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A New Perspective on Social Relations – The Liking Gap

With new classes, meetings, and events, the start of a new quarter opens the door for us to meet different people and form new relationships. Here is something that may change the way you think about meeting others!

Whether it be contacting potential new roommates, reaching out to professors, talking to strangers, or chatting with friends, establishing connections can often be daunting and create thoughts of doubt, fear, anxiety, and nervousness.

Why is it that something so fundamental is the root of so much worry and uncertainty?

Psychologists and researchers from Cornell, Harvard, University of Essex, and Yale University attempted to find out and documented their results in the article, “The Liking Gap in Conversations: Do People like Us More Than We Think.”

What is the Liking Gap?  

The Liking Gap is the difference between how much people think others like them versus how much others actually like them. The article found that after people had conversations, people consistently underestimated how much their conversation partners liked them.

Why does it Exist?

The Liking Gap is attributed to multiple factors, including: (1) People do not fully express themselves and hide behind a guise of politeness. (2) People inhibit their true emotions in conversations for fear of being socially rejected (3) People are too consumed in their own thoughts of self-criticism that they fail to notice signals of their conversation partners liking them.

Five Experiments

Five experiments were conducted in order to study the Liking Gap. Each of the five studies reveals unique nuances to the Liking Gap phenomena.

Study 1a: People like others more than they perceive others like them.

Study 1a was conducted on people of all ages from a community near Yale University. In the study, two participants were paired up and instructed to have a conversation for around five minutes. After the conversations, the participants were separated and asked questions about how much they liked their conversations partners and how much they perceived their conversation partners liked them. The results showed that, on average, participants liked their conversation partners more than they perceived their conversation partners like them. The Liking Gap is confirmed in this interaction.

Study 1b: People fail to pick up on signals showing others found them likable.

Now that the Liking Gap had been addressed, researchers wanted to figure out whether or not the Liking Gap was justified. One hypothesis attributed the Liking Gap to a neglected-signal account, where people did outwardly show signals of interests in their conversation partners, but their conversation partners were unable to identify the signals. In Study 1b, two trained research assistants observed the conversations recorded in study 1a. The researchers estimated how much the subjects liked each other, based solely on the videos of the conversations. The results revealed that the researchers’ observations aligned with how much participants reported actually liking each other. Their observations, however, did not align with how much participants perceived others liking them. Study 1b supported the neglected-signal hypothesis of the Liking Gap. Even though physical signals indicating likability were shown , people were unable to pick up on the signals.

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Results of Studies 1a and 2: mean ratings of actual and perceived liking of conversation partners. From Boothby et. al. 2018.

Study 2: People are too busy forming negative thoughts about themselves to notice how much others like them.

Study 2 tried to uncover why people were missing signals from others showing interest towards them. The researchers hypothesized that participants were too consumed in their own thoughts that the participants were unable to pick up on signals from others. In the study, participants recruited from Yale University were instructed to converse for approximately 5 minutes. Other than assessing how much they enjoyed conversations with direct questions, participants were also asked to form their most salient thoughts about how their conversation partners viewed them and their most salient thoughts that they formed about their conversation partners. The results indicated that people’s most salient thoughts about how others viewed them were generally more negative than their most salient thoughts about how they viewed others. Participants salient thoughts were also affected by the Liking Gap, supporting the idea that people were too busy forming negative thoughts about themselves to notice signals of likability coming from others.  

Study 3: Even with longer conversations, people still underestimate how much others like them.

Study 3 was conducted in order to find out if the Liking Gap was dependent on the duration of conversations. Participants recruited from the Harvard Decisions Science Laboratory were instructed to have conversations for however long they wanted to and were then  asked to report on how much they liked others and how much they perceived others liking them. Generally, observations showed that no matter how long the conversation, people continuously underestimated how much their conversations partners liked them and enjoyed the conversations. The study also discovered that even participants who had longer conversations reported a Liking Gap. This study proved that even in longer conversations, where people would theoretically be given more time to open up to each other, people still underestimated how much others liked them.

Study 4: The Liking Gap exists outside the lab.

Since studies 1-3 were conducted in laboratories, the authors decided to conduct Study 4 at a public event to see whether or not the Liking Gap could be observed in natural settings. For the experiment, the investigators observed strangers who attended “How to Talk to Strangers” workshops. People were instructed to find a conversation partner and spend five minutes introducing themselves to others. Both pre-conversation and post-conversation questionnaires were given. The study revealed that pre-conversation, participants predicted that they would find their conversation partners to be more interesting than them and post-conversation, participants confirmed their initial thoughts and reported that their conversations partners were more interesting than them. The study highlighted how the Liking Gap persisted in natural settings.

Study 5: In college freshmen, the Liking Gap persisted until around May, when roommates move out or continue living together.

The last study was conducted on incoming first years to college, who were instructed to take five surveys over the length of the academic year. Through similar techniques and analysis, the researchers were able to find that the Liking Gap persisted between roommates in the first four surveys, from initial meeting in September to around February. In the last survey, however, which was taken in May, the Liking Gap ceased to exist and there was no underestimation in how much participants believed their roommates liked them. Researchers attributed the absence of the Liking Gap in the fifth study to the fact that roommates would be forced to have conversations about potentially rooming with one another for next academic year and uncertainties about whether or not people actually liked each other would be brought up to the surface.

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Results of Study 3: mean ratings of actual and perceived liking (left) and actual and perceived conversation enjoyment (right), separately for participants who engaged in short, medium, and long conversations. From Boothby et. al 2018.

Why is this important?

When people cannot comfortably express themselves, they leave conversations uncertain whether their conversation partners truly enjoyed their presence. This insecurity decreases their likelihood of connecting with that person again. The Liking Gap creates a barrier to forming new connections with others and reinforces overly self critical tendencies.

Acknowledging the Liking Gap can help us resist its impact on forming meaningful social connections. Think of all the relationships that could have been created had it not been for the Liking Gap. Our mistaken beliefs about people we have conversations with should not deter us from meeting people who have the potential to be great friends and mentors.

Because of the Liking Gap, we are often too caught up in our own thoughts of “oh, do they like me?” and are not present enough in the conversation. We are unable to provide our conversation partners with our attention and express ourselves fully. The Liking Gap shows us how pervasive negative thoughts can be and how they may affect our conversations and relationships.

Most importantly, understanding the Liking Gap can help us change the way we interact with others. The Liking Gap does not have to exist. We have the ability to recognize this pattern and recognize when we are limiting ourselves from more meaningful connections with others.

What should we do now?

As part of EngageWell, our mission is to promote social connection and foster greater social well-being in students staff and faculty. We encourage you to think about ways the Liking Gap may have kept you from creating meaningful relationships. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Start a conversation around the Liking Gap. I shared some of the findings in this post with my friends and many were extremely interested in the topic could relate to the experience.
  2. Reach out to someone you don’t know – professors, peers, TAs, faculty. You’ll be surprised at how differently you approach conversations without reservations of uncertainty
  3. Find someone that you initially had reservations in approaching and strike up a conversation. Do not let your fear of not being liked stop you from approaching potential friends!

The full article if you are interested:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797618783714

 

 

Jessica Yang is a second year student majoring in Environmental Science with a concentration in Environmental Health. On top of blogging for Semel HCI, she is part of club swimming and hopes to pursue a career in healthcare in the future. 

TKC

Teaching Kitchen Connections: Social well-being through Food

On October 16th, I had the pleasure of attending a Teaching Kitchen class at Sur La Table in Westwood.

The Teaching Kitchen Collaborative is a national initiative created in 2016 dedicated to “enhancing personal and public health across medical, corporate school, and community settings.” UCLA’s own chapter of Teaching Kitchen was started by Janet Leader, MPH, RD, Associate Director of Field Studies in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Fielding School of Public Health, and Kaitlin Reid, MPH, RDN of UCLA Student Health Education and Promotion with support from the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. The Teaching Kitchen Collaborative at UCLA has been offering classes since Spring 2017 to the health professional students including medical, dental, nursing, and public health. More recently, the TKC began to offer classes for UCLA undergraduates.

Through teaching kitchen classes, students are taught how to cook nutritious and affordable meals. All the while, students are given tips about integrating a healthier diet into their lives. The program also serves as a training ground for future dietitians. Stephanie Prideaux, a dietetic intern at the VA Greater Los Angeles and MPH student in the Fielding School of Public health showed students how to construct a nourishing meal using the MyPlate model and introduced students to resources on campus like the FITTED program where students can be offered free consultation with dietitians.

As Kaitlin Reid, one of the leading dietitians of UCLA’s Teaching Kitchen states, “In these classes, students are given the opportunity to strengthen skills and knowledge that serve their personal well-being now and in the future. They learn a holistic approach to feeding themselves which includes maximizing ingredients, connecting to the experience (and the people), and minimizing common misbeliefs about food and nutrition.”

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Collaborative Cooking

Teaching Kitchen goes far beyond its perceived appearance of educating students about eating healthier. It is also a catalyst in helping students foster social connections.

As I walked into the room at Sur La Table, students were in the middle of preparing the Tex-Mex pasta salad chef Claire from Sur La Table had briefed them on. Everything, from the process of cutting the vegetables to cooking the pasta to sampling the food required collaboration. One student cut the avocado while another student seasoned the salad and another student mixed the ingredients together. And as food was being prepared, students were in constant communication, ensuring all members of the group participated. Perhaps the salad was not salty enough or needed more vegetables. Other group members would collectively acknowledge the comment and more of an ingredient would be added. Making great food demanded inclusion, collaboration, and unity.

While vegetables were being chopped, I heard one student ask another, “Can I share the cutting board with you?” and the other happily obliged. After the food was prepared, students took sampling spoons and reached into the large bowl to sample their creation. The collective “yum hmm…” as everybody enjoyed the food was hard to miss.

Students prepared fresh veggies, tuna salad, chicken salad, and tomato soup in addition to the pasta salad. Once the food was done cooking, it was time to eat. As students scooped food into their bowls, conversation flourished. Students began to chat about their majors and why they signed up for the teaching kitchen class. They joked around and discussed their personal lives. Janet, Stephanie, Claire, and Kaitlin also asked questions and engaged in conversation with students. If nothing else, students were able to talk about how the food tasted. (The food tasted phenomenal, by the way. I had the chance to sample the food and needless to say, I will never question the utility of a can of tomatoes, which can be used as pasta sauce, soup, and a dip). The Teaching Kitchen cultivated an atmosphere of warmth and social stimulation. New acquaintances and friendships emerged through food.

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Connecting with Common Goals

Students came to the Teaching Kitchen with a common goal of learning how to cook healthy and nutritious meals. This common goal created a connection – a similar mindset for health and wellness. In the end, they were rewarded with potential new friends who they could call upon to cook future meals, walk to the farmers market, or hang out. The two-hour Teaching Kitchen was a great forum that fostered new connections and inclusivity and was an incredible experience to be a part of.

Upon leaving the Teaching Kitchen, students took a survey providing feedback about the event. These responses are a testament to the success of the Teaching Kitchen:

“Fun class which can let you make new friends by collaboration”

“This event was really awesome and was a great stress reliever and fun event to go to during the school week”

“The wealth of information it gave me regarding UCLA resources, and programs as well as good basic cooking knowledge with local store info to get them”

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Food and Connection Throughout the Ages

The correlation between food and connection is not a new idea.

Food has brought people together for many centuries. The National Geographic writes in a feature on the Joy of Food “To break bread together […] captures the power of a meal to forge relationships, bury anger, provoke laughter.” When people sit down together to prepare and enjoy a meal, they are able to share aspects of their life with other people. In the case of the Teaching Kitchen, students who may not have otherwise met each other collaborated and bonded over food, bringing about a sense of belonging.

Food is an essential part of everyday life. People need to eat food to sustain themselves, and as a result, food is often used as a vehicle for social connection. Personally, I use food as an excuse to see my friends more often in the midst of everybody’s busy schedules. Food is necessary and everybody has to eat, so it’s very easy to say “Hey, I need dinner and you need dinner. Let’s grab dinner together!”

If students want to get involved in the Teaching Kitchen, whether to learn more about food or to engage with other students, they should definitely sign up for a Teaching Kitchen class. Classes are currently dependent on funding available but its organizers are actively exploring ways to expand the program to serve more students. In fact, there are plans in the works to build a teaching kitchen on campus in the LA Tennis Center, which should be ready for classes by the summer of 2019.

I challenge all students to be creative in transforming the every day and necessary parts of life into outlets for greater connection, engagement, and nourishment.

 

Sources:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/joy-of-food/

Here’s an article linking food and social relationships you should read if you have the time:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666314003626

 

Jessica Yang is a second year student majoring in Environmental Science with a concentration in Environmental Health. On top of blogging for Semel HCI, she is part of club swimming and hopes to pursue a career in healthcare in the future. 

 

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How to stay grateful after Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has come and gone; taking with it the feeling of fall coziness and the smell of pumpkin pie, and leaving behind the lure of winter break and an extended vacation. While some families celebrate in the traditional Thanksgiving style, with a roast turkey and everyone listing what they’re thankful for before dinner, others denounce the holiday as a glorification of the abuse of Native Americans. Still others don’t celebrate at all, as Thanksgiving is an American holiday not often observed by UCLA’s international students. Regardless of your opinion on Thanksgiving, it’s worth considering adopting its central theme, thankfulness, as acknowledging your gratitude can be an extremely effective and efficient way to improve your quality of life.

In fact, research shows that reminding yourself of what it is you are grateful for about a loved one has a “uniquely predictive power in relationship promotion, perhaps acting as a booster shot for the relationship.” But gratitude won’t just improve your relationships. It’s also been proven that “the more a person is inclined to gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic.”

Here are three ways you can incorporate practicing gratitude into your daily life.

  1. Start the day by writing down one thing you’re grateful for.

Keeping a small notebook filled with lists of good things in your life is not just a cute idea you can find all over Pinterest. It’s a great way to set a focus for your day in addition to practicing gratitude. When you write down the best things going on in your life, you’re forcing yourself to acknowledge what does and does not matter, thereby better defining your own values while practicing gratitude – it’s the perfect two birds with one stone!

  1. Say thank you once a day.

Muttering “thanks” as you rush forward to catch a door held open for you doesn’t count. Make it a goal to thank someone for something that required time and effort once a day. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something they did for you; you could thank them for an inspiring post they made on social media or for a positive quality they possess that you’ve always admired, but never felt able to mention. Using your gratitude practice as an excuse, you can tell the people you love that you’ve always thought the way they handle themselves under pressure is amazing, that you really appreciate how they’re always suggesting fun things for you to do together, or any other compliment that has been on the tip of your tongue.

  1. Think about what your life would be like without the good things that have happened to you.

Perhaps rather counterintuitively, research on gratitude also shows that sometimes all it takes to feel incredibly lucky is to imagine your life without the people and events that make it special. Spend time thinking about what it would be like if you hadn’t met your best friend, or if you had never gotten that acceptance letter or taken that amazing class. Everyone has the occasional fantasy about redesigning their life, but if you think about the good things you do have, it’s scientifically proven to have a positive effect on your outlook.

Practicing gratitude can be hard. More often than not, we’re hardwired to focus more on the negative, and with the stress of finals coming up, it’s hard to find the time to count yourself as lucky. But gratitude is all about recognizing that each annoyance and stressor in your life is just one part of a much larger whole, and when you’re able to realize that, not only do you have an increased ability to turn those negatives into positives, you also have the motivation you’ll need to do it.

If you want to learn more, check out one of our older posts about a series of short films on what gratitude is, why it’s important, and tools to foster more of it in your daily life.  

Maya McNealis is a second year neuroscience student. In addition to writing for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she is a news reporter for the Daily Bruin.

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How to Conquer Loneliness in College

“College is going to be the best four years of your life.” Everyone has heard the cliché, perhaps from parents loading up the van for move-in, or from a jealous younger sibling eagerly awaiting their turn to experience the blissful freedom of living alone.

The problem with the expression, however, is that it sets students up for disappointment: if you’re told that the next part of your life will be the best, then every challenge faced is a reminder that it’s only going to get worse after this. In reality, many people count other parts of their life, such as parenthood, or when they achieve career success, as their happiest moments. Regardless of whether college is destined to be a fantastic experience or not, adjusting to it often provides a challenge uniquely specific to this phase of life: the feeling of being lonely in a place where no one ever seems to be alone.

The prophecy of the “true college experience” foretells of endless adventure and friendship, and often the first few weeks of school do feel like this. But as finals season rolls around, and friends of convenience start to become less convenient, it is common to grow disappointed with the comparison of the depth and quality of your college friendships with the connections you have back home.

Here are three tips to help prevent loneliness.

  1. Don’t compare friendships

Though you might have heard it a million times before, comparison is never helpful when it comes to measuring your self-worth. But comparing the quality of your friendships in college with your relationships with your best friends back home makes even less sense. Asking your college friends to immediately fill a void that can only be filled with inside jokes and funny stories accumulated over many years of your life is unrealistic. But the good news is that due to all the shared experiences that happen when you live together, college friendships develop fast, and before you know it, you’ll have a whole new set of inside jokes.

  1. Don’t hide in your room

This September, the New York Times published a piece on loneliness in college touching on the ways mental health experts advise universities on reducing social isolation. Methods include placing laundry rooms and areas with great wireless connection in the center of dorm buildings, in the hope that this will prevent students from spending all their free time in their rooms. While hanging out with the washers and dryers might become weird after a little while, study lounges are definitely a great tool for combating loneliness, as you can adjust how much you talk and how much you study to whatever ratio suits you.

  1. Don’t try to do it all

While it is important to get out of your room if you’re attempting to make new friends, it is also important to ensure that the time you spend socializing is of high quality. Rather than attempting to be the person who attends every club and dorm activity, take some time to think about what sort of people you connect with. Develop a goal, such as having one five-minute, personal conversation each day. By creating this structure for yourself, you can ensure that the friendships you build are founded on more than just the fact that you and your friend have the same discussion section.

Tips aside, sometimes the only thing you need to help combat loneliness is a healthy dose of perspective. Just because you feel lonely right now, doesn’t mean college can’t still be some of the best years of your life. Given enough time, finals will be over, and your loneliness will go away. In the meantime, don’t stress. Many studies link success with spending time alone. Adolescents, in particular, can benefit from a little bit of solitude now and then. In fact, with the seemingly constant company of roommates, club obligations and a hefty load of homework, you’ll realize soon enough that sometimes a little bit of alone time is exactly what you need.

Maya McNealis is a second year neuroscience student. In addition to writing for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she is a news reporter for the Daily Bruin.

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Five Reasons Why Green Spaces are Awesome

Recently at our annual Celebration, the Healthy Campus Initiative officially launched the Jane B. Semel Community Garden and Living Amphitheater located at Sunset Recreation Center, adding a new green space to UCLA’s campus. Opening the living amphitheater was a dream come true for the Healthy Campus Initiative, but it is also a valuable addition to UCLA’s campus that holds amazing potential. Read on to find out 5 reasons why green spaces like the Living Amphitheater are awesome for our well-being.

1. Green Space Boosts Attention

In this study, college students were assigned to three different conditions: nature walk, urban walk, or relaxing with a magazine in a comfortable room with light music. Afterwards, students were tested on their capacity for direct attention. The study found that those who went on a nature walk performed significantly better on the attention tests than those who went on an urban walk or relaxed indoors.

2. Green Space Encourages Physical Activity

Whether it is something as casual as taking a walk or something more intense like hiking, green spaces provide an environment that is conducive for physical exercise. As obvious as it may sound, having easier access to green space has a positive association with an individual’s level of physical activity. For instance, this study found that people who live closer to parks are “more likely to achieve physical activity recommendation and less likely to be overweight or obese.”

3. Green Space Improves Mental Health

One of my favorite things to do on campus is smelling different trees and flowers. The fresh smell of newly cut grass and sweet fragrance emitted by different flowers make me smile as I walk to my classes.

Research also demonstrates that green space provides benefits to mental health. This study found that among monozygotic or identical twins, those who had greater access to green space had fewer depressive symptoms than their twin counterpart with less access to green space. This is significant because by studying identical twins, the researchers were able to control for genetic and childhood environment factors. The reasons for why green space may benefit mental health are not yet clear, but it is promising that exposure to green space has a positive influence on our mental health.

4. Green Space Cleans the Air

This may not be surprising that trees can improve the air quality. Here are the details:

According to the report from the Forest Service Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in areas with complete tree cover, trees can remove as much of air pollutants as 15% of the ozone, 14% of the sulfur dioxide (SO2), 8% of the nitrous dioxide (NO2), and 0.05% of the carbon monoxide (CO) from the air. This is because vegetation, especially trees, can act as natural filters for the air pollutants. Thus, increasing green space will help us breathe well.

5. Green Space Helps Us Eat Well

Green space, especially community gardening has shown to improve food security. According to this study, people were 3.5 times more likely to consume at least five servings of fruit or vegetable on a daily basis if they or their family members were involved in a community garden in the last 12 months. Another study also suggested that gardening increases the likelihood of people meeting the national recommendation for fruit and vegetable consumption. More specifically, 56% of those who participate in a community garden met the recommendation, compared to 37% of those who have a home garden and 25% of those who have no gardening involvement.

There are numerous places on campus where we can reap these benefits of green spaces. There is, of course, the newly opened Living Amphitheater Garden at Sunset Rec. But if you are on campus and just want a quick stroll to enjoy the nature, consider visiting Botanical Gardens in South campus or the Sunken Gardens and Sculpture Garden in North campus. If you have any other suggestions for green space on and around campus, please share it with us by commenting 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.

Outofthedarkness

Get Involved: Out of the Darkness Campus Walk

It’s the beginning of Spring quarter — with only eight weeks until we reach the much-awaited summer — so what can we do to make this last quarter a memorable one? Get involved with a meaningful cause! A great chance to get involved is at the upcoming Out of the Darkness Campus Walk at UCLA’s Drake stadium on Sunday, April 23rd from 1pm-3pm. The walk is an event hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and promotes suicide prevention and awareness, as well as the importance of mental health in general. Sounds like a noteworthy cause already, doesn’t it? But how much do you know about the statistics of suicide in the world today?

Before we get down to the numbers, let’s learn a little bit about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and why it hosts the Out of the Darkness walks. The AFS provides opportunities for survivors of suicide loss to be active in educational, outreach, awareness, advocacy, and fundraising programs. All of this has been done to create a culture that’s smart about mental health, in order to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. They are the largest private funder of suicide prevention research, and even started out as a small research organization until public donations transformed it into what it is today.

Some of their research thus far has been on the relationship between decision-making in a negative environment and the effects of teens who text a crisis line when seeking help. Their research has greatly contributed to what the world understands about suicide today, and more of their findings can be found here. You can also sign up to become an AFSP field advocate, along with thousands of other volunteers, and receive the latest policy news and events surrounding mental health, as well as learn how to take action against policy issues you care about. AFSP has chapters and events occurring in all fifty states, so check out their website for more information. On top of all of the above, they offer educational programs for schools, communities, and workplaces, such as More Than Sad and Signs Matter. It’s clear to see all of the effort that AFSP puts into the cause of suicide prevention and awareness, and it hosts the Out of the Darkness walks to fundraise for these efforts, as well as spread hope and awareness throughout the communities in which they are held. Now that we know what the cause is about, let’s return to the statistics which created it all.

The Facts

In the US alone:

  • There is one death by suicide in the US every 13.3 minutes
  • About 39,500 Americans lose their lives to suicide every year

In the world as a whole:

  • There is one death by suicide in the world every 40 seconds
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide

In terms of gender:

  • Suicide among males is 4X’s higher than among females
  • 79% of all US suicides are attributed to male deaths
  • Females attempt suicide 3X’s as often as males
  • Females experience Depression at about 2X’s the rate of men

In terms of age:

  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for people the ages of 15-24
  • The prevalence of suicidal thoughts, planning, and attempts are highest among adults age 18-29

In terms of gender identity and sexual orientation:

  • LGBTQ+ youth who come from families that reject or do not accept them are 8X’s more likely to attempt suicide than those from families who accept them
  • LGBTQ+ youth are 3X’s more likely than straight youth to attempt suicide in their lifetime
  • Each time a LGBTQ youth is a victim of verbal of physical harassment/abuse they are 2.5X’s more likely to hurt themselves

Pretty startling, isn’t it? Suicide is a prominent concern in our society, affecting all ages, genders, and sexual orientations. Even if you haven’t been directly affected by suicide, the chances are that you have a family member, friend, or coworker who has been. We walk for them, and for all those who have been affected, in hopes of reducing the rate of suicide 20% by 2025.

If you feel drawn to the cause, you can donate to the foundation and the walk event by clicking here. If you would like to donate your time at the event, register to be a walker/start your own team here, or volunteer to help at the event if that appeals more to your interests. Those are three ways that you can get involved with the walk to show your support for suicide prevention awareness — which one will you try? If you do decide to walk, come and find me with the Resilience Peer Network (RPN) walking team, or visit the table hosted by UCLA’s Depression Grand Challenge. We may not all have a mental illness, but we all have mental health, and it’s imperative that its importance be brought to the forefront of everyone’s attention. Lace up your shoes, and get ready to make this Spring quarter one in which you show your support for a great cause.

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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Creativity & the Arts in 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

Written by Ping Ho, MA, MPH, Founder and Director, UCLArts & Healing

 

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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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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