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.




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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.

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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.




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

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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.

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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.

Shaping Your Future in Times Of Change and Transition

Shaping Your Future in Times Of Change and Transition

In life, times of transition can often be the most challenging. But whether we like it or not, life is full of change. From an early age, we begin to navigate life’s transitions, going to school for the first time, moving out of our parents’ homes, and then on to university or the workplace. Overtime, many of us change careers, move apartments or houses, find new roles, or even experience redundancies. In our personal lives we experience loss, become parents, retire or experience many other unforeseen challenges and opportunities.

Throughout our lives we experience a number of stages. Transitioning is the period of change from one stage to another. You can think of transition as a bridge, providing a path from one point in life to the next. Although these times can be stressful, they can also be an exciting opportunity for positive change. Fortunately, research shows that there are strategies that can be applied to influence the things within your control and hopefully make your transitions a bit smoother.

Look Beyond Short-Term Future

Scientist and coaching expert Alex Linley and his colleagues have discovered that people are more likely to focus on the short-term future of change or transition because it is easier to imagine. Unfortunately, people tend to focus more on the stresses of the transition rather than the adaption that will almost certainly follow. This happens because our brains are wired to pay attention to negative threats for survival. This concept is known as the negativity bias. However, we have the ability to override our negative bias to help us bring our focus on possibilities and solutions rather than negative possibilities and worry. To move past the negative bias, it can be helpful to picture your life 3, 6 or even 12 months after the transition and write it down or describe it.

Identify What is Already Working Well

One strategy that you can use to help manage life’s transitions is to reflect on the things in your life that are already working well. This can help boost your positive emotions during times of change. It can also promote self-efficacy by helping you to identify the things that you can do well and continue to do as you transition to a new stage in life.


Another strategy is to coach yourself with SMART goals. A SMART goal meaning, Specific, Measurable, Authentic, Realistic and Timely; can help you think about what you would like to accomplish before, during and after a transition. The SMART goal framework can take these ideas from broad vision to realistic actions.

Transition is inevitable through our lives as we experience constant change and move onto new stages. The best thing we can do is implement strategies that will help is transition during each phase of our lives with as many skills and resources as possible.

Looking for more science-based resources?  APPLI have put together a toolkit called ‘Shaping Your Future in Times of Change and Transition’.  This toolkit will provide you with additional strategies and practical tools that you can use to navigate COVID related changes, manage your current transition and help move forward with further transitions throughout life.

Shop APPLI’s toolkits here:


Linley, A. (2008). Average to A+: Realising Strengths in Yourself and Others. Coventry, UK: CAPP Press.

Linley, P.A., Biswas-Diener, R., & Trenier, E. (2011). Positive Psychology and Strengths Coaching Through Transition. In S. Palmer & S. Panchal (Eds.), Developmental Coaching: Life Transitions and Generational Perspectives. Hove: Routledge.

Wellbeing – the simple truth behind this latest buzzword

Wellbeing – the simple truth behind this latest buzzword

The term ‘wellbeing’ has become a hot topic in the past decade.  Wellbeing is mentioned everywhere from TV commercials to corporate values.  It is used to sell supplements, medical products, self-help books, ‘super food smoothies’ and even makeup and beauty products.  With the vast array of applications, it is no wonder that there is confusion about what wellbeing actually is.

In reality, wellbeing is more than a trendy buzzword.  Psychological wellbeing refers to the scientific attributes that allow people to flourish at school, work and life.  The World Health Organization (2014) defines wellbeing as “a state in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community.”  Wellbeing is the ability to develop skills and resources that outweigh the challenges that you may face in life.

What contributes to this state of wellbeing can be quite complex.  Most researchers agree that wellbeing is a ‘multi-dimensional construct’, which simply means that it is made up of a number of separate but related ideas. A good example of a ‘multi-dimensional construct’ is the concept of physical fitness. Physical fitness consists of strength, flexibility and endurance. They’re each a separate element, but all are components of physical fitness.

Some of these underlying constructs that contribute to wellbeing include psychological concepts like meaning and purpose in life, resilience, positive emotions, satisfaction with life, mindfulness, relationships, social and emotional skills, workplace engagement, creativity, gratitude, optimism, goal setting and attainment, leadership skills, and many more.  In fact, there are hundreds of specific constructs that are being studied by scientists and wellbeing researchers.

Unlike traditional psychology which focuses on what is wrong in the brain and how to fix it, the study of wellbeing (sometimes referred to as Positive Psychology) focuses on discovering how people with very high levels of mental health think, feel and behave.  By analyzing these attributes, scientists and researchers have now developed many evidence-based ways of teaching people with low to moderate levels of mental health how to cultivate these skills and improve their wellbeing over time.  When practised regularly, these resources serve as a protective buffer against mental illness, stress and burnout.  You can think of wellbeing resources as an inoculation, boosting the psychological immune system to assist when critical challenges arise.

Why focus on wellbeing?

Around the world, schools, workplaces, communities and governments are focusing on how they can help their people build these critical psychological skills.  The evidence is compelling: low levels of wellbeing have huge implications for individuals and communities. We know that mental illness accounts for between 3% and 16% of total health expenditure across many countries (OECD, 2011).  In a report to the World Economic Forum in 2012, Gerald Bloom (a physician and health economist at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex) predicted that the global cost of mental illness would be more than $6 trillion by 2030. It’s a staggering figure that includes loss of labour supply, high rates of unemployment, high incidence of illness, absence from work and study, and decreased productivity (Mental Health and Work: Switzerland, 2014).

Globally, depression is the number 1 cause of illness and disability in age group 10-14, and suicide ranks number 3 among causes of death. Some studies show that half of all people who develop mental disorders have their first symptoms by the age of 14 (Espinoza, 2015).

Martin Seligman is one of the pioneers of Positive Psychology. He suggests that we have much to gain both economically and socially by beginning to think about wellbeing and mental health promotion in conjunction with mental illness prevention and treatment. He argues that if we continue to focus on simply responding to diagnosed mental illness alone, the best we can hope for is to reduce levels of diagnosed mental illness (Seligman, 2011).

Building on this idea, many scholars and practitioners today propose that we focus on developing wellbeing for its own sake (because our families and communities are stronger when people have high levels of wellbeing), rather than simply to reduce and prevent mental illness.  There is good reason for this paradigm shift.  Research suggests that improved levels of wellbeing are associated with many benefits, including:

  • faster recovery from surgery
  • lower incidence of cancer
  • improved immunity to colds and flu viruses
  • reduced incidence of heart attacks
  • increased ability to cope with stress
  • higher levels of worker satisfaction and productivity
  • increased life expectancy
  • stronger verbal communication skills
  • improved memory
  • more openness in social relationships
  • fewer illnesses
  • fewer marriage breakups
  • more creative and flexible thinking
  • increased creativity
  • higher levels of mental acuity
  • better performance at work
  • improved ability to make decisions
  • greater resilience following trauma
  • greater tolerance towards others

In an education setting, improved levels of wellbeing are associated with:

  • better academic results
  • higher levels of academic engagement and participation
  • higher retention rates
  • stronger social and emotional skills
  • pro-social behaviour
  • higher levels of optimism
  • improved health-related behaviours
  • greater levels of self-control
  • fewer symptoms of depression
  • less hopelessness
  • lower clinical levels of depression and anxiety
  • reduction in conduct problems
  • lower levels of procrastination

(Seligman, 2011; Heaphy & Dutton, 2008; Dutton & Ragins, 2007; Fredrickson, 2001; Fredrickson, 2008; Durlak et al., 2011; Gray & Hackling, 2009; Noble & McGrath, 2012; Bird, & Markle, 2012; Brunwasser, Gillham& Kim, 2009; Seligman et al., 2009).

So how can we do it?

Anyone can learn to build their wellbeing resources.  But, it takes the cultivation of habits and regular practice of evidence-based activities.  Just like physical fitness, your mental fitness our mental fitness also requires our constant attention and the cultivation of good practices (Robinson, 2017; 2014; Robinson, Oades & Caputi, 2015; Zolezzi, 2017). Evidence suggests that individuals are able to learn the skills of wellbeing and achieve measurable improvements in their daily functioning and personal and professional performance. So which practices and activities should people practice?  Follow the Appli blog to find out…


Bird, J., Markle, R. (2012). Subjective wellbeing in school environments: Promoting positive youth development through evidence-based assessment. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 82, 61-66.

Bloom, D.E., Cafiero, E.T., Jané-Llopis, E., Abrahams-Gessel, S., Bloom, L.R., Fathima, S., Feigl, A.B., Gaziano, T., Mowafi, M., Pandya, A., Prettner, K., Rosenberg, L., Seligman, B., Stein, A.Z., & Weinstein, C. (2011). The Global Economic Burden of Noncommunicable Diseases. Geneva: World Economic Forum.

Brunwasser, S.M., Gillham, J. E., & Kim, E. S. (2009). A meta-analytic review of the Penn Resiliency Program’s effect on depressive symptoms. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77(6). 1042-1054.

Durlak, J., Weissberg, P., Dymnicki, A., Taylor, R., & Schellinger, K. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: a meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82, 405-432. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01564.x.

Dutton, J. E. (Ed); Ragins, B.R. (Ed). (2007). Exploring positive relationships at work: Building a theoretical and research foundation. LEA’s organization and management series (pp. 387-400). Mahwah, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

Espinoza, J. (2015, March 18). ‘Stress pushing teachers to leave profession,’ figures show. The Telegraph. Retrieved from leave-profession-figures-show.html

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Fredrickson, B. (2008). Promoting positive affect. In M. Eid & R. Larsen, The Science of Subjective Well-being (pp. 449-468). New York: Guilford Press.

Gray, J., & Hackling, M. (2009). Wellbeing and retention: A senior secondary student perspective. The Australian Educational Researcher, 36(2), 119-145.

Heaphy, E. D., & Dutton, J. E. (2008). Positive social interactions and the human body at work: Linking organizations and physiology. Academy of Management Review, 33(1), 137-162.

Mental Health and Work: Switzerland. (2014). Mental Health and Work. http://dx.doi. org/10.1787/9789264204973-en

Noble, T., & McGrath, H. (2012). The positive educational practices framework: A tool for facilitating the work of educational psychologists in promoting pupil wellbeing. Educational & Child Psychology, 25(2), 119-134.

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Robinson, P. Leading with Mental Fitness. In Koonce, R., Robinson, P, Vogel, B. (Eds.) (2017).  Developing Leaders for Positive Organizing. Bingley, United Kingdom: Emerald Group Publishing.

Robinson, P. L., (2014) Conceptualising and measuring mental fitness, Doctor of Philosophy thesis,  Department of Psychology, University of Wollongong.

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.

Seligman, M. E., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive education: Positive Psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review of Education, 35(3), 298-311.

Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish: A new understanding of happiness and Wellbeing and how to achieve them. London, UK: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Zolezzi, S. (2017), Mental Fitness at Knox Grammar School, Koonce, R. (Ed.) Developing Leaders for Positive Organizing,Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 243-261.

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