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

 

 

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.

Be SMART

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

References

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.

The importance of knowing & living your values

The importance of knowing & living your values

Perhaps you have been thinking long and hard about what you want in your life. Or maybe, you’re reflecting on how you want to contribute to something bigger than yourself. You could even be thinking about your relationships and the role you would like them to play in your life. The answers to these big questions in life are often a reflection of our values, or our deepest desires and attitudes about the world, other people, and ourselves.

Research shows that understanding our values, strengths, and the things that make our life meaningful are all valuable skills that can help us navigate challenges and support our mental fitness.

Knowing and Living Your Values

Understanding our values can help us live a life that is more meaningful and in alignment with what we desire and believe is right. According to Psychologist Russ Harris, it is important to understand that values are not the same as goals. A value is not something that you can just cross off or achieve. Instead, it is something that you continuously aim to live and move towards. As stated by Harris, “for example, if you want to be a loving, caring, supportive partner, that is a value – an ongoing process. If you stop being loving, caring and supportive, then you are no longer a loving, caring, supportive partner; you are no longer living by that value. In contrast, if you want to get married, that’s a goal – it can be ‘crossed off’ or achieved. Once you’re married, you’re married – even if you start treating your partner very badly.”   

Each person has their own set of values, and only you can determine what those values are. No one else can define this for you. When you are exploring your core values, it is not always easy to pin them down therefore, it will take time for you to identify.

Do you know your top 5 personal core values? What about your top 5 work values?

If you would like some resources to help you identify your values, feel free to use listen to the core values activity below from our Appli Work Fit Digital Wellbeing Platform.  The Appli Team have also created an evidence-based toolkit called “Living a Meaningful Life” which can help you discover your values and live with meaning and purpose during the COVID pandemic and beyond.

https://shop.appli.edu.au

References

Martela, F., & Steger, M. (2016). The three meanings of meaning in life: Distinguishing coherence, purpose, and significance. The Journal Of Positive Psychology, 11(5), 531-545. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2015.1137623

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.

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

Ryff, C. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological wellbeing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(6), 1069-1081.

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

Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421.

Steger, M. F. (2009). Meaning in life. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of Positive Psychology (pp. 679-687). New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press.

Wong, P. T. P., & Wong, L. C. J. (2012). A meaning-centered approach to building youth resilience. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed., pp. 585-617). New York, NY: Routledge.

Wong, P. (2011, July 5). The Positive Psychology of Meaning in Life and Well-Being. Retrieved from http://www.drpaulwong.com/ the-positive-psychology-of-meaning-in-life-and-well-being/

How to manage your energy, not your time

How to manage your energy, not your time

Do you ever find yourself feeling exhausted when you wake up or maybe unable to completely focus during your workday?

Research shows that working long hours without taking breaks leaves us unendingly exhausted and unable to fully engage with our family and loved ones. As a result, this leaves us feeling unsatisfied and harms our wellbeing. In the workplace, most of us are responding to ongoing demands causing us to put in long hours. This inevitably takes a toll not only on us physically but mentally and emotionally as well. Studies show that this leads to declining engagement levels, higher levels of distraction, higher turnover rates within an organisation, and rising medical costs amongst employees.

The main issue with working longer hours is that time is a finite resource. Energy, however, is defined in physics as the capacity to work. Performance psychologist Jim Loehr and his colleagues have a solution; it’s called ‘Energy management’.  According to Loehr, energy is drawn from four main areas; our body, our emotions, our mind and what he refers to as our spirit. Thankfully, for each of these areas, there are habits we are able to implement in our lives to increase our energy levels.

  1. Managing Our Physical Energy

It is well known that lacking nutrition, exercise, sleep and rest periods weakens people’s energy, as well as our ability to manage emotions and our attention span. To better manage our physical energy, focus on setting yourself an earlier bedtime, during sleep our body is working to support healthy brain function, maintaining our physical and emotional health. Sleep allows your brain to form new pathways for learning and remembering information, enhancing your learning and problem-solving skills. Take the time to exercise a few times a week, focusing on cardiovascular exercise three times and strength training once. Additionally, take regular breaks away from your desk to allow yourself to recharge.

  1. Managing Our Emotional Energy

Our emotions are affected when we overwork ourselves. Most people realize that they perform better when they are feeling positive. If we don’t take breaks, we are then incapable of positive emotions for long periods. Work demands and unexpected challenges push us towards feeling more negative emotions. To enhance your positive energy focus on (a) deep breathing, (b) take time to think about what you’re grateful for and express appreciation to others, (c) look at upsetting situations through new lenses. For example, ask yourself ‘what would the other person in this conflict say and how may his point of view be right?’, ‘how will I view this situation in six months or a year?’, ‘how can I learn and grow from this?’.

  1. Managing our Mental Energy

Multitasking harms our productivity as the shift in attention from one task to another increases the time necessary to complete the task by 25%. Over working and unnecessary multitasking has an effect on our mental energy. To improve your mental energy, take away distractions like your phone so you’re able to focus. Allocate times during the day to respond to voicemails and emails. Each evening, write down the most important task for the next day and focus on that first when you arrive at work.

  1. Managing our Spiritual Energy

People tap into energy of their spirit when their work and activities align with their values. This gives them a sense of meaning and purpose. If the work they’re doing truly matters to them, naturally they’ll feel more positive energy. To increase your spiritual energy, pay attention to what activities give you feelings of effectiveness and fulfillment. Find ways to do more of these. Allocate time and energy to what you consider most important. For example, if consideration is important to you, however, you find yourself constantly running late. Practice showing up five minutes early.

To learn how to identify your values, follow this link and complete the exercise.

http://www.motivationalinterviewing.org/sites/default/files/valuescardsort_0.pdf

These changes may not happen in a day. Take steps by introducing them into your day to day life. We often overwork ourselves and forget the importance of our mental health and wellbeing. Once you implement these changes it is proven that you’ll feel more positive energy and vitality as well as a improved overall wellbeing.

Take a moment to think about how you will implement these rituals into your life.

Loehr, J., Christensen, C., Goleman, D., & Drucker, P. (2010). HBR’s 10 Must Reads On Managing Yourself. Harvard Business Review Press.

Miller, W., Baca, J., Matthews, D., & Wilbourne, P. (2001). Personal Values Card Sort. Retrieved 16 June 2020, from http://www.motivationalinterviewing.org/sites/default/files/valuescardsort_0.pdf

 

Need help dealing with uncertainty? Here are 3 quick tips


Need help dealing with uncertainty?  Here are 3 quick tips

One thing Coronavirus has shown us is how quickly circumstances can change. With our lives being disrupted we have had to learn how to adapt. There are a few particular strategies that can help us manage the stress and uncertainty effectively and remain optimistic during this time.

Here are 3 tips we can do to assist us to manage uncertainty and help us adapt:

1.     Recognise what we can and cannot control
With the government implementing new rules and changing the way we would normally go about our day to day lives, we need to realise that these new rules are out of our control. However, we can control our own response to make the most of the situation.  For example, I can still exercise every day.

2.     Keep making plans
We may have not dealt with uncertainty on this scale before, but we have dealt with uncertainty to some extent previously. If we survived that, we can overcome this. Continue to make plans and new goals that you want to achieve. These plans allow us to have something to look forward to and help us avoid getting caught in the trap of avoidance.  For example, write down something you are working towards right now.

3.     Focus on the best of what can be
The tough situations can often be an opportunity to look for a silver lining. If we fall into the trap of focusing purely on the negatives it becomes a downward spiral. In not only this situation but any stressful time for that matter, focusing on the positives can really help.  For example, “I’ve learned to appreciate the simple things in life more than I did before”.

These tips may not prevent Coronavirus, however, they can assist you in limiting and preventing the negative effects of this challenging time on your mental fitness.

If you are interested in learning more ways to build mental fitness in your home, school, workplace, or community, visit our website at www.appli.edu.au.  We also offer digital wellbeing programs, online courses, training programs, and consulting services for individuals and organisations. 

Boost Your Wellbeing: Building Mental Fitness Habits

Boost Your Wellbeing: Building Mental Fitness Habits

During times of unprecedented uncertainty, adults and children can feel much higher levels of stress, fear, anxiety and our mood can regularly be much lower than usual. I think the word ‘resilience’ is often overused in the 21st Century. Still, we all need tips on how to stay mentally fit to help us all try to navigate the next months and beyond.

If you haven’t already, add these activities to your DAILY routine, commit for 3 weeks!

Structure your Monday to Friday as much as possible 

Have set times to do things every day. It can be helpful put a schedule up on the fridge for the whole family to view each day. This can help ensure each member of the family has a formal structure no matter what age. Having a basic daily routine and sticking to it is key to keep order in our weekly lives and helps us adapt. Weekends can be much more flexible but Monday to Friday stick to your routine!

Boost your Mood 

Get rid of some of those negative emotions. This can be done more easily than you think. For example, you can build it into your daily schedule. At the same time every day, ask the family to get together. Then, designate one person the responsibility to boost the mood of the rest of the family. This can be done in countless, creative ways: playing music, telling jokes, dancing, exercising, sharing online clips, connecting with other friends and family through Facetime, Skype or Zoom, playing cards, board games, or charades…the list is endless. The important thing is to have a laugh!

Practice Acceptance 

Write down what you can and can’t change during this crisis and focus as much as possible on what you can control. For example, you can’t change the news feed and what is happening everywhere else, so don’t watch this too much. Research shows that a child who sees something bad on TV in the morning can carry this mood with them for 5– 8 hours! Another example is you can’t go out for dinner, but you can have a picnic in the garden. Focus on what you CAN do within your own circle of influence. This will give you all more feelings of empowerment.

Gratitude 

Every day I feel incredibly grateful that I am not sick with Covid-19, that I have food in the house, a place to live, a family for support and that I live in the lucky country. I say this regularly to my family and friends to ensure we focus on the importance of the simple things in life. Many others around the world aren’t as lucky as us. Ask your family to share what they are grateful for and have conversations regularly.

Give 

Help others as much as possible. This is a big predictor of mental fitness. If someone is struggling, take time to sit down or call them to give support. We will all have low times during this crisis so supporting each other and keeping our relationships strong is crucial.

I hope these few simple tips help a little. The key is not just reading them and being aware. The real value is actually practising them every day. It takes 3 weeks to create a habit!

Finally remember, “this too shall pass”.

3 Tips to Support Your Mental Fitness in the Age of Coronavirus

3 Tips to Support Your Mental Fitness in the Age of Coronavirus

If you’ve been thinking that the world has become consumed with the Coronavirus, you’re right. A recent article states that “Coronavirus” was mentioned in the media more than 18,000,000 in one day.  Everywhere you turn, someone or something is talking about the virus.  It is clear that this issue is one of global concern, worrying governments, schools, workplaces and families around the world.  Governments and organisations are taking extraordinary cautions that many of us have not seen in our lifetimes in order to reduce the potential negative impact of the virus.  We are beginning to see schools and businesses close, instructing students and employees to conduct their work virtually.  Some countries and states are in total lockdown with the exception of pharmacies and groceries stores.  Even travel has been restricted to and from several countries around the world, changing plans of travellers and affecting industries many countries like Australia rely on.

For many people watching this situation unfold, thinking about the possible physical and financial impacts is causing significant stress and worry.  Some have even started to panic, hoarding the essentials that all households rely on. While it is important to take this situation seriously, it is equally important that we all continue to stay calm, support those around us and look after our own physical and mental wellbeing.  In this article, we will give you some strategies that can help you stay more mentally fit during these challenging times.

1. Reduce the Time You Spend Watching News and Engaging in Social Media

It’s important to stay informed about the current situation.  However, spending too much time reading about the negative can incite fear, chronic stress, anxiety and poor health. Research shows that watching bad news can significantly increase the tendency to catastrophise a personal worry, even if it’s not related to the content of the news story.  Research from a 2001 study examined how 9/11 coverage impacted viewers.  In some, it was enough to trigger PTSD symptoms.  Interestingly, the severity of symptoms was correlated with the amount of time people spent watching television. 

If you have children in the home, be particularly mindful about what is on the tv while they are home.  Children’s developing brains do not have the ability to reason the same way as adults.  One study suggests that just five minutes of distressing news daily (i.e. disturbing stories, images, or videos) may lead children to struggle with fear, anxiety, aggression, sleep problems, and behavioural difficulties. 

What You Can Do

Develop healthy boundaries with media and technology.  Limit your access to social media and other apps through features such as Apple Screen Time on your mobile phone.  You can even set a time limit for each day so that you can unplug from the 24-hour news cycle.  Also apply these tools for any family sharing plans to keep your family safe and healthy online.

If you have children in the home, be sure to talk to them about the messages they are hearing in the media.  Assure them that they are safe, and it will be ok.  Turn the tv off when they are in the room and engage in a positive activity instead.

2. Understand the Negativity Bias

Negative emotions have allowed us to survive as a species. They protect us from danger and still remain an important part of our evolution. However, 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 than the positive. 

There’s a good reason for this. For survival, our ancestors had to be attuned to those things that were life-threatening (predators). Paying too much attention to the positive things around them (that did not pose a risk) made no sense when survival was a day-to-day proposition. 

Fortunately, life is much safer in the 21st century. However, 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, particularly during times of stress.  

What You Can Do

Examine your thoughts and think about how they are making you feel.  Sometimes, we experience Automatic Negative Thoughts (we call these ANTs).  It is important to remember that your thoughts are not facts and sometimes we all tell ourselves things that may not be true.  Watch out for thinking traps and try to change them when you can.  One common thinking trap you or someone you know may be experiencing is something called catastrophising.  Catastrophising has two parts, the first is predicting a negative outcome.  The second part is jumping to the conclusion that if the negative outcome did in fact happen, it would be a catastrophe. Catastrophising can make people feel helpless and cause rumination. 

You can help balance the negativity bias by first spotting you ANTs and challenging them in a realistic way.  When you have this thought, ask yourself (or the other person with the ANT) a few challenging questions:

  • How much do you believe in 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? 
  • How many times in the past have you had this kind of thought? Have you ever been wrong? 
  • If the thought is true, are there some things you can do to improve the situation? 
  • THE KEY QUESTION!! Is this thought helping me?

Promote healthy thinking by catching your own ANTs and helping those around spot and challenge theirs. 

3. Think About Who’s on Your Team

Isolation is, well, isolating.  With isolation becoming more frequent, people are beginning to express the challenges that they are experiencing from connecting less with others.  Being isolated for medical reasons, or even working from home can make people feel flat and lonely.  It is no surprise that this change is having a big impact on people around the globe.  Research suggests that our relationships are one of the biggest predictors of physical and psychological wellbeing across all ages.  During this unusual time, it may be important for all of us to find new ways to stay connected and support our families, friends, co-workers and communities.  

What You Can Do

It can be helpful to think about who in your life you can reach out to when you need some support, a laugh, or just looking for a chat.  You can create a list of people to ring or video chat to have on hand when you need a bit of a mood boost.  To get your list started, you may want to ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Who could you turn to for help with daily chores or work tasks if you were sick?
  • Who makes you feel energised when you spend time with them?
  • Who is someone that can give you information to help you understand a situation?
  • Who makes you feel good about yourself?
  • Who is someone you can count on to listen to you when you need to talk?
  • Who is someone to have a good time with? 

You can schedule a time to connect with the people in your life and set a reminder on your calendar.  It can be as simple as a quick text, a phone call, a video chat or even sending a card or letter.  Remember, if you’re feeling a bit lonely there’s a good chance that others are as well.  

Stay Calm and Healthy

The tips above may not prevent Coronavirus, but we hope that they provide you with a few ideas on how you can stay mentally healthy during this challenging time.  Just like physical fitness, your mental fitness requires regular practice and good habits.  Practising the tips above regularly can help you stay mentally fit and bounce back more successfully when things are tough.

If you are interested in learning more ways to build mental fitness in your home, school, workplace or community, visit our website at www.appli.edu.au.  We also offer digital wellbeing programs, online courses, training programs and consulting services for individuals and organisations.