February Health & Wellness Focus: Connect with Kindness

February 2022

Connect with Kindness

This month, focus on spreading kindness to create and strengthen connections. Offering purposeful acts of kindness is a rewarding behavior that reinforces relationships and supports empathy. Continue reading this month’s materials for simple ways to ‘pay-it-forward’ through kindness.

Mini Challenge

Random Acts of Kindness Week- February 14th-18th: The smallest acts of kindness can have the largest impact. Brighten somebody’s day by completing one gesture of kindness each day this week.

Noteworthy Dates:

February 2nd – Groundhog Day
February 13th – Super Bowl
February 14th – Valentine’s Day
February 21st – President’s Day

Movement of the month

February is American Heart Month. Promote heart health by setting aside time to walk each day (at least ten minutes). Use this time to get your heartbeat up and stress levels down!

Put your knowledge to the test!

After reading this month’s resources, click here to take a short 5 question quiz.

Connect with Kindness

Human connection satisfies a fundamental need to belong and is established by recognizing and valuing each other. Kindness fosters connection by creating a sense of acceptance and reduces feelings of isolation. A moment spent sending wishes of friendliness, concern, or support nurtures connection and builds an individual’s capacity for kindness. Social ties are maintained and strengthened as we help each other.

Practicing kindness towards self or others promotes happiness and confidence while simultaneously building character. Improving someone’s day through an unexpected kind gesture enhances both the giver and receiver’s mood. It also has unintended physiological benefits such as boosting the immune system, reducing blood pressure, and lowering stress and anxiety. Kindness does not have to be grand or expensive, as the smallest gestures often have the greatest impact. For example, a moment of support during a time of need, words of encouragement, or a simple smile can make a world of difference.

Perspective is often limited by experiences and, as a result, people don’t always see eyeto-eye. Extending simple gestures of kindness bridges this gap, allowing connections to form. Recognizing that someone may be having a bad day provides a sense of empathy and makes a moment of kindness more meaningful. View others in a positive light to make it easier to be kind.

Kindness is both a mindset and a habit. It takes effort to actively cultivate this behavior but once it has been adopted, opportunities to apply it can appear everywhere. A habit of  kindness can be acquired through diligent daily practice and each small act will add up to a lot of good.

It is common to experience obstacles to kindness such as fear, distraction, anticipation, or exhaustion. Fear exposes itself in multiple ways; fear of drawing attention or causing embarrassment, fear of having an act of kindness rejected or fear of doing something wrong. Attempt to overcome those feelings by knowing that being kind is never wrong. Wandering thoughts and countless forces demanding attention can lead to distraction. Many miss the opportunity to serve as they rush to complete their next to-do item. Focus on living in the present to avoid these kindness obstacles. Insufficient sleep or inadequate mental rest often leaves people running on their last reserves. Prevent the obstacle of exhaustion by making time for self-care and relaxation.

Reconnect by creating a habit of kindness. Improve connections with self and others by practicing the activities on the following page.

Connect to


with Kindness

Schedule time for self-care, meditation, and hobbies

Savor your morning tea or coffee 

Listen to your favorite type of music
during a commute

Connect to

Family & Friends

with Kindness

Deliver a small gift for no reason

Offer to babysit for free

Write a note of gratitude 

Connect to


with Kindness

Wheel their trash bins out for them

Rake their leaves or shovel snow

Drop off a treat

Connect to


with Kindness

Pick up trash around your neighborhood

Put coins in an expired parking meter

Be kind to your restaurant server and
leave a generous tip

Connect to


with Kindness

Offer to take a work-related project off their hands

Show genuine interest in their lives outside of work

Leave a note of encouragement on their desk

Pay-It-Forward with Caffe Sospeso

Many cafes in Naples Italy, have an old-fashioned Neapolitan coffee pot sitting in the corner waiting for customers to drop receipts inside. These coffee pots serve an important purpose, as a way for others to participate in the old tradition of café sospeso. Roughly translated as suspended coffee, this tradition is a unique way to ‘pay-it-forward’.

Some say that this tradition began in the 1800s when a customer would share their good fortune such as getting married, having a baby, or getting a new job by buying two coffees- one for themselves and one for someone who might need it in the future. The second drink is considered “suspended” until someone who can’t afford coffee could inquire if a sospeso was available for free. This small act of kindness is especially charming as the giver and receiver would probably never meet. Café sospeso has been regarded as a small but symbolic gesture that reminds individuals they are not alone.

This gesture received a revival in 2010, when a group of small Italian festivals led to the creation of the Suspended Coffee Network to encourage solidarity in response to cultural budget cuts. The purpose was to weather the budget cuts by organizing and promoting their own activities together. It also started solidarity community initiatives for those in need, encouraging a donated coffee was one of them.

The tradition has spread throughout Italy and around the world. In some places in Italy, the generosity now extends to a suspended pizza, sandwich, or book. The concept of “suspended baskets” also gained popularity as a result of café sospeso. Poorer residents would leave baskets hanging from their homes in the hope of food being left by kind strangers.

This trend has extended to the United States and has become popular especially at coffee shops as individuals pay for the customer behind them. A pay-it-forward chain 378 cars deep was reported in St. Petersburg, Florida in 2014. Sometimes a simple gesture can have a strong and lasting effect. It was reported that a barista gave a suspended coffee to a man who appeared to be having a rough day. He later donated $500 to the café because the barista’s kindness had such an impact on him.

Consider participating in the ‘pay it forward’ movement by completing one of the following acts of kindness:

Compliance the first three people you see today;

If you are last in line, let someone go in front of you in line;

Leave quarters at a laundromat;

Return shopping carts at the grocery store;

Leave a treat in the mailbox for the mail carrier;

Share your umbrella;

Let someone else have a prime parking spot;

Pay for someone’s movie tickets;

These simple gestures can boost feelings of confidence, happiness, and optimism. They can also promote a more positive community as others are encouraged to repeat good deeds. Don’t be afraid to spread kindness today!

Featured Recipe

Neapolitan Pizza

Adapted from foodnetwork.com | Serves 4



1 ½ cups plus 2 Tbsp. warm water (100-110 degrees F)

¾ tsp. active dry yeast

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 ½ tsp. salt

Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing

Cornmeal, for dusting


1, 28-oz. can whole peeled
tomatoes (preferably San

8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
(preferably mozzarella di

Extra-virgin olive oil, for

Torn, fresh basil, for topping




  1. Combine warm water and yeast in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the yeast. Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and stir to make a shaggy dough. (The dough should be tacky. If it feels too wet and sticky, add flour, 1 Tbsp. at a time; if it’s too stiff, add a little water.) Transfer to a lightly oiled surface and knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 3 minutes). Place in an inverted bowl over the bowl and let rise for 30 minutes.
  2. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and form each into a ball; arrange 3 inches apart on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Rub the tops of the dough lightly with olive oil and cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.


  1. Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 hours before baking; let sit, covered, until ready to use. One hour before baking, put a pizza stone or an inverted baking sheet on the middle oven rack and preheat to 500°F.
  2. Make the sauce: Combine the tomatoes and their juices with 1 tsp. salt in a blender; blend until smooth.
  3. Generously sprinkle a pizza peel or inverted baking sheet with cornmeal. Place 1 ball of dough upside-down on cornmeal using floured hands. Gently pull the dough into an 8- to 10- inch circle, reflooring hands as needed and being careful not to deflate the dough. Spread about ¼ cup of tomato sauce on the crust; top with one-quarter of the mozzarella. Drizzle with 1-2 tsp. olive oil and season with salt.
  4. Slide the pizza onto the hot stone (or baking sheet) and bake until the crust is dark golden brown, and the cheese is bubbling, 7-9 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and sprinkle with basil. Let cool 2 minutes before slicing. Repeat to make 3 more pizzas.

From the Dietitian's Desk

Neapolitan Pizza: An Exemplification of Gastronomy & Terroir

Neapolitan pizza, also known as Margherita pizza, was initially considered a peasant dish in Naples, Italy. Neapolitan pizza consists of dough topped with San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and mozzarella di Bufala Campana. As Italian cuisine has evolved, the classic flavors of Neapolitan pizza still resonate with the masses.

Italy has a long and esteemed gastronomic history represented by national cuisine and local food traditions from smaller regions. Italian cuisine is exemplified by terroir, the interaction between a region’s ecosystem and cultural practices that influences the distinctive taste of a food or beverage. Terroir is traditionally referenced in the context of winemaking, encompassing the authenticity and uniqueness of a particular region’s environment. However, a respect for terroir exists with numerous specialty products like cheese and tomatoes.

In this recipe, mozzarella di Bufala Campana is a fresh cheese made from water buffalo milk from a specific region in southern Italy. These water buffalo feed on natural grasses and flowers of the Caserta and Salerno provinces. The climate and flora of these regions influence the flavor and nutritional composition of the milk. The milk is made into mozzarella cheese, which has a protected denomination of origin (PDO) status. The PDO ensures quality through the authentication of the terroir and the recipe used for making a food or beverage.

San Marzano tomatoes also have PDO status and are grown in the town of San Marzano sul Sarno, near Naples. San Marzano tomatoes boast a sweeter taste and richer tomato flavor than other varieties. The tomatoes are grown in volcanic soil near Mt. Vesuvius, which results in the tomato’s renowned delicate acid profile and exemplifies the importance of terroir. According to Italians, the true Neapolitan pizza must be made with San Marzano tomatoes.

Preserving the terroir and cultural traditions of foods through PDO verification is vital to ensure authenticity, care for the local environment, and the continuation of food trades. Italian gastronomy is renowned for authentic dishes like Neapolitan pizza, reflecting a source of local and national pride.

Did you know?

As compared to mozzarella made from cow, mozzarella made from buffalo milk is higher in protein, fat, calcium, and vitamins A & E. Both forms contain a variety of probiotics, which are microorganisms found in the gut that provide a health benefit.

   • den Hartigh LJ. Conjugated Linoleic Acid Effects on Cancer, Obesity, and Atherosclerosis: A Review of Pre-Clinical and Human Trials         with Current Perspectives. Nutrients. 2019;11(2):370. Published 2019 Feb 11. doi:10.3390/nu11020370
   • Vargas-Ramella M, Pateiro M, Maggiolino A, et al. Buffalo Milk as a Source of Probiotic Functional Products. Microorganisms.                     2021;9(11):2303. Published 2021 Nov 5. doi:10.3390/microorganisms9112303
   • https://ebrary.net/147007/travel/roles_terroir_food_gastronomy_destination_authenticity
   • https://www.thekitchn.com/what-are-san-marzano-tomatoes-252451

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