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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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/

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. 

Can DIY Activities Improve Wellbeing?

Can Participating in DIY Activities Improve Wellbeing?

With so many television programs and social media sites decided to hobbies, crafts and “do-it-yourself” activities, there is no denying that the DIY or “Maker” movement continues to gain momentum.  While many people report that they enjoy participating is such activities but there is less scientific research on if participating in these kinds of activities ultimately increase quality of life.

One aim of a recent study explores the self-identify of “Makers” and if Maker activities create an immediate or long-term benefit in life. In the study, participants were given a list with 18 activities that were later grouped into 3 categories: Domestic Activities (scrapbooking, baking, cooking, gardening; fishing/hunting); DIY (woodworking, electronics, fixing mechanical, metal work); and Arts and Crafts (photography/films/movies; quilting; drawing/painting; sewing; Making jewelry; knitting/crocheting; ceramics; computer graphics/web design).  Participants answered questions related to how and when they engaged with the activities, the reasons for participating the activities, the extent to which each activity was considered arousing or activating, the extent to which each activity induced a type of positive mood.  The participants also answered questions about their psychosocial characteristics such as the tendency to ruminate after stressful events, self-focus (using the Quiet Ego Scale), subjective wellbeing and positive and negative affect.

The results showed that the Maker identity was significantly associated with enhanced SWB and higher positive mood scores and higher QES scores.  According to the authors, high QES scores reflect preferences for valuing the well-being of others as well as for the self, personal growth, empathy, and an ability to live in the moment without judgment.  For the individual Maker activities, the highest positive mood scores were reported for baking, photography/films/movies, cooking, drawing/painting, ceramics, fishing/hunting, and knitting/crocheting.

While the sample for this study was predominately female college students, it does shed light on some opportunities for future research on how hobbies, maker and DIY actives may promote personal wellbeing.

What type of activities do you participate in that you find rewarding, enjoyable, or fulfilling?  We would love to hear your thoughts.

 

References

Collier, A. and Wayment, H. (2017). Psychological Benefits of the “Maker” or Do-It-Yourself Movement in Young Adults: A Pathway Towards Subjective Well-Being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19(4), pp.1217-1239.