Loneliness blog post


Loneliness is now regarded as an epidemic. The U.S. Surgeon General has recently released updated guidelines on loneliness to raise awareness on its detrimental effects ranging from mental health disorders to increased mortality rates. Social connection is an important protective factor against loneliness, and these released guidelines offer evidence-based recommendations to foster a sense of belonging in society.


Specifically, the guidelines outline a comprehensive approach to addressing loneliness with 6 notable pillars: 1) Strengthening social infrastructure in local communities, 2) Enacting pro-connection public policies, 3) Mobilizing the health sector, 4) Reforming digital environments, 5) Deepening our knowledge, and 6) Creating a culture of connection. These valuable strategies offer a relevant call to action for families, healthcare providers, and policymakers to implement in combating loneliness. For more see this link:


Loneliness blog post
7-Day Happiness Challenge

7-Day Happiness Challenge

The start of the new year brings an opportunity to intentionally invest in strong and meaningful relationships. Relationships, in particular, are well-documented to relate to a fulfilling and happy life, according to the longest-running study on human happiness, the Harvard Study of Adult Development. Relationships serve as an important buffer against stress, depression, and cognitive decline and are thus predictors of living longer. We invite you to join us in participating in the New York Times’ 7-day happiness challenge by reflecting upon your relationships and implementing these accessible tips to strengthen your community ties.


Day 1: Assess Your Relationships

To start the challenge, take this 10-question quiz to assess the strength of your current social relationships. This quiz will highlight particular areas of your relationships in which you can focus on building deeper connections, with a focus on the quality–rather than quantity–of those relationships. Take the quiz here.


Day 2: 8-Minute Phone Call

Reach out to someone you miss and would like to feel more connected with, and ask them if they have to schedule an 8-minute phone conversation this week. Let them know that you thought of them, and consider sending them the 7-day happiness challenge as well! An 8-minute phone call is enough time to hear the voice of someone you love and check in with them, while still feeling manageable enough to schedule in.


Day 3: Small Talk

Chat with a stranger, such as someone you meet while waiting at your bus stop or the cashier at your supermarket. Even brief interactions can enhance your mood, and people often find that they learn new things from strangers who are outside of their typical social circles.


Day 4: Living Eulogy

Take a few minutes to write out what someone you love means to you. Think of this as an exercise you would engage in if you didn’t know when you’d see them again, and share with them what you wrote in whatever format feels natural to you.


Day 5: Work Friendships

Take initiative in getting to know someone at school or work better. For example, you can follow-up on something that a colleague may have mentioned during a group meeting, or start a study group with classmates.


Day 6: Make a Social Plan

Make plans with someone and make sure to follow through on them, even if you may be tempted to postpone or cancel them. Finding a social activity that meets regularly, such as a weekly volunteer opportunity, can be a great way to help yourself engage with others more frequently.

Day 7: Commit to Consistency

As you set goals to continue building upon your relationships in the coming year, start small with manageable goals and create consistency in them. You can even think of ordinary activities such as morning coffee with family members as ritualized moments in your week.


Please try out this happiness challenge with us, and share your experience in our next pod meeting! This blogpost was adapted from the original New York Times article available here:


Flyers (2)

Fall 2021 Newsletter Feature: Promoting Social Well-being

Q&A with Dr. Ted Robles, EngageWell Pod Co-Leader

How can students improve or maintain their social well-being with our return to campus?

Do things together – from fun stuff to studying. Talk to one another and share experiences, both the good ones but also the stressful ones. Reframe social interactions – yes they can be time- and energy-consuming, yes you’ll be self-conscious – but if you view them as an opportunity to learn about other people’s lives and expand your understanding of the world that can help reduce some of that fatigue and anxiety. Be an attentive listener.

The Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Center’s 2021 Virtual Celebration this past May was called, “#BruinsTogether”. What is the idea behind #BruinsTogether?

The original idea was to create a hashtag campaign that encourages people to share how they’ve been able to maintain their connections during the pandemic. It also reflects an important way that we can promote healthy behaviors, from vaccination to masking to sustainability – by associating those acts of selflessness with what it means to be a Bruin. Any time we think of or use our common identity as Bruins to benefit others – that’s a great time to snap a picture of it and post it on social media with #BruinsTogether. How can we balance school, social, personal matters?

A good first start is to take some time and reflect on what values are really important to you. There are lots of “values assessments” or value clarification exercises that you can use to figure out what your important values are. Once you’ve done that, you know where your “north stars” are, and you can use those values to guide how you’ll devote and spend your time, and to figure out whether how you’re spending that time fits with what is important to you. There will be times that you may have to spend more time on school-related activities at the expense of other matters, or personal matters at the expense of school or social activities, etc. Knowing that you’re living in accordance with your values is one way you can take it easy on yourself when you’re not balanced. How do we introduce what social well-being is to others? How can we promote this as a campus community?

One straightforward way to think about social well-being is to consider whether your social needs are being met by your social network. You could be surrounded by friends and family, but they may not be needing your needs for companionship or emotional support. You could also have relatively few people in your social network, but be perfectly content with your social needs being met by that small number. In considering whether your needs are being met, if you feel happy or simply content, your social well-being is probably in good shape. If you feel like something is missing, or if people are with you but not “with you,” then you’ll want to figure out ways to increase your social well-being. The best way campus can promote social well-being is by encouraging connection and collaboration, whether through how we design our physical spaces or how we approach pedagogy (collaborative projects, even collaborating on exams.) In “real world” spaces outside the university classroom, collaboration is essential for success and growth. Academics has tended to encourage individualism, both explicitly and implicitly, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Check out Ted’s episodes on our LiveWell podcast to learn more about how you can improve your social well-being!


Q&A with Nami Murata, EngageWell Pod Undergraduate Pod Assistant

How do you reintroduce yourself in social situations?

It’s easy to want to “stick to what you know” and keep from branching out. When my friends finally started going out again, I often felt that I would rather stay in my sweatpants and binge-watch my show on Netflix. I had to remind myself to take every opportunity to surround myself with the people that I love because, as we’ve learned from the last year, that privilege can easily be taken away from us at once.

Some weeks may be busier than others, but I try to make plans with friends at least once a week, whether it’s to grab coffee in between Zoom meetings or a day trip to the beach. With that being said, I know when I need a day to relax and stay in the comfort of my own room.


What did you do to make friends when you came to UCLA?

As a freshman and sophomore at UCLA, I made most of my friends through my sorority, in my dorm building, and in my classes. I felt more intimidated in bigger lecture halls, so I found it easier to talk to people in discussion sections. Although most of my conversation starters had to do with classwork, it became natural to find common interests and have a study buddy.

I was also very close with the people I met during my orientation session. I kept in touch with them throughout the year and would often run into them in between classes. Having these normal encounters throughout the day makes the large campus feel much smaller and comforting.


What do you do when you want to reset or recharge after interacting with others?

Sometimes, I can get overwhelmed after seeing a large group of people at once – whether it’s in the workplace, with my family at home, or at a busy restaurant with my friends.

When I know that I need to take a step back to reset myself, I like to go outside for a run or do a Peloton workout. Being active and sweating helps me release some of those tense and anxious feelings almost instantly. During my run or workout, I try to maximize my efforts (running the extra mile, doing an extra rep, pedaling on the bike with higher intensity, etc.) and bring my attention to the task at hand if I feel myself mentally drifting away. When my brain is told to focus on one exercise at a time, I am able to escape from the millions of other stresses of life.


Court of Sciences Student Center – from UCLA Newsroom

Social Support: A Connection with Others

Navigating the world around us is hard, especially since we’ve lived through a global pandemic for over a year. While we can get busy with school, work, among other commitments as college students, it is extremely important to take care of ourselves. One form of self-care comes in the form of social support received from your support network.

Scarderra’s JAMA Network Open article, “Association of social support during adolescence with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation in young adults,” emphasizes that social support is a strong foundation that helps address mental health problems. The article posits that young adults above the age of nineteen who had a history of mental illness and who received social support had the following positive benefits:

  • Lower rates of depression
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Decreased suicidal ideation

Scarderra and colleagues analyzed data from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development, a population-based study of participants born between 1997 and 1998 from the age of five months to twenty years. At ages 19 and 20, 121 out of the 1174 individuals had experienced suicidal thoughts. Perceived support was significantly lower among men compared to women. Lower perceived social support was related to more symptoms of depression and anxiety, and that lower perceived social support was related to higher suicidal ideation. In regression models, individuals who reported a higher level of social support at age nineteen years had fewer mental health problems and reported less suicidal ideation.

In sum, social support is an important component of our lives, especially during young adulthood where there are multiple transition phases happening.

Big Takeaway

Social support keeps you connected to others. There are various examples of support that can keep you and many others uplifted during these chaotic times. If you are struggling to keep yourself connected, feel free to check out the resources listed — we are here for you, Bruins!  #BruinsTogether

For additional resources on the topic of relationships, here are a few:

EngageWell Blog Post, February 2021 – Jessica Nunez

Healthy Engagements: Giving during the Pandemic

As we start a new year, we continue living in a pandemic; one that has left many of us working from home, losing a job, or unfortunately lamenting a loved one’s loss. While staying at home is important, maintaining social relationships helps nurture our emotional health and social well-being.

One way we can nurture our health and well-being during these prolonged times of quarantine can be described in one word: giving. 

In Ludmila Nunes’s cover story “Making Nice,” she highlights research on how giving and serving other individuals, can improve the giver’s own well-being. [1] Tristen Inagaki, an Assistant Professor at San Diego State University and UCLA alumnus (B.A., 2005; Ph.D., 2014) highlighted that in “giving to others, you might help them, but you might also help yourself.” Inagaki’s research suggests that prosocial behaviors  — which include taking care of others — can boost our health and well-being. In fact, the neurochemical mechanisms associated with giving to others increase our well-being and trigger feelings of satisfaction and warmth.

Even small acts of kindness can make a difference in peoples’ lives including actions on behalf of larger social causes, like donating to efforts to fight homelessness, hunger, and poverty. Additionally, another small act of kindness is giving advice. Research profiled in Nunes’s story found that students who gave advice to other students were more motivated to achieve their goals than those who only received advice. However, listening is also known to be an important form of giving and advice may be resented so doing this skillfully is critical.

In what ways can we give?

We may be thinking research proves that giving is fulfilling for both the giver and the receiver, but what ways can you give during this pandemic? Here are a few possibilities to consider:

  • Listen to others and find out how they are doing, give suggestions sparingly and advice only when someone asks for it.
  • Thank medical professionals, sanitation workers, teachers, grocery workers, among other essential workers when you interact with them or by donating for them to get meals.
  • Donate food or money to local organizations with pressing needs.
  • Learn about local food banks, homelessness initiatives and other causes until you can be more active again but make yourself a promise (or even a plan) that you will when it is safe.

One final important tip: For individuals who feel isolated during these times, showing gratitude to others for their efforts to keep the world moving right now goes a long way.  Not only does giving encourage us to focus less on ourselves and problems, but it also keeps us socially connected and is good for our health.




  1. Nunes, Ludmilla. “Making Nice: How Giving and Gratitude Can Rebuild Connections and Break Down Barriers.” Association for Psychological Science. (2020). https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/making-nice


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Engaging with the Pod

Michelle Craske

Social Engagement with the Depression Grand Challenge

Due to the varied consequences of this pandemic, social engagement has transformed into a virtual setting. Fortunately, the Depression Grand Challenge has taken steps to unite the community together. In partnership with BeyGOOD, this UCLA organization has created the COVID-19 Care Package that includes resources as well as tools designed to lift moods and ease the anxiety that comes with the ongoing crisis.

Michelle Craske

Based on studies led by world-known psychologist Michelle Craske, individuals can use the following five tools to help relieve stress:

Strategy 1: Connected (stay connected)

While there are restrictions to social isolation, staying connected with family and friends is an easy way to cope with the stress as well as anxiety that comes with this quarantine. In addition, people living with multiple family members, friends, and roommates are spending a longer period of time with them – all of which can add many distractions and a lack of structure into your life. Some tips to ensure there is a sense of peace in your life is creating a schedule that incorporates fun activities. This is important to make sure you are dedicating time for yourself.

Strategy 2: Control (focus on what you can control)

In the midst of the quarantine chaos, it is easy to become overwhelmed with all that is happening around you. However, an important idea to emphasize is to focus on what you can control because it helps minimize the attention away from the uncertainty. Focus on what you can control, which may include the following:

  • Prioritize your health. It is important to feel good during this quarantine by ensuring that you get regular sleep and taking time to rest if your body is asking for it.
  • Create a schedule. Designating certain hours for particular tasks in your schedule is essential – this will help you space out time for eating, sleeping, exercising, working, and socializing. Additionally, it will help prevent you from overscheduling your day.
  • Get your exercise in. Take a walk in your neighborhood, enroll in an online workout class with your friend, or schedule your own workouts.
  • Do something fun. Read a book, try a new recipe, learn a TikTok dance, or pick up a new hobby!

Strategy 3: Calm (engage in activities that make you feel calm)

Anxiety and stress may place you in an unstable state; for this reason, you must calm your nerves and body. To maintain yourself calm and relaxed, the CARE package recommends exercise, yoga, meditation, and slow breathing. Look out for exercise and yoga studio classes online — these classes guide you through deep breathing and meditation. If you want less intense workouts, you may consider a jigsaw puzzle, drawing, or even doing DIY activities.

Strategy 4: Cut down on the news

A large part of your concerns may rise from reading COVID-19 news. It is essential to keep yourself informed about the latest guidelines; however, this can ultimately heighten your worries and increase anxiety.

Strategy 5: Caring (give and receive kindness)

Be kind to yourself and others. While this statement is always mentioned, the smallest gesture can make a difference. Reach out to a friend, coworker, or neighbor who might be feeling lonely during this quarantine. Showing acts of kindness can help you feel better about yourself and minimize the sadness you are experiencing as well. Everyone can benefit from helping each other, we’re all in this together. There is hope.


Jessica Nunez is a third-year undergraduate student studying Cognitive Science and Spanish, Community and Culture. In addition to blogging for the EngageWell Pod, she interns for the Transplant Research and Education Center (TREC) where she communicates with Spanish-speaking kidney patients about their various treatment options. She is strongly passionate about working towards healthcare equity and fostering social change.

Journaling next to a cup of tea

Socially Engaging from Home

As quarantine still unfolds and you continue adjusting to change, your activities may consist of studying for your upcoming finals, wishing to see your friends in person, and playing another round of UNO with your family. In order to maintain positive energy in your household, you can keep yourself energized and productive with a variety of activities that can help you practice social engagement from home:

Exercise in your backyard

While there is no gym open to everyone’s convenience, there are a variety of exercises you can practice at home. In fact, you can make it fun by using the space in your backyard as an area to exercise.

Are you interested in practicing your yoga skills? Core Power Yoga has designed a set of classes to deepen your yoga practice. At Home Inversion Practice offers a diverse outline of exercises in order to maintain your form. They are meant to focus on your upper body, core, and lower body. Check them out!

In addition to these yoga sessions, you can follow exercises posted on Instagram and YouTube in order to get creative with your forms of fitness. They are a good way to keep you accountable in exercising with consistency. These are important to ensure that individuals maintain a form of exercise.

Journal in a notebook

Sometimes you want to express your thoughts on paper, if you are feeling overwhelmed. A personally good way to practice journaling is to dedicate a certain amount of time during your day to write about what you are thinking about. Based on my personal experience, it is a creative outlet to self-reflect and write about what is important to you. This can ultimately serve as a form of expressing gratitude to yourself and having a clear mind of what your plans are.

Journaling next to a cup of tea

Customize your personal space

Are you feeling low in energy and unproductive during this quarantine? It is important to design your workspace into a relaxing place to help maximize your productivity and efficiency. Ways in which you can personalize your space is by adding pictures that remind you of your college experiences and by organizing supplies to add a scholarly vibe to your space. These are important to ensure that individuals maintain a sense of creativity and order in the midst of the chaos of the quarantine.

What’s next?

While quarantine is still happening, there are important ways to stay active at home. Take the time to rejuvenate yourself and finish spring quarter strong. You got this, Bruins!


Jessica Nunez is a third-year undergraduate student studying Cognitive Science and Spanish, Community and Culture. In addition to blogging for the EngageWell Pod, she interns for the Transplant Research and Education Center (TREC) where she communicates with Spanish-speaking kidney patients about their various treatment options. She is strongly passionate about working towards healthcare equity and fostering social change.


Social Distancing: A Talk with the EngageWell Pod

With this novel idea of “Safer at Home,” have you struggled with social detachment and distress? While physical distance may imply social distancing, it does not mean effacing the connections you have with others.

Conversation among experts in the EngageWell Pod shine a light on maintaining social engagement during this time of physical distancing. EngageWell Pod Co-leader Ted Robles begins a conversation with Associate Vice Provost Dr. Wendy Slusser about maintaining social engagement and support with a podcast in this special Semel HCI series, “6 feet apart.”

Dr. Robles explains that social well-being primarily focuses on having good quality connections with friends, coworkers, and even dogs — regardless of the number you have — and fostering trust in them. Cancelling graduation, struggling with depression, and ending the school year early are factors affecting the student community. However, these variations from normal life are all the more reason to keep strong personal connections with the people you care about.

Dr. Robles provides the following three tips for maintaining a strong social well-being:

  1. Taking care of yourself and loved ones

  2. Listening to frontline workers’ stories

  3. Giving back to others

Ultimately, although we are experiencing physical distance, it remains necessary to prioritize social well-being to maintain holistic health in the time of COVID-19.

Semel HCI Staff holding a virtual meeting


Jessica Nunez is a third-year undergraduate student studying Cognitive Science and Spanish, Community and Culture. In addition to blogging for the EngageWell Pod, she interns for the Transplant Research and Education Center (TREC) where she communicates with Spanish-speaking kidney patients about their various treatment options. She is strongly passionate about working towards healthcare equity and fostering social change.


The UCLA Piano Project

Have you ever felt overwhelmed as you are walking to your third class, or even a three-hour long lab, during the day? As a 2019 mark on campus, the UCLA Piano Project was launched as an effort to foster a sense of relaxation and tranquility. In the midst of midterm season, playing the pianos located around campus pauses the chaos of running to class and cements a sense of peace with the beat of music.

The project was founded by UCLA alumnus Jeremy Barrett in January 2019 as an effort to bridge a connection between the student community and music. The project began with three pianos in the fall, and was made possible through funding from the Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Center and the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music as well as support from Chancellor Gene Block.

The pianos are located in four places around campus: Bruin Plate, Covel Commons, the Luskin Conference Hall, and Bruin Walk — all scattered in locations convenient for students’ pleasure. The music played on the piano is meant to transform a stress reliever into a harmonious sound for all.

Description of pianos across campus

According to a recent interview with Jeremy Barrett, the UCLA Piano Project was just an idea a few months back — an idea driven by the fact that most students are passionate about music and need a form of musical expression. His collaboration with staff and faculty helped solidify the plan and install accessible pianos around campus to unify the student community. Barrett explains that the Schoenberg Music Building donated four pianos after he was able to find a location for the pianos.

In fact, Barrett explains that Peter Angelis of UCLA Housing & Hospitality Services said, “Since they’ve been installed, impromptu performances have been non-stop and watching the social interactions of passersby with the pianists has been heartwarming. The pianos have brought a higher level of community and wellness to the Hill, and one that makes me wonder how we could have gone so long without the beautiful instruments.”

The student feedback on the piano project has been positive, as individuals believe the piano is a spontaneous outlet to channel their creativity on campus. There are opportunities in which individuals can play the piano in order to create a form of expression. UCLA students Jamie Adachi and Reshmi Vadapalli suggest that the pianos around campus create a nice distraction for them. Their evening walks on campus are enlightened by the fact that they can hear the piano play — a tranquil sound as they walk around campus and add peace to their walk.

“When we take an evening class on campus, we hear people play the piano on Bruinwalk and it is very calming,” Jamie Adachi mentions, “I appreciate hearing people play when I am walking to class.”

Jeremy Barrett emphasizes that the UCLA Piano Project was also constructed as an instrument of peace — one that could be heard in Los Angeles, California, America, and worldwide. The music could be heard in the steps of Bruin Plate, Sunset Village, and Luskin Conference Center. This served as a primary motivation for him to create the project.

In extension to this student experience, students living in the dorms mentioned that you can play the piano located in Covel Commons. Students who walk by the sound of the piano comment on the fact that it is a passive form of stress relief. These small acts of stress relief emphasize that students appreciate the university’s efforts to create a safe space among all. Their #homeawayfromhome, if you will.

The future plans of the Piano Project include incorporating different art forms and incorporating the concept of “Building Community Through Art” and organizing a “Paint the Piano” contest.

Ultimately, the UCLA Piano Project has sparked a conversation of stress relief and positivity among the student community. Jeremy Barrett’s work has changed the student community into a more musically-aware campus. The UCLA Piano Project has united students and the passion for music in a livid way — check it out!


Jessica Nunez is a third-year undergraduate student studying Cognitive Science and Spanish, Community and Culture. In addition to blogging for the EngageWell Pod, she interns for the Transplant Research and Education Center (TREC) where she communicates with Spanish-speaking kidney patients about their various treatment options. She is strongly passionate about working towards healthcare equity and fostering social change.