it’s Jelly Belly Sours.  No, not the full array of a zillion Jelly Belly flavors.  I’m Mr. Willpower when it comes to them.  But, just Jelly Belly Sours… that’s a different story.

Now I am pretty well informed about the research on how availability influences the amount we eat.  I know that there are scores of studies showing that, regardless of how hungry we are, if someone offers larger portions, we eat more.  Offer us bigger plates or serving spoons and we will take more and eat more.  And plenty of studies have shown that the enjoyment or satisfaction that we get from a food we love also depends on portion size.  We feel just as satisfied with a small amount as long as there isn’t more around to tempt us.

But back to those Jelly Belly Sours.  If you want them, you have to go to the supermarket where you can find them in little 3.5 ounce bags for about $3.50 or $4.00.  What a rip off.  The whole thing couldn’t cost the international Jelly Belly cartel more than a quarter.  Once I overcome my anger at the price and buy them I usually find that my craving is satisfied after one or two hands full; leaving the rest for another day.  But here on campus it’s a different story. The candy shop in Ackerman Union has a huge, clear canister filled with Jelly Belly Sours, and I have the “freedom” to take the exact amount I want.  I control the lever that sends them spilling into the big bag they give you.  I know how just much I need to feel satisfied and that’s what I take.  For the past few visits, I’ve kept my receipts and guess what?  Each and every time I wind up buying a good deal more than 3.5 ounces; sometimes a lot more.  Well, at least I must be lots happier with so much more of my favorite snack.  Not really. In fact, it usually turns out that all I can think about when those final precious beans enter my mouth is that huge, beautiful canister at the store.  I say to myself, “If I’d only held the lever down a few more seconds I‘d have some more, and that would be what I really need to satisfy myself.”

Of course, I’m strongly in favor of “freedom of choice” when it comes to most everything, especially Jelly Belly Sours.  But then, again…


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Tue, Apr 8, 2014 AT 4:41 pm - Eat Well
Beauty and Richness of Food in Own Lives and Cultures

By: Janet Leader, MPH, RD, Associate Director of Nutrition Services, Department of Community Health Sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health 

With all of the buzz on campus about nutrition, I’m excited to teach a resurrected course this spring:  CHS 130, Nutrition and Health.

Here’s what I hope will happen in the class.

Students will take a look at the beauty and richness of food in their own lives and cultures.  From there, they will share their cultural choices with others, and learn why those choices are so important to them.  They will explore the basic concepts of nutrition and apply them to their own lives and real-world issues.

Using outside readings and films, students will come to class prepared to discuss controversies and conduct activities that will allow them to analyze their own diets and those of others.  They will recognize the changes that occurs in all of us as we move from being an infant to youth to adult and then to our senior years.  What are the changes in nutritional requirements as we move through these stages in our lives?  What are the healthiest way to meet those requirements?

We will also discuss how our behaviors and environments influence what we eat.  Why and how does it matter if you grow up in South LA vs. Santa Monica?  What changes are happening in our eating environment, both for the worse and for the better?  How can we make a difference in those changes?  Visiting community programs that apply nutrition and behavior theory, and inviting interesting guest speakers will excite more discussion.

I look forward to sharing my enjoyment of nutrition sciences and food with the UCLA students.  While the class is currently full with a waiting list, it will also be offered in the summer.

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Tue, Apr 8, 2014 AT 2:54 pm - Mind Well
‘Cinemeducation’ - Mental Illness and the Movies

By: David Taylor, MD

Would you agree that movies reflect society’s perceptions of mental illness?  Naturally there are many types of films and not every blockbuster, rom-com or documentary is going to have the same kinds of in-depth character development.  But in general, the portrayal of mental illness in film is often thought to reflect society’s perceptions, biases and stigmas of those suffering from diseases of the mind.

For example, Hitchcock’s classic thriller ‘Psycho’ (1960) perpetuates the myth that equates insanity with a deranged and murderous psychopath.  At the time the film was released, mental illness was a poorly understood and frightening phenomenon suitable for a dramatic movie.  In fact, the audience was so naive about the topic that, to minimize confusion, the movie concludes with a psychiatrist’s lengthy epilogue detailing the psychic origins of the main character’s pathology.  The film’s title alone is a derogatory jab at those who suffer from mental illness.  (However, in fairness to the director, I suppose an alternate title such as “Norman Bates - A Story of a Man with a Complicated Relationship with His Mother” might not have worked well either.)

Almost 50 years later, mental illness has achieved a cultural prominence that was unimaginable just a few generations earlier.  Diagnoses are better understood, treatments are more available, and society is more tolerant of diversity.  For example, ’A Beautiful Mind’ (2001) is the inspiring life story of a Princeton mathematician who won a Noble Prize despite his impairments from schizophrenia.  In ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ (2007), we find a compassionate depiction of mental illness in which the main character is embraced by family, friends and community despite his unusual and awkward delusions.

One of the most interesting observations about movies and mental illness is that each has the power to affect the other.  In other words, just as our beliefs about mental illness can influence movies, the movies can also influence the beliefs of those with mental illness.  For example, ‘The Truman Show’ (1998) imagined an artificial world where everyone — except for one unknowing individual — is portrayed by actors for a hyper-reality TV series.  Although the plot sounds farfetched, last year the New Yorker magazine (“Unreality Star”, Sept 16, 2013) profiled NYU psychiatrist Joel Gold who evaluated nearly 50 patients whose delusional beliefs mimicked the movie.  Dr. Gold even coined the term, Truman Show delusion, for an individual who “believes that he is being filmed, and that the films are being broadcast for the entertainment of others.”

The extraordinary ability of movies to both mirror and transform our beliefs makes them a valuable teaching tool.  Since 2012, I have taught a Fiat Lux freshman seminar called ‘Mental Illness and the Movies’ which explores the portrayal of mental illnesses in popular film.  Of course, movies are rarely designed to be faithful representations of reality and often include inaccurate portrayals of mental illness that perpetuate stigma.  Themes of violent insanity, incompetent physicians or abusive staff can reinforce the prejudices and discrimination against individuals with mental illness.  Through ‘cinemeducation’ this class provides a much needed opportunity to correct these misrepresentations, gain a better understanding of mental illness, and appreciate the wide diversity of individuals in our society.

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Tue, Apr 1, 2014 AT 12:06 pm - Move Well
Tango: A Story of Connection

By: Sharna Fabiano, UCLA World Arts & Cultures

Tango has long suffered from an international identity crisis. Erotic images typify the portrayal of tango in popular media, but curiously, experienced social dancers tend to liken tango to mind-body practices like yoga or martial arts, highlighting experiences of connection and creative flow. My own involvement with tango began in Cambridge, MA, in 1997, when I discovered the massive chasm between commercial and social tango, two related, yet unrelated, dance forms that irritate but cannot completely avoid one another. It is the community-based tradition of social tango that I have spent the last 15 years studying and teaching, and that I believe fosters the overall health and well-being of those who practice it.

A successful tango on the dance floor is one in which information flows back and forth, replacing the perception of two with the awareness of one. Tango partners listen and respond to one another, improvising each dance in the moment. This experience of generous, collaborative partnership makes dancers feel good about themselves by strengthening their sense of connection to others.

The tango classes offered in World Arts & Cultures/Dance are a wonderful opportunity to generate a sense of belonging in a group of students from across the entire campus, not only within the dance major. Requiring no previous experience, tango has a largely pedestrian technique. The goal for a tango dancer is not to be the same as anyone else, but to find a unique, personal way of expressing the form. In addition to being accessible, tango improves posture, balance, and coordination by gradually discovering more efficient ways of executing specific movements. Since these movements are always performed in relation to a partner, tango also teaches respect, and safe, supportive ways to approach physical touch. In their improvising, tango dancers learn to transmit trust, reliability, enthusiasm, confidence, playfulness, and patience to their partners through their own physical presence. In all of these ways, the practice of tango cultivates important communication skills that may be transferred to professional, academic, or personal contexts.

Furthermore, in this tango course, all students learn both following and leading roles, breaking the gender codes normally associated with partner dances. Learning both roles is not only a profound educational experience, but it also reinforces the understanding that both women and men are “followers” and “leaders” in the world, and that the relationship between followers and leaders can be complementary rather than hierarchical.

As an MFA student at UCLA, I’ve spent the last three years excavating tango for new choreographic tools. My degree concert, “After Hours,” is a series of interactions among four employees of a tango club, very late at night. But there is no classic tango, per se, in this show. Rather, tango principles such as lead-and-follow and upper body vs lower body direct the movement. I hope that audiences receive some of the experience of connection that I know to be so powerful for the participants of social tango dance. At the very least, this will be a very different idea of tango performance than the one presented in mainstream media!

The Dept. of World Arts & Cultures/Dance MFA Upstarts Series presents:

After Hours 

Date: Fri, April 25, 2014

Time: 8:00PM Venue: Glorya Kaufman Hall, Room 200, UCLA Ticket price: $15/$8 students

Dance with us during Summer Session 2014!

Dance 8: Beginning Tango

Session A: Jun 23 - Aug 01, MWF, 1-2:30pm

Session C: Aug 04 - Sep 12, MWF, 1-2:30pm









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Wed, Mar 12, 2014 AT 12:18 pm - Be Well
UCLA State of the Commute 2013

By: UCLA Transportation

UCLA Transportation has released its annual “State of the Commute” report with the results indicating continued progress by the University toward meeting its Climate Action Plan goal of achieving a 50% alternative transportation commute rate through public transit, vanpool, carpool, bicycling and walking.

In 2013, UCLA’s drive-alone rate was 51.2% for employees, much lower than Los Angeles County as a whole, where approximately 73% of all commuters drive alone to work according to 2012 U.S. Census data. The drive-alone rate for UCLA’s commuting students is significantly lower at just over 25%.

“The number of UCLA commuters taking public transit has more than doubled since 2000 and the number cycling has tripled since 2005,” said Renée Fortier, Executive Director, UCLA Events & Transportation.

UCLA continues to reap benefits from its substantial investment in smarter commute programs, including such measures as providing 50% subsidized transit passes, vanpool subsidies, discounted carpool parking permits, bicycling infrastructure and other commuter support services. Staff, faculty andstudent incentives help employees and students reduce mobile source greenhouse gas emissions and make sustainable transportation choices for both their commutes and intra-campus trips. The report highlights the commuting characteristics of the nearly 42,000 students and more than 28,000 staff and faculty members, featuring graphs, charts and tables which list program participation levels, specific mode use and the commuter options and support programs available to UCLA employees, students and visitors.

The complete UCLA State of the Commute report is available here. In addition, an infographic based on the report is below.


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Wed, Mar 12, 2014 AT 12:12 pm - Mind Well
Turn Your Assumptions Around about Left Brain & Right Brain

About the Author: Scott Barry Kaufman is a cognitive psychologist investigating the development of intelligence and creativity. His latest book is Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined. Follow on Twitter@sbkaufman.

So yea, you know how the left brain is really realistic, analytical, practical, organized, and logical, and the right brain is so darn creative, passionate, sensual, tasteful, colorful, vivid, and poetic?

No.

Just no.

Stop it.

Please.


Thoughtful cognitive neuroscientists such as Anna Abraham, Mark Beeman, Adam Bristol, Kalina Christoff, Andreas Fink, Jeremy GrayAdam GreenRex JungJohn KouniosHikaru TakeuchiOshin VartanianDarya Zabelinaand others are on the forefront of investigating what actually happens in the brain during the creative process. And their findings are overturning conventional notions surrounding the neuroscience of creativity.

The latest findings from the real neuroscience of creativity suggest that the right brain/left brain distinction is not the right one when it comes to understanding how creativity is implemented in the brain.* Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.

Instead, the entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification– consists of many interacting cognitive processes and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task.

Importantly, many of these brain regions work as a team to get the job done, and many recruit structures from both the left and right side of the brain. In recent years, evidence has accumulatedsuggesting that “cognition results from the dynamic interactions of distributed brain areas operating in large-scale networks.”

Depending on the task, different brain networks will be recruited.

For instance, every time you pay attention to the outside world, or attempt to mentally rotate a physical image in your mind (e.g., trying to figure out how to fit luggage into the trunk of your car), the Visuospatial Network is likely to be active. This network involves communication between the frontal eye fields and the intraparietal sulcus:


If your task makes greater demands on language, however, Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area are more likely to be recruited:


But what about creative cognition? Three large-scale brain networks are critical to understanding the neuroscience of creativity. Let’s review them here.

Network 1: The Executive Attention Network

The Executive Attention Network is recruited when a task requires that the spotlight of attention is focused like a laser beam. This network is active when you’re concentrating on a challenging lecture, or engaging in complex problem solving and reasoning that puts heavy demands on working memory. This neural architecture involves efficient and reliable communication between lateral (outer) regions of the prefrontal cortex and areas toward the back (posterior) of the parietal lobe.

Network 2: The Imagination Network

According to Randy Buckner and colleagues, the Default Network (referred to here as the Imagination Network) is involved in “constructing dynamic mental simulations based on personal past experiences such as used during remembering, thinking about the future, and generally when imagining alternative perspectives and scenarios to the present.” The Imagination Network is also involved in social cognition. For instance, when we are imagining what someone else is thinking, this brain network is active. The Imagination Network involves areas deep inside the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobe (medial regions), along with communication with various outer and inner regions of the parietal cortex.

Green= The Executive Attention Network; Red= The Imagination Network

Network 3: The Salience Network

The Salience Networkconstantly monitors both external events and the internal stream of consciousness and flexibly passes the baton to whatever information is most salient to solving the task at hand. This network consists of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortices [dACC] and anterior insular [AI] and is important for dynamic switching between networks.

The Neuroscience of Creative Cognition: A First Approximation

The key to understanding the neuroscience of creativity lies not only in knowledge of large-scale networks, but in recognizing that different patterns of neural activations and deactivations are important at different stages of the creative process. Sometimes, it’s helpful for the networks to work with each other, and sometimes such cooperation can impede the creative process.

In a recent large review, Rex Jung and colleagues provide a “first approximation” regarding how creative cognition might map on to the human brain. Their review suggests that when you want to loosen your associations, allow your mind to roam free, imagine new possibilities, and silence the inner critic, it’s good to reduce activation of the Executive Attention Network (a bit, but not completely) and increase activation of the Imagination and Salience Networks. Indeed, recent research on jazz musiciansand rappersengaging in creative improvisation suggests that’s precisely what is happening in the brain while in a flow state.

However, sometimes it’s important to bring the Executive Attention Network back online, and critically evaluate and implement your creative ideas.

Or else this can happen:

As Jung and colleagues note, their model of the structure of creative cognition is only a first approximation. At this point, we just have leads on the real neuroscience of creativity. The investigation of large-scale brain networks does appear to be a more promising research direction than investigating the left and right hemispheres; the creative process appears to involve the dynamic interplay of these large-scale networks. Also, converging research findings do suggest that creative cognition recruits brain regions that are critical for daydreaming, imagining the future, remembering deeply personal memoriesconstructive internal reflectionmeaning making, and social cognition.

Nevertheless, much more research is needed that investigates how the brain creates across different domains, species, and timescales.

It’s an exciting time for the neuroscience of creativity, as long as you ditch outdated notions of how creativity works. This requires embracing the messiness of the creative process and the dynamic brain activations and collaborations among many different brains that make it all possible.

© 2013 Scott Barry Kaufman, All Rights Reserved link to <http://www.scottbarrykaufman.com/>

Disclaimer: I was one of the reviewer’s of thepaper by Rex Jung and colleagues.

Note: For more on the latest findings in the emerging neuroscience of creativity, I highly recommend the recent book “Neuroscience of Creativity,” edited by Oshin Vartanian, Adam S. Bristol, and James C. Kaufman.

* There’s some grain of truth to the left brain/right brain distinction. For instance, spatial reasoning recruits more structures in the right hemisphere, and language processing recruits more structures in the left hemisphere. Also, there’s some really interesting research conducted by John Kounios and Mark Beemanshowing that the Aha! moment of insight– in which participants discover seemingly unrelated words– is associated with activation of the right anterior superior temporal gyrus. None of these findings, however, negate the fact that the entire creative process involves the whole brain.

image credit #1: io9; image credit #2, 3, & 5: findlab.stanford.edu; image credit #4:pnas; image credit #6: photocase

This article originally appeared at Scientific American  http://www.creativitypost.com/science/the_real_neuroscience_of_creativity#sthash.G9QeG9D9.dpuf



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Tue, Mar 4, 2014 AT 7:01 pm - Eat Well
My Adventure with the CSA Box
By: Julie K Kwan, MS, AHIP
Associate Director, UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library and UCLA Science and Engineering Library
Distinguished Librarian, UCLA Library

Last winter, a colleague posted on her Facebook page that she could get CSA boxes in her building. I assumed, enviously, that the boxes were delivered to her apartment building, but I soon learned it was the building where both of us worked! I had been looking for a CSA source for some time, and here it was right in MY building. I signed up immediately!

I was awestruck as I opened my first box. It was beautiful -- the color, the texture, the smell. The carrots were short and fat. The avocado was gigantic. The leafy greens were shiny. I looked forward to the weekly surprise, wondering "what would be in the box this week?"

The first six months I read and tested recipes, explored new techniques, and practiced my cooking skills until they were perfect. I sautéed greens, braised carrots, and roasted beets. I started noticing changes in the way I ate. I started spending more time in the produce section at the grocery store. By spring, I started a garden in my back yard. And, it all started with a Facebook post!

South Central Farmers Cooperative delivers to several locations on the UCLA campus. You can sign up and go to the National Agricultural Library’s Community Supported Agriculture page to learn more and to find other farms and locations. 


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Fri, Feb 7, 2014 AT 4:50 pm - Eat Well
What are your New Year’s resolutions?
By: Peter Angelis, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Housing & Hospitality Services, UCLA

It may already be the month of February, but it’s never too late to start thinking about personal health and wellness goals for 2014.  When I look around our own work environment at UCLA, I see tremendous opportunities for making healthy choices in the foods we eat and in our daily physical activity habits.  

On the nutrition front, in Fall Quarter 2013, we opened “Bruin Plate” our newest dining hall on Campus and the FIRST health-themed dining hall in the United States.  If you haven’t tried it, please join us for breakfast, lunch, or dinner to taste a variety of unique dishes using unprocessed and sustainable “superfoods” like: kale, farro, quinoa, legumes, acai berries, lentils, and more.  The beauty of Bruin Plate is that making healthy food choices is not only easy, but extremely enjoyable because the flavor combinations are thoughtfully conceived and executed.  The feedback from our students, the main consumers of Bruin Plate’s fare, has been overwhelmingly positive and the number of people dining at this new venue has exceeded our estimates.  Perhaps it begs the question to ask why students are choosing “mindful eating” over the traditional dining hall “comfort foods” such as hamburgers, pizza, and fries.  Whatever the personal factors are for making this nutritional switch, we are excited to offer these new culinary choices and we are delighted that they are becoming so popular.  

Another positive health trend that is developing in my own office is the example of fellow team members who are making physical activity a priority in their daily lives. Many of us have become “Fitbit” friends and we share in a collegial competition to obtain our minimum of 10,000 footsteps per day.  We are both walkers and runners and, with the LA Marathon coming up in March, we enjoy the convenience of training opportunities at our doorstep – whether it’s Drake Stadium for a noon stair climbing session or a fast walk along the perimeter of Campus.  Then, there are our BHIP aficionados who work-out at 6:15am before they even start their day in the office!  I encourage you to find your physical activity niche at UCLA with so many opportunities for improving your daily health through fitness.

I started running at the ripe old age of 50, and wish I had started decades ago.  My first mile was a very unpleasant experience.  Amazingly by my 10th try, I was up to the magical 3 mile mark and never looked back.  I really enjoy it and find it meditative and fulfilling.  It gives me an aerobic buzz that lasts many hours into the evening while clearing my mind in a way that separates work from life outside of work.  Running also gives me a perspective of LA that I had never realized before. We really live in a city that can be navigated without a car, bike or bus.  By taking differing tracks across town, you see new neighborhoods and stumble across places that you would never find just driving by. 

My usual midweek run is the campus perimeter at 4.2 miles, preferring to handle it in the counter clockwise direction- although the Hilgard Hill is always a challenge even when warmed up by that point.  I’m curious when I run, why others go the clockwise route.  I sometimes wonder if they know something I don’t and I begin to second guess my strategy.  This sort of thinking helps me clear my mind and takes my thoughts away from the rigors of running.  Pandora is also an inseparable part of my running experience, where I rely on EDM to guide my pace and rhythm to match the incline or decline that confronts me (I’m an opera lover too but find that it really does not suffice for running).

On weekends, I often run from the Wooden Center to the Santa Monica Pier, which is roughly a 10K (6.2 miles) depending on whether you head down San Vincente or Montana after the VA.  After a cup of coffee and lunch, I can take the bus back to Westwood.  I think my running has greatly enhanced my understanding of the importance of eating right and getting exercise.  It has also allowed me to see the incredibly special places that are UCLA and LA.  

If you don’t know where to get started or if you are looking for an opportunity to meet fellow UCLA community members who are making their New Year’s health resolutions into a reality, sign-up for the “True Bruin Move and Groove 5K Run/Walk” on March 30, 2014.  It’s being sponsored by UCLA’s staff assembly and the Healthy Campus Initiative, and this inaugural event is going to be a lot of fun.  Plus, it’s an opportunity to show-off our beautiful Campus to your loved ones as registration is open to everyone.  Start planning those healthy New Year’s resolutions today – you deserve it.

Enjoy a healthy and happy 2014!

Resources:To learn more about Bruin Plate and see photos of healthy menu items, you can visit: http://bruinplate.hhsmarketing.org/index.php

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Sun, Jan 19, 2014 AT 5:12 pm - Be Well
Westwood Boulevard Bike Lanes
BY: Ryan Snyder

The City of Los Angeles has an opportunity to benefit UCLA cyclists by improving bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard and extending them.  While stretches south of Santa Monica Boulevard present challenges, both physical and political, north of Santa Monica Boulevard we could pick low hanging fruit.  The City has initiated a study of the impacts of various options between Pico Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard such as floating bike lanes and shared bus/bike lanes but they aren’t going over well with homeowner groups or City Councilmember Koretz.  Meanwhile, north of Santa Monica Boulevard sufficient space exists to paint wide colored bike lanes with a painted buffer between the bike lane and travel lane all the way to Le Conte. We wouldn’t have to remove travel lanes, turn lanes or parking to do it.  Just restripe and narrow existing travel lanes.  This could be done quickly, cheaply and without controversy.  With a new colored buffered bike lanes leading to and from UCLA more people would be attracted to ride, thereby growing the constituency for more difficult choices south of Santa Monica Boulevard. 

Ryan Snyder is the President of Ryan Snyder Associates, a transportation planning firm that prepares sustainable transportation plans.  He recently coordinated development of the Los Angeles County Model Design Street Manual for Living Streets that won a 2013 American Planning Association national award. Snyder has customized the street manual for the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, the City of Baldwin Park, and others. He is a Federal Highways Administration Pedestrian Safety Design instructor. He is a Partner of the National Complete Streets Coalition. Snyder teaches a class on Pedestrian and Bicycle Planning/Street Design to graduate students in the UCLA Urban Planning Department.  He is former Vice President of the Los Angeles Board of Transportation Commissioners.  Snyder holds an M.A. in Urban Planning and a B.A. in Economics from UCLA.  

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Sat, Jan 18, 2014 AT 6:50 pm - Move Well
What moves you? What health causes move you to act?
Read on to learn more about these active (& activist!) intersections housed right here at UCLA. 
From UCLA Art & Global Health Center Director/Professor David Gere:

As an activist and scholar situated at the productive border between the arts and public health, I view the arts as world-changing, with huge potential to advance global health. I work from this perspective because of what I experienced in San Francisco, serving as an arts critic at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Throughout the decade beginning in 1985, I witnessed artists stepping into horrible circumstances to intervene with little more than images and ideas as weapons. I wrote newspaper reviews on the work of artists confronting the stigma of AIDS. I marched alongside artists goading city, state, and federal officials to devote new resources for care and prevention—and I cheered as they achieved positive results. I grieved publically with artists as they grappled with our collective losses. Through this process I came to believe that any intervention designed to alleviate the suffering brought on by this epidemic was missing something powerful and transcendent if it did not involve the collaboration and creativity of artists.

That is why, in 2004, I founded MAKE ART/STOP AIDS, an international network of artists intervening in the AIDS epidemic. I have been extending and deepening this network ever since, from villages in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, India, to complex megalopolises such as Los Angeles and Johannesburg. In 2006, I founded the UCLA Art & Global Health Center, dedicated to unleashing the transformative power of the arts to advance health in Los Angeles and around the world. The Art & Global Health Center brings together performance studies with public health, behavior change communication with medicine, social justice theory with practical application. The Center has established a major community presence in Los Angeles, especially through a large-scale collaboration with the Los Angeles Unified School District that allows us to reach 60,000 students annually. The Center contributes internationally as well, with projects currently operating in seven countries on four continents. 

The work of the Art & Global Health Center is based on the theory that comprehensive health education can and should be engaging, entertaining, impactful, and transformative—because it improves self-efficacy and empowers participants to combat stigma surrounding STI’s/HIV, to engage in dialogue, to practice communication strategies, and to think critically on the impact of health decision-making. The arts clear space for the imagination, for broad and unencumbered thinking, and hence open up possibilities for personal transformation. 

If you are having trouble envisioning what I mean, then please join me on Valentine’s Day (and the day after) to see for yourself.

UCLA Art & Global Health Center, with support from the Healthy Campus Initiative, Presents:

We’re Glad You Came
Valentine’s Day with the UCLA Sex Squad!
A FunCrazySexySmart Weekend of Performance, Parties and Art!
LIVE SHOWSDate(s): Fri, February 14, 2014 & Sat, February 15, 2014 Time: 6:00PM-7:30PM
Venue: Glorya Kaufman Hall, Room 200, UCLA
Ticket price: $6.00

Get Lei’d Luau 
FREE Party, DJ, STI/HIV Testing Van, Games & Prizes, Food!
Fri, 2/14/14
12-1PM Bruin Plaza

Big Sexy Scavenger Hunt
Workshops, Games, Activist Art-Marking, Prizes
Sat, 2/15/14
1-3PM Kaufman Hall, Meet in Rainbow Lounge
FREE

Art Orgy
Activist Art Exhibition
Sat-Sun, 2/14-2/15
Kaufman Hall, Various Locations
FREE

Keep It Up!
Spicy Fundraiser, Dinner & Party to support the UCLA Sex Squad
Sat, 2/15/14
$20, includes dinner and age-appropriate drinks
8PM-11PM Kaufman Hall 
Space is limited

For tickets contact Elisabeth, e.nails@arts.ucla, 310-825-6938

Bio: David Gere Professor, UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/DanceDirector, UCLA Art & Global Health Center
David Gere directs the UCLA Art & Global Health Center and is Professor of Arts Activism in the Department of World Arts and Cultures. He is also co-director (with Gideon Mendel) of Through Positive Eyes, a participatory photography project featuring people living with HIV/AIDS around the world. His book How to Make Dances in an Epidemic: Tracking Choreography in the Age of AIDS (University of Wisconsin Press) received the award for outstanding book publication from the Congress on Research in Dance. The book was also nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and received a special citation from the Society of Dance History Scholars and the De la Torre Bueno Prize. Gere studied music, dance, and Tamil in Madurai, Tamilnadu, on an Oberlin Shansi Fellowship 1980-82 and, in 2004, lived in Bangalore, India, on a research grant from the Fulbright Association, studying the ways in which artists are working in India to stop the AIDS epidemic. This led to the founding of MAKE ART/STOP AIDS, a network of artists throughout the world who are working to intervene in the AIDS epidemic. As part of MAKE ART/STOP AIDS, Through Positive Eyes currently features photography from Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Mumbai, and Bangkok, with future plans for Kiev and Lagos.







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Fri, Jan 17, 2014 AT 2:36 pm - Mind Well
How do physicians get through the tough times?
By: Karen Miotto, Professor of Psychiatry in the Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior. She is the chair of the Medical Staff Health Committee.

Physicians sacrifice for the privilege of caring for others. Caring for people with difficult and often chronic illnesses can be a draining experience. Medical school and residency provide excellent training and conditioning to ensure that your emotional and physical needs come last.  The long hours of work are fueled by caffeine and adrenaline. Sleep becomes a luxury. Exercise falls into the, “not enough” category. Friends and family adjust, or not, to the long hours and exhaustion of training and practice. 

The recent changes in medicine, such as the electronic medical record, promise time efficiency and better coordination of care but require long adoption and optimization periods to appreciate the benefits. The provider and patient both have to acknowledge the keyboard and monitor as important fixtures in the examination room.  The Accountable Care Act is a seismic change that is shifting the landscape of medicine in both anticipated and unpredictable ways. These stressful changes lead to hallway conversations like, "I tell my children not to go into medicine." 

Resilience requires humor, self-care, and connection. Lets break this down to smaller more manageable pieces. 

Physicians need a sense of humor when friends and family recommend, "get more sleep and don't take your work home with you."  You have to laugh, because if you did not laugh you would consider strangling the person who recommended the impossible so glibly. 

Self-care requires an emotional vocabulary. Doctors become Alexithymic. Alexithymic, if you do not remember from your psychiatric rotation, is "a personality construct characterized by the sub-clinical inability to describe emotions in the self."  The core defect is a dysfunction in emotional awareness and attachment. Adaptive alexithymia allows care providers to carry on in the service of others and squeeze one more patient in at noon or at the end of the day. 

Connection, whether it be venting with colleagues, or spending time with loved ones at home, is essential. While finding the time to grab lunch or dinner may be difficult, a coffee break may be just enough time to connect with someone and feel human again.

What do the uber doctors do? 15 minute naps. Meditate. Take "recess" between patients, even if it means just taking 3 deep breaths. Write down any follow-up phone calls or consultations that need to be done so you are not trying to remember 10 things at the end of the day. Take time to eat something healthy. Identify priorities, set boundaries, and say “no” to tasks you don’t have time for. Exercise. While many are walking around the medical center throughout the day, others struggle to find even 15 minutes to exercise. Make time for your well-being. Find a technique that centers your mind and allows a beginning and an end to a patient care encounter. These practices help prevent "taking the patient home with you."

Start small. Little changes can make a big difference when it comes to getting through the tough times.


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Thu, Dec 12, 2013 AT 6:04 pm - Move Well
Let’s get buzzed…

By: Tim Stafford, Health Champion and MPH Student at Fielding School of Public Health

Let’s get buzzed…on Exercise!  Exercise is medicine! Actually more than medicine, exercise is that daily Cup o’ Joe we use to start our day half-full, and then finish it by spilling over with extra energy, time, and life.  It allows our daily life cup to be full, reaching well-being that builds natural barriers to disease while fostering joy and happiness.

Time and energy are our two most precious commodities.  It has been my experience that the healthier you are, the more time and energy you have.  The more energy you have, the more time you have to sleep, do fun things, and enjoy your friends, family, and hobbies.  When your health, well-being, and natural energy are high, the quality of your life improves.  Health permeates all areas of your life; physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, and occupational.

There are so many reasons to be in the field of wellness and to be a Health Champion at UCLA.  It’s fun interacting with people who share the same values, supporting one another in our individual and collective health journeys.  I have seen the transformative effects of good health, personally and in large groups.  It doesn’t matter where you start, but where you decide to start!  I love playing a role in the confidence building of people, accomplishing their health and wellness goals that they never thought possible.  I have managed thousands of people walk and run half and full marathons.  They all started thinking, “What did I get myself into?”  But just as in any task worth completing, if you break it down into small enough pieces, then you can accomplish anything.

My background is in motivation and team-building.  As a fitness enthusiast my activities have ranged from group exercise, cross fit, yoga, spinning, and marathon training to being an ironman athlete.  I am also certified as a Corporate Wellness Specialist which helps employers increase business while retaining their most valuable resource, retaining happy and healthy employees.  What I hope to accomplish as a Health Champion is to provide information, motivation, and wellness opportunities for students, staff, and faculty helping UCLA be the healthiest campus in America through our Healthy Campus Initiative. It's win/win.  3…2…1.  Ready, set, go!


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Wed, Dec 11, 2013 AT 4:10 pm - Eat Well
Classics in Eating Research: Babies are masterful eaters

By A. Janet Tomiyama, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology

Everyone knows that we need to eat healthy to be healthy, but that’s often easier said than done. There are a lot of different foods out there, and it’s hard to keep track of all the different vitamins and minerals we need. I don’t know a single person who keeps a running tally of their recommended daily intake of, say, Vitamin E to make sure they’re getting 100% each day. I certainly don’t!

That’s why the study I’m about to describe to you is so amazing. First of all, it was published all the way back in 1928, but still remains a classic today, and I include it every year in my Introduction to Health Psychology (PSYCH 150) class. Second of all, I think it has some of the neatest research findings I’ve encountered.

Clara M. Davis, the author of the study, took 15 little 6-month-old babies and let them eat whatever they wanted, for every single meal, from of an array of 34 different foods. Some of the foods the babies got to eat sound funny today – things like bone jelly, brains, and both sweet and sour milk. Others are more familiar, like carrots, peas, beef, and oatmeal. The nurses were told to never offer food or interfere in the babies’ eating in any way. This sometimes led to what Clara Davis described as, “a dietitian’s nightmare – for example, a breakfast of a pint of orange juice and liver; a supper of several eggs, bananas, and milk.”

But here’s the surprising thing: the babies’ health at the end of the study was perfect. (Many doctors were brought in to check). Somehow, the babies had the intuitive ability to get the optimal balance of macro and micronutrients.

The most astonishing example of their masterful intuitive eating was demonstrated by one of the babies who entered the study with rickets – a disease in which the bones are too soft due to malnutrition. Davis describes, “…we put a small glass of cod liver oil on his tray for him to take if he chose. This he did irregularly and in varying amounts until his blood calcium and phosphorus became normal and x-ray films showed his rickets to be healed, after which he did not take it again.”

There are many lessons we can learn from this study. For example, maybe it’s not so important for parents to force their children to eat what they believe is a healthy meal. Maybe we need to be eating more brains. (Just kidding.) If you want to read the study for yourself, you can find it here – it’s short and very charmingly written. As we head into holiday season, it might be worth it to take a moment, check in with your body, and see what it’s hungry for.

~See Dr. Tomiyama's website for additional information: www.dishlab.org

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Wed, Dec 11, 2013 AT 3:47 pm - Be Well
UCLA Is Now Home to LA’s First and Only Bike Counter

By Mike King, UCLA Transportation


UCLA student, staff and faculty bicyclists gathered around the new bike counter on Strathmore Place.


UCLA Transportation is proud to present the campus’ first automated bike counter.The bike counter is located on the southern side of Strathmore Place next to the green bike lane. The counter displays the number of daily bicyclists and annual bicyclists who pass it. Similar bike counters have been installed in bike-friendly cities such as Portland, Orgeon;Seattle, Washington; and Copenhagen, Denmark.


~(from the left) Dr. Michael S. Goldstein, Professor, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and Associate Vice Provost, Healthy Campus Initiateve; Renée Fortier, Executive Director, UCLA Events & Transportation; Professor Donald Shoup, UCLA School of Public Affairs-Urban Planning

The counter is one of many bike infrastructure improvements that are intended to make UCLA a more bike-friendly campus. UCLA is proud to be the first in Los Angeles to install an automated bike counter. While the Counter provides real-time ridership information, it also serves as a welcoming gateway sign and bicyclists can see that they’re part of a larger community.

The Counter was manufactured by Eco Counter. Eco Counter is an international company that specializes in pedestrian and bike counting systems. The counter was funded by The Green Initiative Fund and UCLA Transportation. Beginning November 25, 2013, data from the Strathmore Bike Counter will be available to the public here: http://ucla-strathmore-bike-counter.visio-tools.com.

Ride down UCLA’s green bike lane on Strathmore and get counted!


~Re-posted from UCLA Transportation's Be a Green Commuter website

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Wed, Dec 11, 2013 AT 3:38 pm - Mind Well
This is Your Brain on Chocolate

April Thames, Ph.D.

For those of us who are chocolate lovers, it is no surprise that the mere sight or smell of chocolate immediately peaks our mood and interest.  Think about the number of times when a friend or colleague brought a box of chocolate to a gathering, and you heard someone say, “Hmmm…chocolate.” Our love for chocolate dates back to the 12th and 16th centuries when the Aztec and Maya civilizations used chocolate as a religious offering to the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl 1.  Chocolate was also believed to help build up resistance and fight fatigue. In the last few decades, neuroscience has started to look more closely at how chocolate benefits brain functioning.

Neuroimaging studies have invited participants to indulge in the tasty delight while examining brain activity.  For chocolate lovers, it was found that the brain’s reward centers become active, which was followed by reports of good mood2.  Not only does chocolate seem to pep up our mood, but research findings also suggests that chocolate has positive effects on brain function, cardiovascular health, reducing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance3-6.  With regard to brain function, chocolate has the potential to protect neurons from injury and suppress or inhibit neuroinflammation and oxidative stress7-9. 

Recent studies have found that chocolate improved cognitive performance in the elderly!10,11 Now before you go out and stock your shelves with Snickers, you should know the “Bad” from the “Good” chocolate.  Good chocolate has not been alkalized, has been dried and cool-pressed rather than roasted, and is greater than 70 percent pure cocoa.  The good stuff contains cocoa butter (not milk fats!) and contains natural low glycemic sweeteners such as raw cane.  The “bad” chocolate usually contains ingredients of processed cocoa powder, refined white sugar, milk fats, hydrogenated oils and preservatives.  Questions to consider when deciding between bad versus good chocolate include: What is the origin and fermentation of cocoa? What was the production process from bean to cocoa liquor? What was the production process of cocoa powder or chocolate from this liquor? 

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “What is the active ingredient that produces all these good effects?” “Does it only come from chocolate?”  Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which have been demonstrated anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effects.  A study published in The Lancet12 showed that chocolate contained four times as much catechin, a type of flavonoid, as tea. Over 4,000 flavonoids have been identified, many of which are found in fruits, vegetables, teas, beer, and (of course) chocolate.  The capacity of flavonoids to act as an antioxidant depends upon their molecular structure.  Many of these different types of flavonoids are still under study and those that produce powerful antioxidant effects are of great interest given that oxidative stress or free radical damage is implicated in all diseases that are associated with aging (e.g., heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes).  

Many foods have been quantified based upon their Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC), which is a laboratory-based test of how well certain substances (e.g., chocolate) protect vulnerable molecules from oxidation by free radicals. The less free radical damage there is, the higher the antioxidant capacity of the test substance. While this quantification method has been referenced across several studies, as of 2012 the USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory eventually removed this information from their website due to growing evidence that the values indicating antioxidant capacity had no relevance to the effects of specific bioactive compounds, including polyphenols on human health13. In other words, the ORAC test (which uses a test tube) cannot account for the complex biochemical changes that occur in the human body. Despite its shortcomings, some believe that ORAC can still be a useful tool for estimating antioxidant activity if one knows the limitations.

Knowing the benefits of good chocolate (remember…it’s the pure cocoa chocolate!) on the brain can certainly reduce those feelings of guilt when we are tempted to have a bite.

~Dr. April D. Thames is an Assistant Professor at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. She recently received an NIH Career Development Award (K-23) to develop her laboratory in cultural neuropsychology, neuroscience, and health disparities. Dr. Thames has focused her research on the neurological and neurocognitive effects of infectious disease, substance abuse, and cerebrovascular risk factors among underrepresented groups.

References

1.  The Field Museum. The History of Chocolate. Available online at: http://www.fmnh.org/Chocolate/ history.html.

2.  Rolls, E., McCabe, C. (2007). Enhanced affective brain representations of chocolate in cravers vs. non-cravers. European Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 26, pp. 1067–1076, 2007 doi:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2007.05724.x

3.  Grassi D, Necozione S, Lippi C, Croce G, Valeri L, Pasqualetti P, Desideri G, Blumberg JB, Ferri C. Cocoa reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance and improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in hypertensives. Hypertension. 2005;46: 1– 8.

4.  Engler MB, Engler MM. The vasculoprotective effects of flavonoid-rich cocoa and chocolate. Nutr Res. 2004; 24: 695–706.

5.  Corti, R. Flammer, A.J., Hollenberg, N.K., and Lüscher, T.F. “Cocoa and cardiovascular health,” Circulation, vol 119, no.10: 1433–1441, 2009.

6.  Almoosawi, S., Fyfe, L., Ho, C., and Al-Dujaili, E. “The effect of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate on fasting capillary whole blood glucose, total cholesterol, blood pressure and glucocorticoids in healthy overweight and obese subjects,” British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 103, no. 6, pp. 842–850, 2010.

7.  Martorell, P., Forment, J.V., de Llanos et al., R. “Use of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Caenorhabditis elegans as model organisms to study the effect of cocoa polyphenols in the resistance to oxidative stress,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 59, no. 5, pp. 2077–2085, 2011.

8.  J. F. Bisson, A. Nejdi, P. Rozan, S. Hidalgo, R. Lalonde, and M. Messaoudi, “Effects of long-term administration of a cocoa polyphenolic extract (Acticoa powder) on cognitive performances in aged rats,” British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 100, no. 1, pp. 94–101, 2008.

9.  D. L. Katz, K. Doughty, and A. Ali, “Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease,” Antioxidant and Redox Signaling, vol. 15, no. 10, pp. 2779–2811, 2011.

10.  Nurk E, Refsum H, Drevon CA, et al. Intake of flavonoid-rich wine, tea, and chocolate by elderly men and women is associated with better cognitive test performance. J Nutr 2009;139:120-7

11.  Desideri G, Kwik-Uribe C, Grassi D, et al. Benefits in cogni- tive function, blood pressure, and insulin resistance through cocoa flavanol consumption in elderly subjects with mild cogni- tive impairment: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study. Hypertension 2012;60:794-801.

12.  Ilja CW, Hollman, P., Kromhout, D (1999). Chocolate as a source of tea flavonoids.  The Lancet, vol. 354 (9177), p. 488.

13.  US Department of Agriculture (USDA) database for the ORAC. Retrieved online from http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=15866


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Thu, Nov 14, 2013 AT 1:49 pm - Be Well
5 things you probably didn’t know about walking

1. Power walking burns more fat than slow jogging.Although you can burn more calories while jogging, you do not necessarily burn more fat when you walk for the same amount of time! Walking gives your body’s metabolism more time to make the switch from burning carbohydrates to burning fat.

2. Your body starts releasing endorphins after your first 20 minutes of walking.Endorphins are a natural “happy drug” released in your brain that help relieve pain and reduce stress. Taking power walks outside of the office or home can calm your mind, boost your self-esteem and improve your sleep. All you need is just 30 minutes out of your day, a pair of comfortable walking shoes and a good walking posture. It can’t get easier than that!

3. You can easily estimate your walking speed without a pedometer.The math is simple: Count the number of steps you take per minute and divide that number by 30. For example, if you take 120 steps per minute, your walking speed will be approximately 4 mph.

(Hint: For optimum calorie burning, aim for a power walking speed of 4.5 mph. At that rate,you can almost burn just as many calories as someone who is jogging at the same speed.)

4. We use approximately 200 muscles when we walk.Almost every single muscle from your neck to toe is involved in balancing and moving you forward when you walk.The most heavily-used muscles while you walk include the quadriceps, hamstrings, buttock muscles, stomach muscles and calf muscles. And flexing your cheek muscles will make your walk ten times more pleasurable (a.k.a. SMILING!).

5. Brisk walking reduces cravings.Studies have shown that our brains produce lower responses to images of food on days when we did brisk walking, which helps to control our appetite for greasy food and sweets. Instead, our body and brain tell us to choose nutritious food that is necessary to compensate for the energy loss from walking, such as carbohydrates and protein. Now you know how to deal with that leftover Halloween candy!

~ Brian
Digital Marketing Associate, UCLA Transportation. During his down time - when he is not on Facebook or his smartphone - Brian likes to read recipes on Food Network, sing shamelessly in public and exploring new places around LA.
View all posts by Brian →



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Wed, Nov 13, 2013 AT 9:43 pm - Eat Well
Seasonal Foods

Modern technology and transportation systems have enabled us to obtain various types of foods year-round. However, the quality of fruits and vegetables fluctuate with the seasons. Seasonality refers to a food’s peak harvest time. In turn, what is considered to be “seasonal” will vary widely depending on the crop’s geographical location.  We are lucky to live in California, since the almost perfect weather and rich soil contribute to a wide array of fresh fruits and vegetables and extended seasons for some produce. 

Reasons to Eat Seasonally:

If a food item is not in-season locally, it is likely to have been grown in another part of the world and shipped to your market. This transportation process contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and results in a high carbon footprint. Fruits and vegetables that are in season have a more full-bodied flavor than those that are not. Transporting crops requires them to be harvested prematurely. Fruits don’t ripen as effectively after being picked from their native plants and refrigerated. When produce is in season locally, the relative abundance of the crop usually makes it less expensive. Eating seasonal food supports the local farming economy.

Resources:

To learn more about seasonal fruits and vegetables, visit the Southland Farmers’ Market Association at: www.sfma.net/consumer/inseason.shtml

Farmers Market @ UCLA Calendar:

http://www.e3ucla.org/farmers-market.html

For information on purchasing and a seasonal, locally grown produce in pre-arranged community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes with pick up locations at UCLA, go to:

http://www.sustain.ucla.edu/our-initiatives/food-systems/csa/

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Wed, Nov 13, 2013 AT 9:28 pm - Mind Well
Enlightened?—How can we all achieve well-roundedness and find contentment?

By Maxwell James

  In the last three years I’ve spent at UCLA, I now know the good and bad changes I have experienced have contributed to an overall image of how to be the best student and person I can be.

  But I always have struggled with the “how.” It seems near impossible to stay “well-rounded”—a healthy body, mind and spirit seems rather to just be a working, changing and endless goal. And for starters, this struggle has expanded, flip-flopped, gone dormant and shifted throughout college.

  I also admit that I get anxiety in the constant awareness of what I am not doing. It’s all so hard to stay balanced and excel through. Demands. Demands. Demands.  It’s a never-ending cycle of rewritten iPhone calendar alerts and reminders.

  So what I created for myself in an attempt to stay balanced and sane—to be completely honest—is formulating a schedule where physical, emotional, mental and spiritual exercise work in near perfect concert. A red flag goes up when I know my time spent studying at Peet’s coffee shop exceeds 5 hours or on the other hand, when a full-length novel is unread and way overdue.

  My day-to-day fluctuates between daily meditation, physical exercise, academic work and social interaction. I rarely am able to perform these in equal doses but I make the intention to keep my life well-rounded between my mind, body and spiritual health.

  Although meditation, exercise, eating healthy, etc. are all not groundbreaking lifestyle choices by this decade, meditating regularly, personally, has helped build my self-esteem.  I can attest to how a lack of self-confidence enables my entire day to just plummet. I even react physically—slacked shoulders, tense muscles, and uneasiness throughout my whole body.

  To counteract this, I integrate meditation at the start of the day, around when I wake up: every morning, I sip on my cup of coffee and spend about 30 minutes meditating before I begin the adventures and even perils of the day. Even the space I designate for my mediation resonates with tranquility and positivity. It’s discipline and learned, but I ingrain meditation into my daily life. It has allowed me to connect with myself for a small block of uninterrupted time, without inner and external distractions immediately chipping away at my feelings, thoughts and behaviors for the day.

  UCLA’s MARC center continues to do incredible research and active work in establishing the benefits of mindfulness meditation, including improved immune-system functioning, decreased stress, improved awareness. And studies also prove how brief meditation can improve academic performance.

  However, my initial question when I first started meditating is how the hell am I supposed to turn off my thoughts?! Text messages sent, even flirtatious texts received, Facebook status alerts, the oh-so-frustrating-career changes, family obligations, oh my god—do I have to go on further? I literally googled how to meditate two years ago. Then I googled how to stop thinking while meditating. I thought maybe I am not cut out for this. But my interest was piqued by the not-so New-Age world beckoning for me to experience the apparent wonders of meditation. I wanted immediate results though.

  Then it finally started to click. I still struggle. But the affirmation of “I’m going to set aside time for myself” is what counts. Even if my 30 minute meditation is spent just focusing on my breath, I find gratitude in the intention, in the moments of just “being.” Instant gratification gives way for the experience of patience, gratitude and contentment invested in stillness.

  Last weekend, I attended a yoga class in downtown Santa Monica at Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga studio.  Of course, my slight tardiness—obviously traffic induced—results in my awkward entry; as I knock over candles and step over yogis’ mats while the class is silenced in downward dogs, I manage to settle in, yet cursing myself for running late again.

  Yoga is supposed to eliminate stress? Right. So I straighten out my yoga mat and look around to mock what pose the class was following.  I straighten my arms, curve my back and stagger my feet, left, right, left, right. I take my first deep breath in the class—inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth, “ahhh.”And silence.  Just breathe, Max.

  The yogi leading the class, Dan, walks around in between mat spaces, casually guiding us into complex core poses but simultaneously, he inspires. His humor and modern insight on what it means to be mindful in this crazy, brave new world makes the class so less intimidating but a chance to transition and stop.

  “Instead of reaching or straining, just be. Sometimes we can’t always be what we want to be, but it’s trying, it’s showing up that makes the difference.” His words resonate with me. It’s not about achieving perfection. The intentions make a difference.

  I can empathize with the “strive for perfection” and the near-always let down. It’s impossible to do everything. And we all know that, but there’s this part of me that adds too many goals to my weekly agenda and of course, I fail in keeping up with all these demands. What results is this semi-toxic, unsettling feeling that even a pint of Ben and Jerry’s is unable to subside.

   Instead, I’ve learned that the authentic  me is the one making that transition from stressful appointments, study dates, thoughts, and text messages into purely being—whether that be yoga, class, or even work.

  To be mindful is not about an enlightened Zen-like achievement but merely showing up, completely late, tired, grumpy, upset, disappointed, or angry. These negative emotions are part of us all, but it’s the coming-into-the-experience, with full recognition that we are flawed, that makes the moments real and “well-rounded.” That first breath I took at yoga this weekend became that instant where I was able to transition from the ego part of myself into the authentic me—eager and excited to learn but also tardy, a little frustrated and embarrassed.  Immersing myself into yoga encompassed the whole 100% of me.

  My spiritual journey as of yet keeps diverging, twisting and changing paths, but it’s been a learning process centered around the knowledge of how to be mindful and balanced in what I am. I know I cannot achieve perfection in school, physical health, work and my social circle. Yet, I set priorities for myself—what do I need for myself right now?

  This tuning into my “needs” has been one of the most powerful life lessons I’ve discovered so far: stay true to who you are. I eliminate the negative, admit the good, and accept the beautiful.  We are always learning, but this process of “tuning in,” in itself, is an incredibly valuable tool in making the best you.

-Maxwell James is an undergraduate student finishing his final year as an English major. His interests include mindfulness meditation, consciousness awareness, transpersonal psychology and mind/body health. He is also a member of Innergy and is actively practicing yoga. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact him at maxwellajames@gmail.com.


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Wed, Nov 13, 2013 AT 12:33 pm - Move Well
Music & Movement and How it Improves Your Health

Greetings from the Move Well Team! 

Did you know that coordinated rhythmic movement rituals like dance have a mountain of health benefits? 

The goal of this month's MOVE WELL BLOG is to introduce you to the perceived health benefits associated with participating in dance classes. It's never too late to begin to explore the practice of dance across any number of cultural traditions as a route to healthy living. 

What's that you say? You "can't dance?" 

If your personal dance "history" is limited-to-non-existent, or if you are otherwise a dance-skeptic, read on...or BETTER YET...scroll down to the FREE cultural dance events on the UCLA campus listed at the end of this post. 

UCLA is home to an array of cultural dance offerings on campus, including some participatory free events in the coming days! For UCLA students in particular, we have listed some Winter Quarter dance offerings that may be flying under your radar. 

For those of you who prefer to understand the "science" behind dance as a perceived health benefit, you may be surprised to know that, in addition to the deep cultural meanings that dance articulates across various movement traditions and geographical regions, neuro-cognitive experts have claimed that BOTH the doing and the witnessing of live dance performance can improve overall wellness and enhance quality of life. Dance and health writer Veronica Hackthal published a pair of eJournal articles on the benefits of dance participation this past summer for Dance USA, the national service organization for dance in the United States. 

In Part One of her "Come Dance With Me" series, Hackthal champions the physical, psychological, and physiological processes that ritualized dance practices engender, at all stages of the lifespan. She cites neurocognitive changes that occur during and after dance practice (endorphin release, etc.,) that contribute to mood changes and that improve learning overall for those who take a chance on dance. 

Read more from Hackthal on the scientific and practical uses of dance and brain function here: 

Still UNCONVINCED?

Well, our best advice to quell your questioning mind and body is to TRY out a basic or introductory dance class. Dance is, after all, a movement practice that you can only LEARN by DOING. Make a commitment to yourself to "try some new moves" this month, and see how dance teaches you something about what you, and your body, can do. 

Check out the campus dance opportunities available below at Bruin Plaza, Wooden Center,  and in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance in Glorya Kaufman Hall.

FREE CAMPUS WIDE EVENT: World Music & Movement Festival
When:
November 16, 2013, 11am-5pm
Where: Bruin Plaza

With the prevalence of popular music and dance genres in social media, the chances of being exposed to unique cultural and traditional practices are rare. Even in Los Angeles, the most diversely populated city in California, there is still a lack of appreciation for diverse culture. Therefore, we are planning a World Music and Movement Festival to be held at UCLA on Saturday November 16th from 11am-5pm in Bruin Plaza. This festival will display world traditions through performing arts, in our effort to make the public more aware and involved with different cultural practices. **FREE** More information available on the World Music and Movement website.

UCLA Recreation Dance Classes (non-credit, open to campus community, enrollment is limited) Explore world history and culture through Dance. Throughout history, people across the world have used dance for self-expression, to tell stories, celebrate traditional events, and to maintain communal bonds. Whether you have limited dancing experience or you are perfecting your moves, our dance classes will help you relieve stress, ease tension, and tone muscle all while having a great time. So choose your pleasure and EXPRESS YOURSELF! http://www.recreation.ucla.edu/dance 3. Beginning Dance Courses Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance Winter Quarter

**Students are encouraged to follow the DANCE subject header to the following offerings on URSA or the UCLA Schedule of Classes. Enrollment is limited, early registration is encouraged**.

DANCE 8: Beginning Afro- Brazilian T/R 430-550pm 2 credits

GKH 230 Instructor: Samantha Goodman Beginning-level study of world arts practices originating from Latin America, including cultures of South and Central America. Variable topics, such as Argentine tango and Mexican folkloric dances, in cultural and historical context. May be repeated for credit without limitation. P/NP or letter grading. Section Description:  Introduction to Afro-Brazilian traditional and popular dances from region of Salvador, Bahia. Survey of variety of dances including Orixa (deity) movement, Dança Afro, Samba de Caboclo, and Samba Reggae. Exploration of uses of spine, body isolations, and energetic/expressive qualities inherent to these dances, as well as their rich cultural and historical contexts. DANCE 10: Beginning Tai Chi Chuan T/R 830-950am 2 credits GKH 1000 Instructor: Jason Tsou Beginning-level study of world arts practices originating from East Asia, including China, Korea, and Japan. Variable topics, such as movement and music techniques of Beijing Opera, Korean shamanic movement practices, and Kabuki theater, in cultural and historical context. May be repeated for credit without limitation. P/NP or letter grading. Section Description:  Designed to help beginning students fully understand Tai Chi Chuan principles and their application in martial arts and meditational exercise. Emphasizes static and dynamic Tai Chi, method of yin-yang balance, Tai Chi Chikung (Qigong) with Tai Chi ball and Tai Chi bowl exercise, cycle and rhythm, five elements in Tai Chi Chuan, Reeling Silk energy built-up through random circle drills, and detailed studies on Yang and Chen style Tai Chi Chuan forms. DANCE 11: Beginning Bharata Natayam

M/W 1030-1150am 2 credits GKH 214 Instructor: V. Prakash Beginning-level study of world arts practices originating from South Asia and extending to cultures of South Asian diasporas, including communities in England and West Africa. Variable topics, such as Bharata Natyam (classical dance of India), bhangra (diasporic social dance), and hatha yoga, in cultural and historical context. May be repeated for credit without limitation. P/NP or letter grading.  Section Description:  Beginning positions, movements, and music of Bharata Natyam, classical dance form of India. 

Happy Dancing! The Move Well Team

~Sarah Wilbur
MFA, PhD Candidate
UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance


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Thu, Oct 17, 2013 AT 2:42 pm - Be Well
Blue + Gold = Green... Why I am proud to be a Bruin!

Did you know that UCLA was just rated one of the top green campuses in the nation?

If you're looking for a way to make a difference on campus and in the world, there are a million ways to contribute here on campus. You're only limited by your imagination. 

How many college students can say that they can both enjoy the warm sunlight and use that sunlight to charge their computer at the same time? No, really! We have tables with solar panel umbrellas and outlets! Walk inside, and our student union even has solar panels on the roof!

We also have farmers markets right on campus three times a quarter! Fresh, local, organic food in the middle of your walk to class.

Furthermore, UCLA will be zero waste by 2020. This is impressive, especially because UCLA is the size of a medium sized city. Can you imagine if an entire city became zero waste?

All of these attributes are part of the reason that I am so glad to be a Bruin, a result of the power of undergraduate students to make a difference on campus.

Something that many people don’t know is that student fees include a small amount sectioned off for green initiatives (The Green Initiative Fund). Six bucks a quarter, but this really adds up! And all this money is just waiting for undergraduate students to apply and use for improving the sustainability on campus.

I have been lucky to be involved with E3: Ecology, Economy, Equity - the largest sustainability group on campus. Our work is rooted in the three E’s of sustainability:

1.  Ecology

2.  Economy

3.  Equity

We have a group of awesome student leaders who are willing to sacrifice their GPAs and sleep, spending all of their energy on making UCLA a leader in sustainability and exciting other students about being eco-friendly.

One of our biggest recent accomplishments was putting on the first ever bike-powered concert at UCLA last year, Ecochella, featuring student bands, bike powered ice cream, smoothies and light show! Physically engaging students in generating their own energy is a great way to educate people on alternative energy and awareness of energy consumption in general. Plus, you kill two birds with one stone: physical activity + alternative energy!

Over the years our Earth Day Fair has become such a big event that we had to turn it into “Earth Month”! We feature a green cooking competition, as well as a recycled art competition, and over seventy on- and off-campus groups with tabling and activism relating to sustainability. Throughout the month, we also have speaking panels, farmers markets and more!

We also have a student run organic garden on campus.

As much as we have accomplished, there is still a long ways to go. We are still working on projects related to Fair Trade, energy-free events, gardening on campus, and much more.

I think UCLA has done a great job of becoming a leader in sustainability, and I am very excited and proud to brag to people from other universities about how much we have accomplished. This is my last quarter at UCLA and I am sad to be graduating, but I will be proud to leave UCLA knowing I helped with much of our progress, that I was able to make my mark on UCLA. I am thrilled that freshman will come to UCLA and take for granted farmers markets and Ecochella. These things are staples of the UCLA community as a result of undergraduate initiative.

Meeting the freshman at E3 meetings this quarter has brought me unlimited optimism to see the campus 4 years from now because of the amazing ideas they have to make UCLA more sustainable!

What will you choose to do with your years at UCLA?

~Emily Anderson
Chair of the UCLA Undergraduate Group E3: Ecology, Economy, Equity


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Tue, Oct 15, 2013 AT 9:55 am - Move Well
Sitting is the New Smoking- Even for Runners

Are you an active couch potato? No? 

Are you a avid runner who also works up to 9-hours a day at a desk? 

If responded to the second question even slightly in the affirmative, then the correlations raised by this Runner's World article may inspire you to move a little, to move more, or to move differently not just once a day, but throughout your daily routine. Even if you schedule regular, diligent, exercise routines into your daily regimen, this article and related studies suggest that active people who work long hours in seated positions are at risk for many negative health symptoms as their couch-potato friends. Read on and feel free to comment here... 

What is YOUR "movement" solution to being stuck at your desk?

Please COMMENT and share you "movement solutions"--no matter how big or how small--with readers and with the MOVE WELL team throughout the month of October. Your input will help keep UCLA moving!

In case you are truly, "stuck" in this challenge, the HCI MOVE WELL team wanted to contribute a very low-intensity, movement sequence for you to consider (below) as a way to "re-boot" your energy, your work session, and to avoid some of the negative correlations that are mentioned in this article. 

Don't forget to COMMENT and share your "movement solutions" here with other readers!

Sincerely, The MOVE WELL Team SEATED STRETCH: 2 minutes The goal with this exercise is to further connect and unify breath and movement through dynamic stretching and spinal flexion. All you need to execute this series (a modified yoga-inspired "sun salutation") is to push your chair away from the desk so that you have enough forward room to flex the spine at the waist. You also need room to reach your arms up from the sides. Preparation: lower the arms to their sides, and to wiggle the toes and fingers, increasing circulation to the “distal” points of the body. 

Step 1: Bring the hands in front of the chest – pressing the palms together. Inhale and carve the fingertips down toward the floor and then lift arms straight side and up overhead while pressing the feet into the floor, taking focus gently up toward the fingertips/ceiling. 

Step 2. Exhale, folding torso forward over lap/legs. Fold arms on legs as a brace for upper body for modified seated forward bend (***See note below on forward flexion.) 

Step 3. Inhale, lift head and extend the back up and forward into a flat back position, looking straight ahead. Be mindful not to jam the neck. 

Step 4. Exhale. Relax the head, fold the torso back over (as in step two). 

Step 5. On the final inhale, roll up from the bottom of the spine sequentially up to a “neutral” seating posture, starting with aligning the pelvis, then the ribcage, then the chest, and then the head.

***PLEASE NOTE: this forward flexion series is not recommended for those with lower back or neck problems and, like with all physical exercise, should be attempted with sensitivity to your own bodily sensations and limitations.

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Tue, Oct 8, 2013 AT 1:13 pm - Mind Well
Eat Well to Mind Well

First, a shout out to my man Bob Bilder for inviting me to contribute to the Mind Well blog. I’ve been following blogs for 5 years now, but this is my first post!

Would you like to boost your mental performance? Become a mental athlete? How about feel like a million bucks every day, from the moment you wake up to the second your head hits the pillow at the end of a great day?

Well, something might be getting in your way from achieving these goals…or at least coming closer to them than you are now, a lot closer. I’ve discovered through reading tons of blogs discussing the primary scientific as well as clinical literatures, and by wading through much of the empirical work myself, one of the big secrets to what might be holding you back from your peak performance. Diet. I don’t mean a diet that is designed to help you lose weight, although a healthy diet can do that, too. I mean the way you eat on an ongoing basis. Let me ask you a question. What does a cow eat (I don’t mean those feedlot cattle)? How about a pig, a gorilla, a lion? If you were to design a zoo to keep the animals as healthy and thriving as possible, you’d want to know the answers to these questions. And thriving is not just about physical wellbeing, but also about mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.

Are you surprised to hear me say that food and nutrition can profoundly affect the mind? The Mind, after all, is the function of the brain, the endocrine system, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, enteric nervous system, and so forth. Even the microbiome, those denizens of microbes that reside in our guts, on our skin, in our noses, and on every hair follicle, are affected by the nutrients we consume and contribute to our ability to process nutrients. They’re also affected by the toxins we ingest. The functioning of all of these organ systems, among which I include the microbiome, depends on what we put in our mouths. Put the wrong foods into our bodies or the right foods in the wrong amounts, can lead malfunction and promote disease. A malfunctioning brain becomes a malfunctioning mind.

As I’ve said, I’ve spent the past 5 years poring through the literature on the question, what is a healthy human diet, and I’ve put my knowledge to practice through self-experimentation. And you know what? Not only have I lost some girth around the midsection, leaned out overall, put hunger cravings at bay, seen dramatic improvements in seasonal allergies and recover from common colds and flues much more rapidly, and put a genetically based autoimmune disorder called EPP (erythropoietic protoporphyria) into remission. I also feel better mentally, more optimistic and full of energy. I don’t suffer from brain fog anymore, especially in the afternoon about an hour after lunch. Brain fog has plagued me all my life (I even blame it in part for the fact that I had to be held back to repeat second grade). My mental focus, clarity, and elevated even-keeled mood are likely due to the big dietary change I went through in adopting what is sometimes referred to as the paleo diet, though I prefer the term ancestral diet (for reasons I’ll get into another time).

So, the foods we consume and choose to avoid, that is, our diet, can play a big…no, a HUGE role in both our physical and mental health. Not only that, but a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that costs for dementia car in 2010 were about $200 billion, which is about double the costs expended on heart disease, and nearly three times the costs spent on treating cancer patients!

Clearly, we need to reverse course as individuals AND on a population scale. Diet is a low-hanging fruit, so to speak. Unlike the toxins in our environment from chemical (e.g., fire retardants in furniture, particulate matter and smog from the burning of fossil fuels, etc.) and technology sources (e.g., EMF exposure), what we put in our mouths is something we have inherently greater control over. What are some of the things I learned about what an optimal diet is for the human animal?

First, avoid industrially-processed foods. The primary culprits here are the three biggies: sugar, industrial-seed oils (aka vegetable oils), and refined carbohydrates (i.e., anything turned into a flour, or made from a flour). There is a burgeoning literature, growing every day (like our waistlines, eh?) implicating these types of highly processed and refined foods in all kinds of disease and unwellness states, such as cancer, autoimmune disease, metabolic disorders (including obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus), chronic cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease, atherosclerosis, and stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, and impaired cognition. The evidence comes from all facets of science, from epidemiological studies (that typically only provide data on associations between factors, but not causal information), bench science from physiologists and biochemists, and clinical trials.

Second, put the right food in your body. What foods should we be consuming to optimize our physical and mental health, to Be Fit? In two words: Real Food (am I channeling Michal Pollen?). What is real food? Animals and plants. More specifically, those animal and plant foods that don’t require industrial processes, chemicals, and synthetics to get it into a consumable form on your plate. This list includes animal products, especially from pastured animals and wild caught seafood (fish and shellfish). Our human ancestors, including contemporary hunter-gatherers, foragers, and pastoralists, in particular prized the most nutrient dense part of the animals, which includes the organ meats and bone marrow. These organs contain much of the healthy fats that contain the much needed fat-soluble vitamins (e.g., preformed Vitamin A, K2, and D3), which are critical to physical and brain health. And organic plants, especially those low in toxins. The plants highest in toxins include grains and legumes, which are the embryos of the plant and thus have a diverse array of anti-predatory chemical defenses. Traditional cultures that consumed grains and legumes knew to treat them with respect, by sprouting and/or soaking them, or lacto-fermenting them. These traditional food preparation techniques dramatically reduce many of the anti-nutrients contained in the seeds, as well as increased the bio-availability of the nutrients that are present but locked-into the seed (e.g., minerals). Also, if you’re going to cook, don’t use a can of spray-on “fat” like Pam, or any industrially produced seed-oils (aka vegetable oils). Instead use animal fats (tallow, lard, duck fat), and plant oils that can be extracted without industrial processes, such as coconut oil and olive oil. These oils are much lower in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs; especially lower in omega-6 fatty acids), and thus are more shelf stable (won’t oxidize and create free radicals), and the saturated fats are in particular very heat stable and thus are the best cooking oils.

I’m not an expert in any of these areas, but I’ve read a ton of research and blogs that review this research. So instead of taking my word for it; I’ve provided a list of some of the top blogs and web-accessible discussions of this literature. I hope you will take the time to peruse this (dive in anywhere that looks interesting and let the ship take you where it will). Come back here with comments and questions. The only way forward is through an open, but critical mind, and open respectful debate and discussion.

These blogs are chock full of interesting topics, some more specific in focus and others quite broad.

Finally, I encourage you to browse the videos of talks  from the three recent Ancestral Health Symposia, which I organized at UCLA (AHS11), Harvard Law School (AHS12), and Atlanta (AHS13).

Yours in health,

Aaron

~Aaron Blaisdell is UCLA Professor of Psychology and a member of the Brain Research Institute. He is also a member of the UCLA Evolutionary Medicine program. Dr. Blaisdell serves as one of three Editors-in-Chief of the nascent Journal of Evolution and Health. His research focuses on comparative animal learning and cognition. Recently, he has studied the role of diet quality on cognition in rats. He lives an ancestral health lifestyle in the climatological mecca of Southern California.

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Tue, Oct 8, 2013 AT 1:07 pm - Eat Well
Using Your iPhone to Improve Your Eating Habits and Live Healthier

Life at UCLA can be demanding- between classes, friends, homework, sports, and clubs- we often forget how important it is to take care of our bodies and to think positively about them. We’re very excited to announce an innovative and convenient way to help you develop healthy eating and exercise habits coming to UCLA in January! The Healthy Body Image program is an online program that can be accessed right from your iPhone or computer. It begins with a survey that helps identify which tips and skills would be most helpful for you. We understand each person is different, so the program is designed to fit your unique needs. You’ll complete engaging activities, learn healthy tips to treating your body right, and anonymously connect with other college students who are also using the program to help them live healthier lives. 

The Healthy Body Image program has been used by thousands of college students just like you. Our technology partner, ThriveOn, has developed an iPhone app and online platform to help you access Healthy Body Image anytime, anywhere. UCLA will start enrolling interested students in January 2014. Check the CAPS website when you return from winter break to get the link to the survey! For more information on this exciting program, check out our website: https://thriveon.com.

Be sure to look out for our flyers next quarter for information about how to sign up! Feel free to email CAPS Psychologist Gia Marson, Ed.D. at gmarson@caps.ucla.edu. Dr. Marson, Director of the CAPS Eating Disorders Program, is UCLA’s campus coordinator for this online Healthy Body Image Program.  

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Wed, Sep 18, 2013 AT 9:13 am - Mind Well
WANTING

Do you want to win the lottery? Chances are, you answered Yes. Okay, so you’ve got the first part down. It’s a fact, focusing on what you want rather than what you don’t want is key to improving mood and living a better life. But, where do you go from there…what about taking action… making change… actually achieving what you want? Do you buy a lottery ticket everyday? Chances are, you answered No. This is because our brains spend energy and currency (thoughts and actions) on things and events that we actually expect to happen, not on things we just merely want to happen. If you truly expected to win the lottery, you would most likely buy a lottery ticket each and every day. 

I worked with a patient who wanted so badly to be in a mutually loving and committed relationship. She created vision boards, collaging pictures of happy couples and she wrote daily about the happy relationship she desired so strongly. After spending time researching and writing about the cognitive power of anticipation, I asked her, out of 1-10 (1 being the least likely and 10 being the most likely) how much she actually expected to be in the type of relationship she wanted, and she replied, “2, sometimes 3”. Right there I knew she barely stood a chance. She could go on wanting a relationship every day, just like you and I, who want to win the lottery, but without a strong expectation that she was likely to be in one soon, she would be spending very little brain currency on allowing herself to meet her match. 

GREAT EXPECTATIONS LEAD TO GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS

I have spent a lot of time working specifically with people on identifying their wants and expectations, revealing huge gaps between the two, then guiding the work and efforts to close this gap, making the relationship between wants and expectations much more symbiotic and positively correlated. Achieving your goals and dreams require you to know what you want but, beyond that, it requires work and a shift in your expectation. So, next time you set a goal or have an intention or desire, ask yourself these questions: What is it that I want and How much do I expect this to happen? 

There is a RIGHT Way to Want: 

1. Identify what it is that you want. This can be surprisingly difficult. Unfortunately, at times, it is much easier for us to identify what it is that we don’t want, rather than what it is that we do want. You can use this as a tool to identify what you do want. 

2. Once you figure out what it is that you do want, write it out clearly, as a positive statement. Our brains work much better within these contexts. For example, when presenting our brain with, “I want healthy lungs” rather than “I want to quit smoking because it is bad for me” our brain tends to have more availability to create positive steps of action to achieve goals. Our brains don’t tend to work well with negative statements which is why many times telling yourself “Quit smoking” or “Quit bitting my nails” is not an effective way to cease habits or addictions. 

3. After identifying a clear and positive want or goal, identify why it is that you want this. What about this would make your life that much better? Change is a very hard state for humans, the only way change happens is if you can identify wanting something so much more than what your current state is and why. 

4. Now you are ready to ask yourself the magic question, “From a rating of 1-10, How much do I expect this to happen?” The lower the number you rate, the more work around improving your expectation you will have to do. Regardless of your answer, go on to step 5. 

5. Now that you have identified what it is that you want and why it is that you want it, spend some time visualizing what it is like to have this already. Visualize, using all of your senses, having healthy lungs, or that new job, or a secure and loving relationship… Many studies have proven that if you can visualize a goal, especially utilizing all of your senses (what does it feel, smell, taste, sound and look like) you are much more likely to achieve it … this is because you are much more likely to increase the likelihood of EXPECTING that this could happen for you!

6. Now, make this very important statement, “Now that I can (see myself achieving that new job/ feel what it is going to be like to be in such a loving relationship/ feel how easily I could breathe and how my healthy lungs enabled me to become a runner… ) my new expectation of how likely it is for this goal to occur is ___ (this number will definitely increase) 

After going through these sets and mapping our a goal or a want in this way, you are significantly more likely to develop the small steps and actually take action towards achieving your goal. 

Happy Wanting! 

~Dr. Deepika Chopra holds a doctorate in clinical psychology with a concentrated interest in Health Psychology, the connection between mind/body and Innovative Cognitive Science. Dr. Chopra is an alumna of multiple UCLA programs.   In addition to completing her BA in Sociology from UCLA, she also completed post-doctoral training programs at the David Geffen School of Medicine and our affiliated site at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.  Dr. Chopra is passionate about studying the benefits of optimism and is driven to innovate new methods that help individuals enhance their positive future and present thoughts and behaviors. She can be reached at drdeepikachopra.com.  

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Wed, Sep 18, 2013 AT 9:12 am - Mind Well
WANTING

Do you want to win the lottery? Chances are, you answered Yes. Okay, so you’ve got the first part down. It’s a fact, focusing on what you want rather than what you don’t want is key to improving mood and living a better life. But, where do you go from there…what about taking action… making change… actually achieving what you want? Do you buy a lottery ticket everyday? Chances are, you answered No. This is because our brains spend energy and currency (thoughts and actions) on things and events that we actually expect to happen, not on things we just merely want to happen. If you truly expected to win the lottery, you would most likely buy a lottery ticket each and every day. 

I worked with a patient who wanted so badly to be in a mutually loving and committed relationship. She created vision boards, collaging pictures of happy couples and she wrote daily about the happy relationship she desired so strongly. After spending time researching and writing about the cognitive power of anticipation, I asked her, out of 1-10 (1 being the least likely and 10 being the most likely) how much she actually expected to be in the type of relationship she wanted, and she replied, “2, sometimes 3”. Right there I knew she barely stood a chance. She could go on wanting a relationship every day, just like you and I, who want to win the lottery, but without a strong expectation that she was likely to be in one soon, she would be spending very little brain currency on allowing herself to meet her match. 

GREAT EXPECTATIONS LEAD TO GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS

I have spent a lot of time working specifically with people on identifying their wants and expectations, revealing huge gaps between the two, then guiding the work and efforts to close this gap, making the relationship between wants and expectations much more symbiotic and positively correlated. Achieving your goals and dreams require you to know what you want but, beyond that, it requires work and a shift in your expectation. So, next time you set a goal or have an intention or desire, ask yourself these questions: What is it that I want and How much do I expect this to happen? 

There is a RIGHT Way to Want: 

1. Identify what it is that you want. This can be surprisingly difficult. Unfortunately, at times, it is much easier for us to identify what it is that we don’t want, rather than what it is that we do want. You can use this as a tool to identify what you do want. 

2. Once you figure out what it is that you do want, write it out clearly, as a positive statement. Our brains work much better within these contexts. For example, when presenting our brain with, “I want healthy lungs” rather than “I want to quit smoking because it is bad for me” our brain tends to have more availability to create positive steps of action to achieve goals. Our brains don’t tend to work well with negative statements which is why many times telling yourself “Quit smoking” or “Quit bitting my nails” is not an effective way to cease habits or addictions. 

3. After identifying a clear and positive want or goal, identify why it is that you want this. What about this would make your life that much better? Change is a very hard state for humans, the only way change happens is if you can identify wanting something so much more than what your current state is and why. 

4. Now you are ready to ask yourself the magic question, “From a rating of 1-10, How much do I expect this to happen?” The lower the number you rate, the more work around improving your expectation you will have to do. Regardless of your answer, go on to step 5. 

5. Now that you have identified what it is that you want and why it is that you want it, spend some time visualizing what it is like to have this already. Visualize, using all of your senses, having healthy lungs, or that new job, or a secure and loving relationship… Many studies have proven that if you can visualize a goal, especially utilizing all of your senses (what does it feel, smell, taste, sound and look like) you are much more likely to achieve it … this is because you are much more likely to increase the likelihood of EXPECTING that this could happen for you!

6. Now, make this very important statement, “Now that I can (see myself achieving that new job/ feel what it is going to be like to be in such a loving relationship/ feel how easily I could breathe and how my healthy lungs enabled me to become a runner… ) my new expectation of how likely it is for this goal to occur is ___ (this number will definitely increase) 

After going through these sets and mapping our a goal or a want in this way, you are significantly more likely to develop the small steps and actually take action towards achieving your goal. 

Happy Wanting! 

~Dr. Deepika Chopra holds a doctorate in clinical psychology with a concentrated interest in Health Psychology, the connection between mind/body and Innovative Cognitive Science. Dr. Chopra is an alumna of multiple UCLA programs.   In addition to completing her BA in Sociology from UCLA, she also completed post-doctoral training programs at the David Geffen School of Medicine and our affiliated site at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.  Dr. Chopra is passionate about studying the benefits of optimism and is driven to innovate new methods that help individuals enhance their positive future and present thoughts and behaviors. She can be reached at drdeepikachopra.com.  

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Mon, Sep 16, 2013 AT 5:01 pm - Move Well
What Moves You?

If you’ve stumbled upon this blog, then chances are you are interested in the scope of the HCI’s movement-oriented resources, activities, and events. First of all, welcome! We are excited to continue to update you about the fitness, dance, and wellness activities that are under development by our team of MOVE WELL faculty, staff, and graduate student instigators. If you know our “drill”, then you should take a moment here, to…just…pause.

Sit upright in your chair if you have slouched.

Think about creating more space between the bottom of your ear lobes and the top of your shoulders.

Breathe.

Take five deep inhales in through your nose, and out through your nose.

Relax your forehead.

We’ll wait.

[This is your “movement” break]


Thank you.

Now, back to our topic:

What Moves You?

Movement can be simple. Movement can be small, internal, and mindful. Movement, in many ways, is inevitable. The MOVE WELL team encourages the UCLA community to take time away from the “verbs” of work—scrolling, typing, clicking, and sending—and to focus your energy on any task that allows you to connect with your body.

One of our jobs in the MOVE WELL blog is to remind you to tune in to your own movement. This means also thinking about what moves or inspires you to be who you are in the world. Movement, as we view it, is not only about fitness, or about learning a dance form or sport. Movement is also emotional, psychological, and culturally-specific.

By hailing your attention to the question: What Moves You?, the MOVE WELL team encourages you to join us in thinking about the healthy routes to self-expression and inspiration arts and creative experiences can provide.

Our team is geared up for this academic year with new leadership from Professor Angelia Leung from the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, who is working alongside Mick Deluca, Executive Director, UCLA Recreation and Campus Life to integrate arts participatory programming and resources into the MOVE WELL component of the Healthy Campus Initiative. One of our goals for the 2013-2014 year is to connect the UCLA campus community to participatory arts experiences that, in various ways, enhance psychological, physical, and creative health.

[By the way, are you still breathing?]

So, keep your eyes peeled for workshops, classes, live performances, research and resources that invite you to groove with various campus initiatives. In the words of choreographer Liz Lerman, “Nothing is too small to notice”, about how you move, and about what moves you.

We are looking forward to co-operating with you this year, through the HCI.

Onward!

~The Move Well Team
Sarah Wilbur, Choreographer and Graduate Student Researcher, Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance 

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Mon, Sep 16, 2013 AT 4:56 pm - Eat Well
Graduate and Professional School Students: How Do You Eat Well?

It’s the beginning of September, and our office, the Graduate Student Resource Center, along with the Graduate Students Association (GSA), is planning for Graduate Student Orientation and Equity, Inclusion, & Diversity Graduate Welcome Day. These campuswide events introduce our new graduate and professional school students to the programs, services, offices, and involvement opportunities UCLA provides.

We want you to have enough information and support to make the most of your time here at UCLA, and to achieve your academic, professional, and personal goals.To that end, we want to hear from you! What’s keeping you from eating well on campus? Or, if you are eating well already, tell us how you do it! 

For new graduate and professional school students: watch for the Healthy Campus Initiative table at the Graduate Student Orientation Resource Fair to learn more about wellness and healthy eating on campus. There are also tours of the John Wooden Center during the afternoon, Recreation mini-workshops, and a wellness panel.  Seegsrc.ucla.edu/orientation for more information. 

For new and continuing graduate and professional school students: Have questions about resources and getting involved on campus? Ask our office at gsrc@saonet.ucla.edu, see us in B-11 Student Activities Center, or find us at facebook.com/uclagsrc and @uclagsrc on twitter. 

And welcome to UCLA!

Graduate and professional school students, let us know:

  • How do you eat well at UCLA? What tips do returning students have for new ones?
  • What challenges keep you from eating w