The Importance of Kindness and Compassion at Work  

It’s only natural to, at some point, associate work with feelings of stress.  

Job security and pressure to perform can creep into our minds daily. Major changes to workflow and our job descriptions can strike up feelings of anxiety and self-doubt. Rocky relationships with superiors, subordinates or colleagues may keep us up at night from time to time.  

For these reasons and more, kindness should be emphasized at work. Every company should strive to foster an environment ripe with company-wide norms of kindness, as happy, upbeat employees typically make for a motivated and productive organization 


The COVID-19 pandemic is approaching the two-year mark and a lot of companies are still working remotely. As a result, opportunities for offhand encouragement, “job well-done” and face-to-face bonding are greatly decreased when staffs only see each other in a virtual setting only, for a few hours a week.   

Offset those lost moments by scheduling “check-in” or “coffee hour” virtual meetings in which business isn’t necessarily the priority topic. Set aside occasional small blocks of time to complement employees on their recent work. Find out how they are doing personally, strike up conversation about light current affairs, and share recipe ideas. Sprinkling a laxed setting into a week full of planning meetings can be beneficial to everyone.  

Break up the monotony even further by organizing online team-building activities when appropriate. Virtual quizzes, “name the 50 states” competitions and “whodunit” mystery games can promote communication and collaboration among your staff. Icebreaker games in which employees share facts about each other can help recently hired team members get to know everyone else.  

Schedule these every so often on Friday, in place of the last couple hours of work, to send everyone into the weekend on a fun note. Team-building events like these could help quash feelings of competition among employees.   


Surprise morning donuts and lunchtime pizza have gone by the wayside during the pandemic, but these gestures can be recreated. Do you have a big quarterly conference coming up? Consider sending employees care packs of coffee or donuts ahead of it.  

Sending complimentary emails every so often can serve as confidence boosters. For some employees, simply seeing an email sent by their boss can make them tense up. Sending genuine praise and encouragement, when deserved, can help humanize employers to their staff, particularly to employees who seem intimidated.   


Demonstrating compassionate leadership could go a long way in building trust and increasing employee retention. That compassion should always be authentic.  

If COVID-19 has hit the family of one of your employees hard, or they are visibly struggling mentally, offer paid leave and mental health sick days. If you notice an employee has an overloaded day or week ahead of them, delegate tasks to another employee with a lighter workload.  

Simply listening is crucial, as well. Taking time out of your day to lend an open ear to a frustrated or confused employee can chip away at their stress levels. Even if a concrete solution doesn’t result from these conversations, letting them know your door is always open is another trust-building trait.    

Remember, these same sentiments should be ingrained into the fabric of any team leaders your company may have. Kindness in the workplace starts from the top down.   

This article was originally published on, a website sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  Blue Cross and MADA are your trusted partners in building a healthier business and workforce.

Getting hot and irritable? Five natural strategies to keep you cool

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Summer heat brings us water sports, sandy beaches, grill-outs and pool parties.  What’s not to love, right?

For those who are more sensitive to hot weather, the heat can also cause some unpleasant side effects.  These folks typically feel great in the fall, winter and even spring seasons, but come summertime, they get inflamed, overheated and irritable.  If this is you, you may be unconsciously making things harder on yourself.  Explore these 5 simple steps to keep the body cool, calm, and collected.

Drink water. Loads of it.  A combination of heat and dehydration can leave the body feeling exhausted, crabby and sluggish.

Eat local produce. When you visit your local Farmers Market, you supporting locally sourced foods and you are unwittingly helping re-balance the body.  Mother Nature provides the antidote to the season.  Summer’s harvest brings us an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables for a specific reason.  These foods can typically be eaten raw, which is naturally cooling for the body.  Summer’s bounty is also low in calories, which regulates body temperature reducing the need to crank up the internal thermostat to burn through high-calorie foods.  Last, fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in carbohydrates.  This gives us plenty of energy to last through our longer and more active summer months.

Avoid heating foods. Summer nostalgia can cause us to crave grilled BBQ Ribs, handfuls of chips or picnic brownies.  Moderation is key.  If you find yourself reaching for spicy, rich or creamy foods frequently in the summer and are wondering why you are having symptoms of overheating (heartburn, inflammation or irritability), it may be wise to lay off the warming foods.  In general it is wise to reduce the consumption of salt, oil and spices.

Increase bitter foods. On the other end of the spectrum, there are foods that are naturally bitter and cooling that can be very beneficial during the hot summer months.  These include all leafy green vegetables, raw cacao, coffee (in moderation,) asparagus, artichokes, dandelions, and cucumbers among others.

Go outside to make food choices. Sure a warm cup of tomato soup might sound good after spending hours in air-conditioning. But if you really want to get in touch with what your body really wants this summer, step outside for a while and ask yourself what actually sounds good.  Some people report being naturally turned off to meat-heavy or creamy dishes simple because it’s so hot outside.  The more you can re-connect with Nature, the easier it will be to determine what foods would be most nourishing for your body.


This article was originally published on, a website sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  Blue Cross and MADA are your trusted partners in building a healthier business and workforce.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Blue Care Network of Michigan logo

Foolproof Ways to Work Out in the Morning

It’s 5:30 a.m. Your alarm clock is sounding off relentlessly and you are one giant, toasty cinnamon bun in bed. The absolute last thing you want to do is get up and dive into a workout … but you should!

Research and testimonials show that working out before breakfast sets the tone for the day and reinforces a healthy schedule over time. Most people think they can’t handle morning workouts or don’t want to give up their sleep, but the routine gets addictive. The energy and morale boost felt throughout the day is well worth adjusting your schedule to wake up early.

Here are a few tricks that fitness buffs (and A Healthier Michigan bloggers) swear by to get you out of bed and into the gym each and every morning:

  1. Sleep in your workout clothes: They are just as comfy as pajamas and give you no excuse to not get moving after a good night’s rest.
  2. Move your alarm clock: Set your alarm on the other side of the room, forcing you to get out of bed to turn it off. Once you’re up and out, there’s no reason not to keep going.
  3. Brush your teeth ASAP: This is the bare minimum for getting ready for facing the day and can help you feel mentally ready to tackle a workout.
  4. Make your bed: As soon as you’ve brushed your teeth, make your bed. You’ll feel way less inclined to climb back in for another hour or two of rest.
  5. Allow enough time to get ready after: Working out from home makes this one a no-brainer! If you are heading to a workout facility, packing a bag is an easy excuse not to go before work or school. Don’t allow yourself an easy out!
  6. Build two playlists: Create one for preparing in the morning and one for your workout. Both should include motivational music and ways to get you psyched about the day.

Are you on board with the morning workout? Here are a few other ideas to motivate you in the a.m. and throughout the day: 


This article was originally published on a website sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  Blue Cross and MADA are your trusted partners in building a healthier business and workforce.

Give Thanks by Giving Back Around Michigan

It’s nearly that time of year when we gather with friends and family around a delicious meal (and likely some football) to reflect on what we are thankful for. One of the best ways to express that gratitude is to give back to your community. With organizations supporting a variety of causes all over Michigan, there is no shortage of opportunities for you and your family to get involved. Here are just a few of the ways to share your time and energy this Thanksgiving:

Children’s Hospital of Michigan | Detroit

Volunteering with the Children’s Hospital of Michigan is a fulfilling way to brighten the day of children and their families as they go through a difficult time. There are many ways to help out, such as rocking or feeding a baby, reading to children, visiting patients with your certified pet therapy dog, acting as a tour guide or participating in art cart activities. Learn more about becoming a volunteer here.

Meals on Wheels | Statewide

This is a wonderful opportunity to make sure everyone in Michigan can enjoy a delicious meal during the holidays. Meals on Wheels is committed to providing nutritious food to seniors who have limited mobility or who may not be able to cook for themselves. Volunteer opportunities include pantry work, cooking, administrative duties and delivering food. You can apply here to volunteer as an individual or as a group.

Cooking Matters | Southeast Michigan

Cooking Matters, a Share Our Strength program, teaches low-income individuals and families valuable nutrition information and cooking skills. Volunteers participate as instructors or consultants in the courses, teaching cooking techniques and providing nutrition education. While certain roles require culinary or dietetic experience, there are class assistant roles that require no formal training. You can sign up here. Cooking Matters’ local partner Gleaners Community Food Bank also offers a variety of volunteer family-friendly opportunities to consider year-round, like sorting and packaging of food items to stock their distribution centers.

Ronald McDonald House | Mid-Michigan

For families with sick children in the hospital, Ronald McDonald House provides a home-away-from-home. To keep families comfortable and feeling as normal as possible, consider taking a shift at a local Ronald McDonald House. You can greet families, answer phones and keep kitchen and public areas clean and organized. Love cooking? Make a home-cooked meal to share with residents. Certain tasks require volunteers to be 18 or older, so if you want to get the whole family involved, consider hosting a fundraiser or donating common household items to the house. Sign up here to help out in the Mid-Michigan location (or head here to see locations around the state).

Volunteers of America | Statewide

Service through Volunteers of America supports our nation’s veterans, homeless, seniors and many others in need. Activities you can participate in include sorting clothes for the homeless, serving meals and helping with administrative work. With opportunities available statewide and year-round, there is something for everyone looking to support their community. You can apply to volunteer, here.

Photo Credit: anjanettew


This article was originally published on, a website sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  Blue Cross and MADA are your trusted partners in building a healthier business and workforce.

photo of a sailboat on a lake with calm water, blue skies and trees spanning the background.

9 Under-the-Radar Favorite Locales for a Mitten-cation

Summer’s just about here, which means you’re ready to plan a perfect summer stay-cation. So where should you go? While the obvious answers are places like Traverse City and Mackinac Island, there are many unique and beautiful destinations around the state without the crowds.

These nine lesser known lake towns have amazing views, attractions and culture:

  1. Pentwater: Pentwater’s white sand beaches, local farmers markets and small town charm all add to its appeal. Whether you’re a solo camper, a couple looking for a bed-and-breakfast or a family wanting to stay in a lakeside cottage, Pentwater is one of West Michigan’s best kept secrets.
  2. Cheboygan: In the northern part of the state Cheboygan’s sweeping beachfront, beautiful lighthouses and scenic landscape make it a favorite getaway during the summertime season. The quiet town offers charm, delicious restaurants and up-north favorites like ice cream and fudge shops.
  3. Saugatuck: Sailing and fishing charters are just one of the many attractions Saugatuck boasts. The city also has several great diners, dives and breweries, so bring your appetite.
  4. Ludington: Ludington has gained popularity in recent years for its active downtown scene and unique attractions. Visit the Country Dairy, local marina and wineries for a one-of-a-kind experience. And be sure to catch the S.S. Badger as it pulls into port transporting visitors from across Lake Michigan!
  5. Tawas: Tawas’ many parks and small town feeling along Lake Huron is everything we love about Michigan. The town is known for its quaint community that brings big charm. Be sure to check out the neighboring town of Oscoda for golf and other attractions as well.
  6. Gladwin: Quiet, picturesque and isolated, Gladwin is great for campers and those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Enjoy a walk through the mid-Michigan wilderness or a relaxing boat ride on local waterfronts.  
  7. Eagle Harbor: It can take a little bit of effort to get to this UP spot, which is one of Michigan’s earliest settled towns, but the views and the local experience are worth it. Enjoy kayaking, canoeing or fishing bayside, or venture into the wilderness for bird-watching or outdoor activities like camping and hiking.
  8. Caseville: Although Caseville is loved for its waterfront and cottages, the annual Cheeseburger Festival is what makes it a summer staple. This year’s fest takes place August 12th through the 21st.
  9. Escanaba: This town, in the southern part of the UP, was originally fueled by the lumber industry. It now serves as a treasured favorite for hunters and those looking for a dose of serenity.

Looking for more ways to enjoy Michigan during the summer? Read these blogs:

Photo credit: Ray Dumas


This article was originally published on, a website sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  Blue Cross and MADA are your trusted partners in building a healthier business and workforce.

photo of a single apple tree in a field

6 Michigan Native Trees You Can Plant on Earth Day

More than half of Michigan is covered in forests, which is one of the reasons why the state is so beautiful. Want to make it even more gorgeous? Plant some new trees! That simple act helps naturally clean carbon from the air while improving the Great Lakes State’s landscape. And there’s no better time than Earth Day, which is April 22, to do it.

If you’re at a loss for which variety is best, check out this list of some of our favorite native Michigan trees that are also super easy to plant and grow:

  1. Red Maple: These Michigan natives are easily adaptable, grow quickly and can now be found almost everywhere in the country. They do best with full sun exposure and turn a vibrant red color in the fall.
  2. Black Cherry: Black cherry trees are the largest of the wild cherry trees. Though the wood is prized to carpenters and woodworkers, the fruit is delicious as well. Just be careful: When the small cherries drop, they can stain concrete and driveways.
  3. Tulip Tree: Tulip trees are the ones with bright gold leaves you see every fall. They attract lots of birds including hummingbirds, cardinals and finches, and are highly resistant to pests such as insects and diseases. Tulip trees can grow up to 70 feet tall and are best suited for spots that get lots of sun.
  4. White Pine: These trees are long-needled, hearty pine trees with that can live up to 200 years (you probably already have some in your backyard). They are also the official state tree of Michigan.
  5. Apple Tree: A staple of the UP and northern Michigan, apple trees produce one of the most important—and delicious!—crops in the state. They are hearty enough to stand up to Michigan winters and can adapt to many different soil types.
  6. Arborvitae: Want a tree that will give your yard some privacy? This is the one. Arborvitaes can grow up to 10 feet tall and have a dense, green structure to them, making them perfect for giving you a barrier between you and your neighbor.

Will you be planting a tree on Earth Day? Tell us in the comments! If you’re a Michigan tree-hugger, you may also enjoy these blogs:

Photo credit: hjjanisch


This article was originally published on, a website sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  Blue Cross and MADA are your trusted partners in building a healthier business and workforce.

photo of snow on a sandy beach

5 Surprisingly Fun Facts About Michigan

Did you know Michigan’s state flower is the Apple Blossom? Or that our state game mammal is the white-tailed deer?

From our picturesque Petoskey stones to the magnificent Mighty Mac, Michiganders take pride in the many things that make our state so unique. But aside from these well-known state symbols, the Great Lakes state has a few other distinctions you may not have known about.

Here are five surprisingly fun facts with tips from the Healthier Michigan team to help you explore more.

  1. Michigan has more miles of freshwater shoreline than any other state in the nation. About 3,000 miles, to be exact. One of the most breathtaking views is along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The area is open year-round, but you’ll want to check for possible road closures if you plan to visit during winter months.
  2. Michigan has the only authentic Dutch windmill operating in the United States. The De Zwaan Windmill in Holland, Mich. is not only a historic attraction, it’s also a functioning machine that produces healthy whole wheat flour for the local community and beyond.
  3. Michigan is home to one of only four ice luge tracks in the nation. The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex offers visitors access to acres of ice, trails and woods for those brave enough to bare the cold temperatures.
  4. Michigan is home to one of 30 certified International Dark Sky Parks in the world. The Headlands in Mackinaw City was designated an official dark sky park in 2011. Visitors can explore 600 acres of old-growth forest and more than two miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline, all undiluted by light pollution.
  5. Michigan is the second-most agriculturally diverse state in the nation. With our variety of seasons, rich farming regions and proximity to the Great Lakes, Michigan grows and distributes hundreds of different crops each year. We’re the top producer of tart cherries in the country, among other accolades.

Next time you’re with friends and family, use these facts to help inspire others to be proud of our great state.

If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to subscribe to get A Healthier Michigan blog content delivered to your inbox.

Photo credit: nvenechuk

Sources: [1.] Michigan Department of Natural Resources. [2.] City of Holland, Windmill Island Gardens. [3.] Pure Michigan. [4.] International Dark Sky Association. [5.] USDA Farm Service Agency

About the author: Angela Hernandez Loyd

My goals are to use diet and exercise to reduce the risk of potential health problems down the line, maximize energy and find greater happiness by living well.

This article was originally published on, a website sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  Blue Cross and MADA are your trusted partners in building a healthier business and workforce.
Close up of runner’s feet running in autumn leaves training exercise

Physical Activity Tips for Fall

The arrival of fall brings cool Michigan temperatures, but don’t let the shift in the seasons get in the way of your physical activity!

It’s widely recommended that adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intense physical activity each week, and perform muscle strengthening exercises 2 days each week.

Remember, physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. Research shows regular physical activity can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions.

If you’re just getting started, break your activity up in to 10-minute intervals throughout the day. This could include taking a brisk walk on your lunch break or doing jumping jacks while watching television.

Whether you decide to be active outside or want to keep your exercise indoors, try these tips to move more and stay motivated this fall:

  • Dress for the weather. Wear supportive shoes with thick, flexible soles that will cushion your feet. Wear layers of clothing that will allow you to move, and keep you comfortable and warm.
  • Make it social. Try to schedule walking dates with family and friends, or organize a walking group with neighbors or coworkers. When you involve others in your activities, you are more likely to stick to your program.
  • Participate in fall activities. Go on a walk with your kids or grandchildren and find as many different colored leaves as you can. Cider mills and corn mazes are also great activities to add extra steps in to your day.
  • Chores count. Standard household chores like mowing the lawn, raking leaves, and vacuuming can help tone muscles you might not usually use. You can also turn up the music and dance while you’re cleaning house.
  • Take advantage of free community classes. Many community and recreational centers host free exercise classes, like the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan’s Enhance Fitness. Contact your local community or recreational center to learn what is offered in your neighborhood.
  • Purchase low-cost exercise props. You don’t need a gym membership to use exercise equipment. Free weights, jump ropes, medicine balls and resistance bands are inexpensive and can be purchased at stores like Meijer, Wal-Mart, Target and even some dollar stores.

Remember, being physically active is about what works best for you. Making lifestyle changes is never easy, but being active can bring big rewards towards a healthier life!

About the author: Mary Hiller is a communications coordinator for the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan. She hopes to provide Michigan residents with resources that will help them live a healthy life. Mary enjoys doing yoga, trying new restaurants, and the (sunny) Michigan outdoors.

This article was originally published on, a website sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  Blue Cross and MADA are your trusted partners in building a healthier business and workforce.

Explaining the private exchange

Employees have different health care needs, and deciding what’s affordable can be a hard decision.

To help answer your questions on how to reduce health care costs while providing your employees with the coverage they deserve, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is hosting two free seminars about private exchange solutions for small to mid-sized businesses.

To register or learn more about the seminars, please visit:



Date: August 25, 2015

Time: 8:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. ET

Location: Courtyard Grand Rapids Downtown


Date: September 17, 2015

Time: 8:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. ET

Location:  MSU Management Education Center in Troy