Want to Think More Optimistically? Here’s How to Create Performance Enhancing Thoughts

Man who has learned healthy thinking techniques.

Want to Think More Optimistically?

Here’s How to Create Performance Enhancing Thoughts

Change your thinking, change your life!

Before Dr Martin Seligman became well known for his work in Positive Psychology, he coined a term known as “Learned Optimism”. In Seligman’s process, one uses the ABCDE method to train the brain to respond differently to a negative situation or event. 

Based on Ellis ABC model, the first part of the process (A) is adversity, the event or situation that occurs. B is the belief of how the adversity is interpreted, followed by C, consequences, which are the personal feeling and thoughts resulting from the beliefs. Seligman has then adapted this model by adding disputation (D), a step in which you challenge your beliefs and think of other reasons as to why this may have happened using facts and logic. The final step, energisation (E), is noticing the changes in your thoughts and feelings after you have successfully challenged your beliefs. 

The ABCDE method is another technique that you can use to help you catch and transform your ANTS, especially during times of challenge and uncertainty. Let’s use Tom as an example. Here are some of the things he thinks after he gave a poor presentation to his colleagues:

Adversity: “Today, I gave a video presentation in front of my colleagues, and I was very nervous, shaky and stumbled many times over my words.”

Belief: “I am a terrible public speaker, and I will never be good at it. I am not qualified for job roles that require me to speak in front of other people.”

Consequences: “I will turn down opportunities that I may enjoy for fear that I will have to speak in front of people. I am so embarrassed; I don’t think I am going to speak to my colleagues that were in on the video call.”

Notice how Tom’s beliefs about what happened led him to come to the conclusion he has been thinking. 

But, what if instead Tom decides to think about this differently? See what happens below when Tom transforms his ANTS into a Performance Enhacing Thought (PET) with more helpful and realistic thinking. 

Disputation: “This is only the first time I have spoken in front of these colleagues. Several people asked me questions and were interested in what I was saying. I might not have been that fluent, but I was ok and if I can conquer my nerves, I should be better next time. I can learn some techniques to help me becomes a more confident speaker and practice more to manage my nerves next time.”

Here are a few techniques Tom (and you) can try to make disputation even more powerful.

You can make your disputations convincing with:

  1. Evidence- show that negative beliefs are factually incorrect. Sometimes a belief may just be an overreaction, so ask yourself “what is the evidence for this belief?” Remember, thoughts are not facts!
  2. Alternative- ask yourself if there are any alternative ways to look at the problem that is less negative. Focus on specific causes that were changeable. For example, could you have practised more? Were you tired? Was it non-personal?
  3. Implications- Even if you still have a negative view of the situation, reflect on how you could de-catastrophise it. Is it permanent? Will it matter 5 years of=r a year from now?
  4. Usefulness- Question the usefulness of your belief. Is your view realistic, and does it benefit you? Can this negative situation help you in the future?

The last step is energisation. Here is the energising thought that Tom is thinking about. You can see he has spent some time transforming his thought to something more helpful and realistic.

Energisation: “I feel more confident knowing that my presentation went better than I originally thought. I feel hopeful that I can do better next time with more practice and preparation.”

Appli have put together a Navigating Challenges and Uncertainty Mental Fitness Toolkit with more techniques and valuable tools that you can use to help your transform your ANTs into PETs.

Shop our toolkits here.

References

Beck, J. (2011). Cognitive Therapy. New York: Guilford Press.

McLeod, S. (2019). Cognitive Behavioural Therapy | CBT | Simply Psychology. Retrieved 24 November 2020, from https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-therapy.html

Robinson, P. (2018). Practising Positive Education: A Guide to Improve Wellbeing Literacy in Schools (2nd ed.). Positive Psychology Institute: Sydney, Australia.

Seligman, M. E. P., (2006). Learned Optimism: how to change your mind and your life. New York: Vintage Books

 

 

Can acknowledging what we’re grateful for boost our wellbeing?

Can acknowledging what we’re grateful for boost our wellbeing?

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”- William Arthur Ward

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia. Depending on the use of the word it has meanings such as grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Gratitude helps people place their focus on what is good in their life rather than what they’re lacking. By expressing gratitude, people often recognize the aspects of their life where goodness is provided outside of themselves. This can be the people in their lives, nature, etc.

Research in Positive Psychology has shown that gratitude may be associated with greater happiness. Expressing gratitude helps people deal with adversity, build healthier relationships, improves their health and allows them to feel more positive emotions (Michael Craig Miller, 2011)

In 2005,  researcher and Psychologist Martin Seligman tested the effects of different Positive Psychology interventions among 411 people. The results showed the biggest improvement in happiness was when the volunteers were asked to write and deliver a letter of gratitude to a person who had been kind to them, to whom they never had the chance to properly show thanks.

Relationships are one of the ultimate factors when it comes to overall wellbeing. Research shows that couples who took the time to express gratitude for their partner felt more positive towards each other. More interesting is that they also felt more comfortable speaking openly and expressing concerns in their relationship. (Michael Craig Miller, 2011)

Now that you know a bit more about the science of gratitude, can you find a moment to stop and focus on what you’re grateful for?

Some people are naturally able to express gratitude, whereas it can be more difficult for others. To help you, we’ve put together a few ideas of ways you can express gratitude!

  1. Gratitude Letter– Write a letter to someone who has been kind to you. Whether you give this person the letter or not is entirely up to you! You will reap the benefits purely expressing the emotion.

  2. Gratitude Journal– Keep a journal where you can write down the gifts you received that day. This can be as simple as a passing smile or a coffee a friend bought for you. Sharing these with a loved one enhances the experience.

  3. Gratitude Jar– Keep a jar in your home where each family member can write on a note one thing they’re grateful for, fold it and place it in the jar. For example, expressing thanks for the meal mum cooked or a hug from dad.

  4. Meditate– A gratitude meditation can help you recognize the things in your life you may be forgetting to appreciate such as your senses! Here’s one to try out https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/gratitude_meditation

  5. Count your Blessings– Set aside a time regularly to think about the week that’s passed and make note of the things that you are grateful for. Your list doesn’t need to be long but focuses on the things that were the most meaningful for you.

  6. Reach Out– If writing a letter isn’t comfortable, reach out to someone who was kind to you that week and express thanks for their kindness.

  7. Give Thanks to Yourself– We often forget to give thanks to ourselves. Our mind, body and soul allow us to experience the life we live, so take a moment to give thanks to you.

 

References

Lambert, N., & Fincham, F. (2011). Expressing gratitude to a partner leads to more relationship maintenance behavior. Emotion11(1), 52-60. doi: 10.1037/a0021557

Michael Craig Miller, M. (2011). In praise of gratitude – Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved 17 November 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/in-praise-of-gratitude-201211215561

Team, S. (2020). The science behind gratitude. Retrieved 17 November 2020, from https://blog.smilingmind.com.au/the-science-behind-gratitude

 

 

 

Understanding ‘fight or flight’ mode and how to deal with it.

Relaxed man

Understanding ‘fight or flight’ mode and how to deal with it.

Have you noticed that when you get stressed your body tenses up? Breathing quickens? Heart pounds faster? This is as a result of the ‘fight or flight’ response being triggered. The fight or flight response, also known as the acute stress response, evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling people and other mammals to react quickly to life-threating situations.

The fight or flight response is a physiological reaction that occurs when we feel threatened.  The term ‘fight or flight’ represents the choices that our ancestors had, either to stay and ‘fight’ or run from danger- ‘flight’.  In both cases, the body prepares to react to danger.

Even now, we still respond in this same way to different situations, for example, when encountering an aggressive animal.  It can also occur in less dangerous situations such as when preparing to speak in front of a crowd.

Some physiological changes that occur when the fight or flight response is activated include:

  • Release of adrenaline – signals organs
  • Large muscles tense – preparation for action
  • Rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure – increasing blood flow to muscles
  • Rapid breathing – lungs take in more oxygen to prepare
  • Reduced activity in the digestive system – feeling sick and/or experiencing a dry mouth
  • Bladder muscles relax – to drop extra weight to flee or ‘flight’
  • Perspiration – cools the body in anticipation of the heat to come
  • Pale or flushed skin – blood flows to the muscles, brain and limbs is increased which may result in your face becoming pale
  • Blood clotting ability increases – in preparation for possible injury, to avoid excess blood loss
  • Hyper-vigilance – in order to take in more light our pupils dilate
  • Racing thoughts – drawn to consuming thoughts of the worst-case scenario

 

After reading through the physiological changes, you can probably recall a time where you were in ‘fight or flight’ mode. These changes prime our body to cope effectively with the opposed threat and can help you perform better in high pressure situations.

However, we aren’t constantly being attacked by animals or giving presentations to large crowds. The fight or flight response can also be triggered in response to situations we perceive as threats where there is no real danger.  It can stay activated for longer periods than it is necessary.

This natural response is not always well matched to our modern threats. Many people are unable to switch off their fight or flight response. This can lead to chronic low-level stress. After a while, this has an effect on the body that contributes to health problems associated with chronic stress.

How do we deal with our fight or flight response?
A few ways to respond to your body’s fight or flight response include:

Actions of relaxation:

  • Abdominal breathing
  • Meditation
  • Focus on a soothing word (such as peace or calm)
  • Repetitive prayer

 

Physical activity (exercise) this can include any form of exercise, a few examples include:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Golf
  • Tennis

Any participation in exercise is beneficial!

Social support:

  • Confidants
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Spouses
  • Acquaintances
  • Companions

Those who enjoy close relationships receive emotional support that helps to sustain them at times of stress and crisis.

If  you’re stressed over a work or class presentation you aren’t going to have the time to take a break and hit the tennis courts. In an immediate situation you may want to try these tips:

  1. Observe what you are noticing in your body and remind yourself that this is your ‘fight or flight’ mode activating.
  2. Try to take control of your breath by breathing in for 4 counts, holding for 2 counts and breathing out for 6 counts. Do this a few times until you feel you have regathered your breath.
  3. Take a moment to examine your thoughts. How likely is your worst-case scenario? Try to focus on the good in the situation or remind yourself that this will pass.

Understanding that the fight or flight response has been inherited from our ancestors and is a natural response that we can actively control, will help you bring yourself back to baseline when this response is activated.

If you find it hard to get out of fight or flight mode, we have a toolkit designed to teach you strategies on dealing with challenge and uncertainty.

Shop APPLI’s toolkits here.

 

 

References

Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. 2020. What Happens To Your Body During The Fight or Flight Response?. [online] Available at: <https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-happens-to-your-body-during-the-fight-or-flight-response/> [Accessed 27 October 2020].

Morey-Nase, C., 2020. Understanding The Fight or Flight Response. [online] Blog.smilingmind.com.au. Available at: <https://blog.smilingmind.com.au/understanding-the-fight-or-flight-response> [Accessed 27 October 2020].

Harvard Health Publishing, 2020. Understanding The Stress Response – Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: <https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response> [Accessed 27 October 2020].

No time for exercise? Here are some tips to help you

No time for exercise? Here are some tips to help you

There are so many reasons why we should participate in regular exercise. The effects are both physically and mentally beneficial, yet we tend to find so many reasons to avoid it. If you were to ask people about their barrier to regular exercise, you would find that ‘time’ is one of the most common issues standing in the way. That is for good reason. With busy schedules, it can be harder to find time to fit in a good, regular exercise regime. However, making the time will allow you to reap the benefits.

In case you aren’t convinced, here are just a few reasons why regular exercise is beneficial:

• Improves sleep quality
• Lowers risk of depression
• Prevents health issues such as diabetes
• Decreases stress and anxiety
• Increases self-esteem and self-confidence
• Boost’s the brain by preventing cognitive decline
• Lowers blood pressure

What are some ways you can create time to fit exercise into your day?

What small steps can you take to make more time? Is it possible to wake up half an hour earlier, take a short walk on your lunch break, or dedicate some time before or after dinner in the evening rather than watching tv or scrolling through social media? At first, it may seem daunting. However, after a mere 21 days, you’ll start to create a habit and feel better physically and mentally.

What about joining the gym? This is a great option for some, however, finding the extra time to drive there and home can cut into your day and may not be practical. Exercising at home is a great alternative. There are many exercises you can take part in from the comfort of your home and most of which you’ll only need a workout mat for. Another alternative is walking or running outdoors. Getting your body moving by participating in any form of exercise will allow you to experience the benefits.

Harvard Health states that doctors should prescribe at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise or 15 minutes of intense exercise a day. A way to accumulate some exercise points if you don’t particularly have half an hour to spare is by making different choices in your daily activities to get your body moving more.

Here are some suggestions:
1. Walk to the bus/train- Instead of driving, walk to the station. By doing this you’re adding extra steps into your daily count and getting your blood pumping.
2. Swing your arms- While you’re walking, swing your arms. It helps us reach a brisk pace which is more healthful.
3. Walk and talk- Whether you’re talking with friends or watching your child’s soccer game, walk while you’re doing these activities.
4. Pets- Several studies have shown that dog owners get more exercise than canine-less.
5. Walk tall- Maintaining a good posture helps keep your back and abdominal muscles in shape. You’ll also look a lot healthier and confident with a better posture (which your mother probably reminded you of countless times!)
6. Find a buddy- Adopting a friend to become your walking, jogging, or biking partner is a great idea to make exercising more fun and help motivate you.
7. Take the stairs- We all know the stairs are a better option, yet the escalator is for some reason so enticing. You’ll reap more benefits from taking the stairs than you ever will opting for the alternative.
8. Set goals- It’s the 21st century and our phone tracks everything (slightly too much). Use this to your benefit. Most phones now have a step counter. Set a goal of how many steps you want to reach by the end of the day or week.
9. Stand up while you’re on the phone- Breaking up long periods of sitting has metabolic benefits.
10. Stairs tip- You’ll give your gluteal muscle a workout if you take two steps at a time.


Aside from changing your daily habits here are a few more exercise activities for the time you have to set aside:

1. Yoga- Yoga has many benefits such as enhancing our flexibility, balance, better over-all fitness. It also helps to reduce stress and improve mind-body awareness.
2. Walking- An Australian study showed that people who took 5,000+ steps per day had a much lower risk of heart disease and stroke than those who took less than 5,000.
3. Golfing- Rather than taking the cart around the course, opt for walking and carrying your clubs.
4. Swimming- Harvard Health states that we should accumulate 150 CME (cardiometabolic exercise) points each day. 30 minutes of swimming results in 230 points.
5. Jogging- Jogging is quite a vigorous form of exercise in which participating in 30 minutes of jogging results in 200 CME points.
6. Jumping rope- Jumping rope strengthens our bone density, improves heart health, and more. 15 minutes of jumping rope accumulates to 200 CME points! Do you have 15 minutes to spare?
7. Biking- Instead of driving, try biking. You don’t have to set aside a lot of time and it’s a convenient option for transportation. Ride your bike to the station or during your work break, even to pop to the local grocery store if you’re only picking up a few things.
8. Pilates- Pilates is a great form of exercise to get your muscles working. In each practice, you can target particular parts of your body depending on the muscles you want to work on that day.
9. Aerobic dance- Aerobics is a great way to get moving and improves your cardiovascular health.
10. Tennis- Tennis increases bone density, improves muscle tone, strength, flexibility, and reactions.


If you find it difficult to create healthy habits and stick to them then our toolkit is the perfect solution. Appli have put together a Mental Fitness Toolkit with strategies to assist inform healthy habits and improving wellbeing.

https://shop.appli.edu.au/


References

Publishing, H. (2020). How much exercise do you need? – Harvard Health. Retrieved 12 October 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/how-much-exercise-do-you-need

Publishing, H. (2020). More evidence that exercise can boost mood – Harvard Health. Retrieved 12 October 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/more-evidence-that-exercise-can-boost-mood

Publishing, H. (2020). Why we should exercise – and why we don’t – Harvard Health. Retrieved 12 October 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/why-we-should-exercise-and-why-we-dont

Schmidt, M., Cleland, V., Shaw, K., Dwyer, T., & Venn, A. (2009). Cardiometabolic Risk in Younger and Older Adults Across an Index of Ambulatory Activity. American Journal Of Preventive Medicine, 37(4), 278-284. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.05.020

Tennis – health benefits. (2020). Retrieved 12 October 2020, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/tennis-health-benefits

5 Mental Benefits of Exercise. (2020). Retrieved 12 October 2020, from https://www.waldenu.edu/online-bachelors-programs/bs-in-psychology/resource/five-mental-benefits-of-exercise

10,000 steps. (2020). Retrieved 12 October 2020, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/blog/blogcollectionpage/Conversation-10000steps

Nobody is Perfect- Not You and Not Others

Nobody is Perfect- Not You and Not Others

‘The golden rule tells us that we should treat others as we would want them to treat us. Maybe so, but hopefully we won’t treat them even half as badly as we treat ourselves.’ – Dr Kristin Neff

Evidence suggests that people are usually harder on themselves than they are on others. According to Dr Kristin Neff, a leading researcher in self-compassion, self-compassion entails being warm and understanding towards ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate. Unfortunately, many people hold a belief that self-compassion is self-indulgent or an excuse to escape personal responsibility.  This could not be further from the truth.

What does self-compassion involve?
Self-compassion involves treating yourself the way you would treat a friend who was going through a difficult time. There is such emphasis on being kind to our friends, family, colleagues and neighbours who are struggling, however, not so much when it comes to ourselves.  Self-compassion is a practice in which we learn to treat ourselves the way we would a good friend, when we need it most. Rather than speaking as though we were our own enemy, we become our own inner ally.

Imagine if we spoke to our friends the way we sometimes speak to ourselves.

“You’re so lame!”
“You always fail, why bother trying?”
“You’re not smart enough, give up.”

Would you ever honestly speak to a friend this way? Of course, you wouldn’t. When we care about people, we’re nice to them, we want to be kind and understanding towards what they’re going through. When they make a mistake or fail a task, we remind them that they’re human and it is normal. We reassure them of their abilities, we respect and support them. If they’re struggling or going through a hard time, we comfort them.

We are compassionate towards others, but are we compassionate towards ourselves? Not often, if at all. But what do we achieve by beating ourselves up? It makes us feel depressed, insecure and afraid to try new things or take on new challenges because we’re so afraid of the self-punishment we will inflict if we fail. Dr Kristin Neff’s research shows that those who are self-compassionate are much less likely to be depressed, anxious, insecure and stressed. They’re much more likely to be happy, resilient, optimistic, motivated and tend to have more quality relationships. This makes it clear that those who display self-compassion experience greater levels of psychological wellbeing.

It is in our favour that we are already skilled at showing attributes of compassion towards others. To obtain the benefits of self-compassion all you need to do is apply these same skills towards yourself. It may seem difficult at first, but like most things, do it for a while and it will become a habit that will change your life.

APPLI have put together a ‘Bouncing Back and Leaping Forward’ Mental Fitness Toolkit that teaches you strategies and practices on how to implement these critical skills into your life to help you create better habit for when you face inevitable challenge and difficult at times.

http://shop.appli.edu.au

References

Neff, K., & Germer, C. (2018). The mindful self-compassion workbook (pp. 9,10). New York: The Guilford Press.

Neff, D. (2020). Treating Yourself As You’d Treat a Good Friend – Kristin Neff. Retrieved 29 September 2020, from https://self-compassion.org/self-compassion-treating-yourself-as-youd-treat-a-good-friend/

 

The mental and physical benefits of yoga and why you should try it

The mental and physical health benefits of yoga and why you should try it

According to statistics (Nerurkar, Bitton, Davis, Phillips & Yeh, 2013) stress accounts for between 60%-80% of visits to primary care doctors. Chronic stress can have immense negative effects on our mental and physical health.  Chronic stress has been linked to accelerated biological aging, increased chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. These processes can cause cellular and genetic damage. Chronic inflammation has been associated with health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stress, depression and a weakening of the immune system.

Why try yoga?
Multiple studies suggest that yoga has the ability to dial back both physical and mental health problems. If that isn’t reason enough, regular yoga practice appears to link with increased wellbeing, better sleep, better body awareness, lower blood pressure and greater happiness.

When many of us hear ‘yoga’ we think of this activity as a way to better our flexibility, enhance our balance, etc. What we don’t think of is the fact that yoga includes breathing exercises, relaxation and meditation, all which help us become more mindful.  Among many benefits, mindfulness practice has been shown to reduce stress and chronic pain and improve emotional reactivity (David & Hayes, 2011). 

According to the Harvard Health Letter, Dr. Sat Bir Singh Khalsa says, “There are four distinct but interconnected areas in which yoga has specific benefits, not just for heart disease, but any disease.” These include:

  1. Better overall fitness. There are active forms of yoga ranging from moderate-intensity in exercise in the federal exercise guidelines. Even less intense yoga boosts muscle strength, flexibility, and balance.

  2. Sustained self-regulation. We all experience stress, some of us more than others. The relaxing, meditative aspects of yoga can build your emotional resilience. This allows you to stay calmer and enables you to be less reactive to stress and intense emotions. In a recent study (Tolahunase, Sagar & Dada, 2017), researchers found that a three-month yoga retreat reduced inflammation and stress in the body. This retreat incorporated physical postures, controlled breathing, and seated meditations. Researchers also found that BDNF levels tripled (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) which essentially effects our learning and memory.

  3. Greater mind-body awareness. A 2012 survey from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health revealed more than 80% of yoga enthusiasts said their stress decreased, nearly two-thirds felt more motivated to exercise regularly and four in ten said they were inspired to incorporate more healthy foods into their diets.

  4. Lastly, transformation over time. After years of practicing yoga, some people found that they practice transformed their lives to a greater degree, meaning their wellbeing was enhanced.


Below is a short yoga exercise:

  1. Sit in a comfortable seated position on the floor or in a chair.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Take a few slow deep breaths in and out. Counting to 4 when breathing in and 7 on the extended-out breath.
  4. Now on the next deep breath and as you exhale, roll your shoulders down your back.
  5. Sit up straight extending your spine.
  6. Relax your arms down at your sides.
  7. Pay attention to the room you’re in. What can you hear? What can you smell? What can you feel?
  8. Once you’ve taken some time to experience and acknowledge these senses, bring your breathing back to normal for a moment.
  9. You can now go on with your day.

If you are interested in mindfulness and mental fitness practices for your workplace, contact us to learn more about the Appli Work Fit Digital Health and Wellbeing Platform. 

References

Davis, D. M., & Hayes, J. A. (2011). What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy-related research. Psychotherapy (Chicago, Ill.)48(2), 198–208. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0022062

Nerurkar, A., Bitton, A., Davis, R., Phillips, R., & Yeh, G. (2013). When Physicians Counsel About Stress: Results of a National Study. JAMA Internal Medicine173(1), 76. doi: 10.1001/2013.jamainternmed.480

Publishing, H. (2020). How yoga may enhance heart health – Harvard Health. Retrieved 14 September 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/how-yoga-may-enhance-heart-health

Publishing, H. (2020). Increased well-being: Another reason to try yoga – Harvard Health. Retrieved 14 September 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/increased-well-being-another-reason-to-try-yoga

(2020). Retrieved 14 September 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/yoga-could-slow-the-harmful-effects-of-stress-and-inflammation-2017101912588https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/yoga-could-slow-the-harmful-effects-of-stress-and-inflammation-2017101912588

Tolahunase, M., Sagar, R., & Dada, R. (2017). Impact of Yoga and Meditation on Cellular Aging in Apparently Healthy Individuals: A Prospective, Open-Label Single-Arm Exploratory Study. Oxidative Medicine And Cellular Longevity, 2017, 1-9. doi: 10.1155/2017/7928981

 

 

What is resilience? Here’s a tip to build yours

What is resilience? Here’s a tip to build yours

At some point in our lives, each of us will endure challenge and suffering. Perhaps it’s the loss of a loved one or a divorce. We may lose our job or have an injury or accident, or we may be dealing with long periods of uncertainty and isolation such as the Covid-19 pandemic. There are many challenges that we all face as we navigate life’s ups and downs. At some point, life will be be a bit tough for all of us.

When we face these adverse life events, people respond to them differently. Some people can bounce back from adversity with relative ease, seeming to always come out on top. Others may struggle longer and need additional support to help them recover. In recent years, scientists and psychologists have begun to spend time studying those who recover well from negative events in the hope of uncovering how we can teach other those valuable psychological skills needed to overcome challenges in life. Together, these psychological skills make up a concept called resilience.

What is resilience?
Resilience is a hot topic lately. Everyone wants more resilience. But what is it, and what exactly does it mean? Psychological resilience is a bit of a complicated subject with many different theoretical frameworks and definitions. For example, the American Psychological Association (2014) generally defines resilience as an individual’s ability to appropriately adapt to adversity, tragedy, trauma, threat or significant stress. Resilience is thought to promote protective factors that support positive outcomes.

So why would you want to build your resilience?
Resilience is what gives us the ability to cope with stress, trauma and hardship. Those with low levels of resilience are more likely to feel overwhelmed or helpless and rely on unhealthy coping strategies. On the flip side, those with high levels of resilience cope better with stress, are more hopeful, have more positive emotions and higher levels of mental fitness.

Having high levels of resilience doesn’t mean you won’t face challenges; it just means that you may be able to adapt and overcome these challenges better than you would have without these skills.

How can you become more resilient?
Research indicates that about 60% of people may be naturally resilient. However, just like  physical fitness, we need to practice regularly to maintain our mental fitness and resilience. Below are a few techniques you can use to strengthen your resilience and teach others how to develop their own resiliency skills.

One particularly useful framework for building resilience is the BOUNCE BACK framework developed by Drs Toni Nobel and Helen McGrath. Each letter in BOUNCE BACK stands for a critical area that you can focus on to strengthen your resilience.

Here is a summary of the BOUNCE BACK framework:
Bad times don’t last. Things always get better. Stay optimistic.

Other people can help you if you talk to them. Get a reality check.

Unhelpful thinking makes you more upset. Think again.

Nobody is perfect- not you and not others.

Concentrate on the positives (no matter how small) and use laughter.

Everybody experiences sadness, hurt, failure, rejection and setbacks sometimes, not just you. They are a normal part of life. Try not to personalize them.

Blame fairly. How much of what happened was due to you, to others and to bad luck or circumstances?

Accept what can’t be changed (but try to change what you can change first).

Catastrophising exaggerates your worries. Don’t believe the worst possible picture.

Keep things in perspective. It’s only part of your life.

APPLI have put together a ‘Bouncing Back and Leaping Forward’ Mental Fitness Toolkit that teaches you strategies and practices on how to implement these into your life as habits as we experience inevitable challenge and suffering at times.

To learn how you can apply the Bounce Back framework in your own life, checkout our Mental Fitness Toolkit…. http://shop.appli.edu.au

 

Struggling to Sleep? Here are 5 Tips

Struggling to Sleep? Here are 5 Tips 

There is no question that sleep, exercise and nutrition are critical for maintaining adequate physical health. But, did you know that they are also crucial for mental fitness? If you aren’t eating well, sleeping well or getting enough exercise, likely, you aren’t feeling or functioning well.

Getting the right amount of quality sleep is crucial for our brains to function properly. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function, maintaining your physical and emotional health. It also helps to support your growth and development in children and teens. Sleep allows your brain to form new pathways for learning and remembering information, enhancing your learning and problem-solving skills. The right amount of quality sleep can help you pay attention, make better decisions and be more creative- and even lead to better academic and work performance.

Sleep continuity is also important. Research shows that getting the right amount of continuous sleep supports better cognitive performance and decision making in the brain. On the flip side, research has also shown that people who do not get enough quality sleep may experience poor working memory, worse verbal fluency and less inhibitory control- making it harder to make healthy choices.

If you often find yourself restless and struggling to get enough sleep at night, then we have five tips to help you.

  1. Try to spend some time in the sun during the day.

The circadian rhythm is the body’s natural sleep cycle which keeps us awake during the day and helps us sleep at night. Several factors influence the circadian rhythm, including a hormone called melatonin. Light exposure during the day helps to produce melatonin release at night, which induces sleepiness. Conversely, light exposure at night may have negative consequences on melatonin, so avoid bright lights and screens, including mobile phones at least two hours before bed.

  1. Get regular exercise during the day.

Exercise also helps regulate the circadian rhythm. Physical activity during the day has been shown to improve sleep quality. If you have trouble sleeping after an evening workout, adjust your schedule to make time for morning exercise instead.

  1. Save the bed for sleeping.

With many people working from home, space can be a significant obstacle. Unfortunately, working, eating, using your phone or watching tv in bed are all no-nos when it comes to healthy sleeping habits. If you have trouble sleeping, experts recommend not using the bed for anything other than sleep or romantic activities. It is also essential to get up at the same time every day, even if you didn’t sleep as much as you would have liked.

  1. Avoid alcohol and caffeine at night.

Both caffeine and alcohol can affect your circadian rhythm and cause sleep disturbances. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening if you find you aren’t sleeping well. And, while alcohol may make you feel sleepy and relaxed, it has been shown to disrupt sleep rhythms by activating alpha activity in the brain. This function typically happens when you are awake and resting quietly. This change in brain activity can be disruptive for sleep, not to mention more frequent trips to the bathroom.

  1. Schedule “worry time” during the day.

If you find that your stress and worry is keeping you up at night, keep a pen and paper next to your bed. If there is something on your mind that you can’t stop thinking about, get it out of your brain and on to the paper. Then, you can come back to the issue during your designated time slot. For resolving worries, stressful thoughts or making plans. This strategy can help minimize the impact of these thoughts interfering with sleep.

Interesting in more practical ways to improve your wellbeing? APPLI have put together a ‘Creating Habits of Wellbeing’ toolkit which will provide you with additional strategies and practical tools to use in your everyday life.

https://shop.appli.edu.au/

 

References

Altena, E., Baglioni, C., Espie, C., Ellis, J., Gavriloff, D., & Holzinger, B. et al. (2020). Dealing with sleep problemsduring home confinement due to the COVID-19 outbreak: Practical recommendations from a task force of theEuropean CBT-I Academy.Journal of Sleep Research.doi: 10.1111/jsr.13052

Bottomley, A., & McKeown, J. (2008). Promoting nutrition for people with mental health problems.Nursing Standard, 22(49), 48-56.

Chapman S.B., Aslan S., Spence J.S., Keebler M.W., DeFina L.F., Didehbani N., Perez A.M., Lu H. & D’Esposito M.(2016). Distinct Brain and Behavioral Benefits from Cognitive vs. Physical Training: A Randomized Trial in AgingAdults. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10(338). doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00338

Fogg, B. (2020). Start Tiny. Retrieved 13 May 2020, from https://www.tinyhabits.com

Fogg, B. (2020).Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. Virgin Books.

Gardner, B., Lally, P., & Wardle, J. (2012). Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and generalpractice.British Journal Of General Practice, 62(605), 664-666. doi: 10.3399/bjgp12x659466

How Alcohol Affects the Quality—And Quantity—Of Sleep – National Sleep Foundation. (2020). Retrieved 12 May2020, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-alcohol-affects-quality-and-quantity-sleep

Jacobs, D.R. & Zhu, N. (2016). How does exercise benefit cognition?Scientific American. Retrieved fromhttp://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-does-exercise-benefit-cognition/

Kandola A., Hendrikse J., Lucassen P.J. & Yücel M. (2016). Aerobic Exercise as a Tool to Improve HippocampalPlasticity and Function in Humans: Practical Implications for Mental Health Treatment. Frontiers in HumanNeuroscience, 10(373). doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00373

Mental Health Foundation. (2006). Feeding Minds: The Impact of Food on Mental Health. MHF, London.

Morres, I., Hatzigeorgiadis, A., Stathi, A., Comoutos, N., Arpin-Cribbie, C., Krommidas, C., & Theodorakis, Y. (2018).Aerobic exercise for adult patients with major depressive disorder in mental health services: A systematic review andmeta-analysis.Depression and Anxiety, 36(1), 39-53. doi: 10.1002/da.22842

Parletta, N. (2016). Can diet and Nutrition Affect our Learning, Behavior and Mental Health?.Nutridate, 27(4), 10.

Robinson, P. L. (2018).Practising Positive Education: A guide to improve wellbeing literacy in schools (2nd ed.).Positive Psychology Institute: Sydney, Australia.

Robinson, P. L., Oades, L. G., & Caputi, P. (2015). Conceptualising and measuring mental fitness: A Delphi study.International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(1), 53-73.

Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. (2006). Exercise for Mental Health.The Primary Care Companion to The JournalOf Clinical Psychiatry, 08(02), 106. doi: 10.4088/pcc.v08n0208a

Why Is Sleep Important? – NHLBI, NIH. (2016). Nhlbi.nih.gov. Retrieved 8 September 2016, fromhttp://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why

Wilckens, K., Woo, S., Kirk, A., Erickson, K., & Wheeler, M. (2014). Role of sleep continuity and total sleep time inexecutive function across the adult lifespan.Psychology and Aging, 29(3), 658-665. doi: 10.1037/a0037234

 

Why we have negative thoughts and how to change them

Why we have negative thoughts and how to change them

Have you caught yourself thinking negatively about yourself or a situation you have no control over? You may like to know, you’re not alone. Fear, shame, guilt, distress and sadness are some of the negative emotions that many people experience during difficult times.

While they may be unpleasant, negative emotions have a very important purpose- allowing us to survive as a species. Humanity has relied on these powerful emotions to protect us from danger and remain an essential part of our evolution. However, there is a substantial downside to this survival mechanism. This evolutionary mechanism in our brains, known as the Negativity Bias, makes us pay more attention to the negative experiences or things in our life compared to the positive experiences. There’s a good reason for this. For survival, our ancestors had to be more aware of life-threatening risks such as predators. Paying too much attention to the positive things around them (that did not pose a threat) made no sense when survival was a day-to-day proposition.

Fortunately, life is much safer in the 21st century. But the Negativity Bias is still alive and well in the primitive part of our brain. Our brains are, in fact, hardwired to ‘Velcro’ the negatives and ‘Teflon’ the positives. This can cause problems for us by creating an unhealthy positive-to-negative emotional ratio, which can contribute to mental illness.

The good news? Research suggests that we can improve our positive to negative emotional ratio and the ill-effects of Negativity Bias. By applying simple, evidence-based strategies, we can feel better and function well more often.

Automatic Negative Thoughts (aka ANTs) are thinking traps or stories that we tell ourselves that aren’t necessarily true. Sometimes our brains get into the habit of repeating these distortions over and over, causing a pattern of unhealthy thoughts that can lead to low levels of wellbeing and even depression or anxiety. These harmful thoughts can make us feel even worse while we are already dealing with the stress and uncertainty or difficult periods.

ANTs begin due to the Negativity Bias, which is hardwired into the human brain. Fortunately, you can learn to identify your ANTs and transform them into PETs, (aka Performance Enhancing Thoughts) with a little help from Positive Psychology and a process known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

 You can start transforming your ANTs and PETs by challenging your thoughts. You can start by asking yourself some of these simple questions:

  • How much do you believe this thought?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of this thought?
  • What is the evidence for and against this thought? Could you convince a jury that your negative interpretation is the best or only valid one?
  • Is there something you could do to determine if this thought is true?
  • If the thought is true, are there some things you can do to improve the situation?
  • ASK YOURSELF THE KEY QUESTION: Is this thought helping me?

You can learn more about how to create PETS (Performance Enhancing Thoughts) as well as other techniques to build your Resilience with our ‘Bouncing Back and Leaping Forward’ Mental Fitness Toolkit.

https://shop.appli.edu.au/

 

References

Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Finkenauer, C., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Bad Is Stronger Than Good.Reviewof General Psychology, 5(4), 323-370.https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-2680.5.4.323

Beck, J. (2011).Cognitive Therapy. New York: Guilford Press.

Covey, S.. (1989).The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Diener, E., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2008).The Science of Optimal Happiness. Boston: Blackwell

Publishing.Frederickson, B. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions.PhilosophicalTransactions: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1367-1377.

Fredrickson, B., & Joiner, T. (2018). Reflections on Positive Emotions and UpwardSpirals.Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(2), 194-199. doi: 10.1177/1745691617692106

Hayes, S. C. (1994). Content, context, and the types of psychological acceptance. In S. C. Hayes, N.S. Jacobson, V. M. Follette, & M. J. Dougher (Eds.),Acceptance and Change: Content and context inpsychotherapy(pp. 13-32). Reno, NV: Context Press.

Henriksen, K., Haberl, P., Baltzell, A., Hansen, J., Birrer, D., & Larsen, C. H. (2019). Mindfulness andAcceptance Approaches. In K. Henriksen, J. Hansen, C.H. Larsen (Eds.),Mindfulness and Acceptance inSport: How To Help Athletes Perform and Thrive Under Pressure.

Hayes, S. C. (1994). Content, context, and the types of psychological acceptance. In S. C. Hayes, N.S. Jacobson, V. M. Follette, & M. J. Dougher (Eds.),Acceptance and change: Content and Context inpsychotherapy(pp. 13-32). Reno, NV: Context Press.

Kashdan, T., & Ciarrochi, J. (2013). Mindfulness, Acceptance, and Positive Psychology: The SevenFoundations of Well-Being. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

Robinson, P. (2018).Practising Positive Education: A Guide to Improve Wellbeing Literacy in Schools (2nded.). Positive Psychology Institute: Sydney, Australia.

Robinson, P. L., Oades, L. G. & Caputi, P. (2014).Conceptualising and measuring mental fitness, Doctor ofPhilosophy thesis, Department of Psychology, University of Wollongong.https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/4269

Robinson, P. L., Oades, L. G., & Caputi, P. (2015). Conceptualising and measuring mental fitness: A Delphistudy.International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(1), 53-73.

Seligman, M. E. P., (2006).Learned Optimism: how to change your mind and your life. New York: VintageBooks.

Staying Connected- How Our Relationships Affect Our Wellbeing

Staying Connected- How Our Relationships Affect Our Wellbeing

‘There are few stronger predictions of happiness than a close, nurturing, equitable, intimate, lifelong companionship with one’s best friend.’ David Myers, Psychologist.

You’re probably wondering how relationships have such an impact on our happiness?

It may be surprising, but research suggests that our relationships are one of the most significant predictors of physical and psychological wellbeing across all ages. There are so many predicted health benefits as a result of the presence of positive relationships, such as;

  • Improved recovery from surgery
  • Better immunity to cold and flu viruses
  • Lower incidence of heart attacks
  • Greater ability to cope with stress (oxytocin)
  • Higher worker satisfaction and productivity
  • Increased life expectancy (due to hormonal, cardiovascular, and immune responses in the body)
  • Higher academic achievement
  • Greater career mobility
  • Greater life satisfaction

 

During times of challenge, our team can be significant source of support. Your team are the people in your life that you would normally spend regular time with, such as your work colleagues, friends, family, etc.

Take a minute to think about who’s on your team? Who supports you emotionally?

For many, the lack of social connection during these unprecedent times has been a significant source of stress. Research shows that one risk of remote working is social isolation and loneliness, but the current COVID restrictions complicate this further. Evidence shows that relationships and connection are critical for high levels of psychological wellbeing. So, without a plan in place, individuals are at risk of developing mental health problems, so we must find ways to try to stay connected as much as possible during this current pandemic.

A few new ways we’re able to stay connected include:

  • Catching up for coffee or dinner with a friend whilst abiding by the current social distancing rules.
  • Reconnecting with old friends on social media. It is never too late to rekindle old friendships.
  • Organise a virtual game night.
  • Joining positive social media groups to discuss hobbies and shared interests.
  • Sending a card, letter or gift to those that you can’t travel to see right now.
  • Spending quality time with those in your household, playing games, dancing or cooking together.
  • Asking your colleagues to share something funny or a story about their weekend during conference calls.
  • Starting a hashtag and encourage your workplace or community to post around a positive topic.
  • Joining a virtual trivia games or participating in virtual cooking classes.

 

APPLI have put together a ‘Staying Connected’ toolkit which will provide you with additional strategies and practical tools that you can use to manage your relationships and wellbeing during the COVID pandemic and throughout life.

References

Aknin, L.B., Dunn, E.W. & Norton, M.I. (2012). Happiness Runs in a Circular Motion: Evidence for a Positive Feedback Loop between Prosocial Spending and Happiness. J Happiness Stud, 13, 347–355. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-011-9267-5

Brannan, D., Biswas-Diener, R., Mohr, C., Mortazavi, S., & Stein, N. (2013). Friends and family: A cross-cultural investigation of social support and subjective well-being among college students. The Journal Of Positive Psychology, 8(1), 65-75. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2012.743573

Brown, S. L., Nesse, R. M., Vinokur, A. D., & Smith, D. M. (2003). Providing Social Support May Be More Beneficial Than Receiving It: Results From a Prospective Study of Mortality. Psychological Science, 14(4), 320–327. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.14461

Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Very Happy People. Psychological Science, 13(1), 81–84. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467- 9280.00415

Myers, D. G. (1999). Close relationships and quality of life. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (eds.), Well-Being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. 

Robinson, P. L., Oades, L. G. & Caputi, P. (2014). Conceptualising and measuring mental fitness, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Department of Psychology, University of Wollongong. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/4269

Robinson, P. L., Oades, L. G., & Caputi, P. (2015). Conceptualising and measuring mental fitness: A Delphi study. International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(1), 53-73.