How to Effectively Solve Problems Without Sleepless Nights

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“People who believe a problem can be solved tend to get busy solving it.” – William Raspberry


When problems require solving and you’re fresh out of ideas, there’s no need to endure sleepless nights filled with anxiety over the situation. What can help, however, is making use of time-proven problem-solving techniques that anyone can use.


So you don’t have to think about it all night. How many times have you tossed and turned throughout the night, endlessly replaying in your mind different reasons why you have to get this problem solved? Worse, when you have the problem pressing this way, it’s tough to drift off to sleep. Besides the problem itself, you worry that you’ll forget you have to tend to it. This puts into motion the non-stop cycle of ruminating about the problem, waking from a fitful sleep to wonder if you’ve forgotten about the problem, to beating yourself up over not already solving the problem, to other extraneous problems that may be exacerbated or arise from the unsolved problem.

No wonder you can’t sleep. In addition to not sleeping well, the next morning’s no better when it comes to having a clear head with which to attempt to resolve the problem. Indeed, you’re right back where you started: big problem, no solution.

A handy technique is to write down everything you can about the problem, including what it is, how it started, what you may have done to cause it or make it worse, what other solutions you may have attempted that didn’t work, and what you believe you need to find a solution.


While pampering yourself before going to bed at night may be the last thing that comes to mind, it should be one of the first. What’s happened already is nothing you can change right now. On the other hand, what you most definitely can do is give yourself good self-care in the form of a relaxing bath, having a laugh with family and loved ones, reading something enjoyable, meditating, going for a walk in nature, watching the sunset, listening to soothing music, even eating a meal you prepare with love.

When you indulge in self-pampering, think of it as a much-needed and well-deserved opportunity to be proactive for your overall health and well-being. It very much is that, and so much more. The nature of self-care, which is the essence of pampering, provides healing balm to body, mind and soul. It is reassuring, comforting, uplifting and enriching.

It’s also free, readily available, and easy to do. Amazingly, many a solution occurs while you’re in the middle of such pampering. It’s almost as if by magic. How can this be? When you’re mind isn’t so obsessed with a particular problem to solve, it allows creativity to flow, and from that wellspring is where problem solving arises.


And let your subconscious do the work. A 2016 study published in Frontiers in Psychology refers to this as the incubation effect, which occurs after setting aside the problem and allowing the mind to process seemingly novel solutions that occur as intuitive insights. Most of us never think about how powerful an ally our subconscious really is. Yet, a fascinating thing happens when we let our bodies rest that has as much to do with revitalizing the mind as it does allowing the body to replenish energy. We do, however, need to give our brain the raw materials with which to work. Not that the mind won’t circle back to what’s yet unsolved, but giving it a little nudge is like having your homework assignment written out already so you know what needs attention.

The best way I’ve found to get a handle on a creative solution to a problem is to visualize the problem before going to bed, knowing that I’m much more likely to wake up with a solution or approach to try tomorrow. The visualization of the problem, along with writing the problem done, are what jumpstarts my subconscious into problem-solving mode. That frees me from the tortuous sifting and discarding of do this or don’t do that I’d otherwise engage in throughout what should be my sleeping hours.

Researchers at the University of Lancaster studied the ability of study participants to solve problems after getting eight hours of sleep and their findings pinpoint the value of sleep to allow your brain access to the vast amounts of knowledge it holds. Tapping into those useful bits of information and putting disparate items together often is the result. They referred to this as most likely occurring do to spreading activation.


Another tip I’ve found helpful is to remind myself that tomorrow is another day. Perhaps I was overworked or too distracted or pulled in too many directions today to tackle the problem presented. Maybe I wasn’t tasked with finding the solution to the problem until late in the day or got the assignment on my way home from work, school, or elsewhere. There’s certainly nothing like a last-minute problem to solve to ruin a night’s sleep.

It’s also happened to me that I’ve exhausted a list of potential solutions to the problem and they were either insufficient, didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, weren’t appropriate to the situation, worked somewhat but then failed, or some other combination that resulted in the problem still needing to be solved. Also, problems often become compounded, with the initial problem morphing into an even bigger one, or the problem you started to solve became unrecognizable beneath competing ones.

When this occurs, instead of giving up and telling your boss, spouse, friend, teacher, loved one or family member that you can’t solve the problem, give yourself the night off and remember that you’ll have another opportunity tomorrow to revisit the problem. You’ll be fresh and likely have a clearer head to perhaps see the problem in a different light.

A slightly different spin on the fact that tomorrow is another day is the recommendation to enlist others in a brainstorming session to solve the problem. When you’ve got allies looking at potential solutions, you may be surprised at how quickly novel approaches arise. In fact, advice from top problem-solving solutions organizations includes brainstorming as one of the effective ways to find your way past problems.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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How Gratitude Can Affect Your Physical and Psychological Well-Being

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“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life… makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melodie Beattie


Saying thank-you and showing your appreciation does more good than you may think. This benefit accrues both to the giver and recipient. Indeed, these types of expressions and acts are powerful forms of gratitude. Yet, while it may seem normal to be verbally appreciative at certain times and with specific people, there’s much more that you can get out of gratitude at other times. Here’s a look at how gratitude can affect your physical and psychological well-being.

Gratitude Promotes Positive Mind-Sets and Reduces Stress

A 2017 study published in Scientific Reports looked at the effects of gratitude meditation and resentment and mental well-being. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and heart rate at three intervals – before, during, and after interventions – researchers suggest that gratitude interventions modulate heart rhythms in a manner that enhances mental health. Gratitude intervention, said researchers, improves both emotional regulation and self-motivation by modulating resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) in brain regions involving emotion and motivation. Furthermore, researchers pointed to the potential use of gratitude interventions in treating those with mood disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Gratitude Related to Better Sleep, Mood, Less Fatigue and Inflammation

Mills et al. (2015), in a study of patients with asymptomatic heart failure, found that an “attitude of gratitude” was related to better moods and sleep, less fatigue, reduced inflammation, and better cardiac-specific self-efficacy. Authors said this is important because depressed mood and poor sleep are both associated with a worse prognosis in heart failure patients, as well as in other cardiac condition populations. Thus, researchers said, the simple, low-cost efforts to help heart failure patients increase gratitude may have clinical value and be a potential target in treatment to improve patients’ well-being.

Gratitude Predicts Lower Depression Rates In Patients with Chronic Illness

Sirois and Wood (2017) examined longitudinal associations of gratitude to depression in two chronic illness samples, one with inflammatory bowel disease, and the other with arthritis. The study included two timepoints: completion of online survey at start of study (T1), and completion of a follow-up study at 6 months (T2). There were assessments of gratitude, depression, perceived stress, social support, illness cognitions, and disease-related variables at both time points. Study results showed that T1 gratitude was a “unique” and “significant” predictor of T2 depression in both sample groups. Authors noted that gratitude has relevance and potential benefits as an intervention for adjusting to chronic illness.

Various Elements of Well-Being Associated with Gratitude

A white paper on the science of gratitude prepared for the John Templeton Foundation by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley highlights a number of studies showing possible connections between gratitude and various elements of well-being in those with self-reported higher dispositional gratitude. These include life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, optimism, and subjective well-being. Authors also mention studies of university students self-reporting higher-order gratitude also reporting increased life satisfaction and positive affect. Examples of higher-order gratitude include thanking God, appreciating life’s hardships, cherishing the present, thanking others, and cherishing blessings.

How Gratitude Helps Improve Mental Health

Joel Wong and Joshua Brown, writing in the Greater Good Magazine, outlined research showing how gratitude helps improve mental health. The article’s authors also provided insights from their research on what may be the origins of the psychological benefits of gratitude:

  • Gratitude shifts attention away from toxic emotions like envy and resentment.
  • The benefits of gratitude occur even without sharing written gratitude letters with intended recipients.
  • Gratitude’s benefits take some time to occur as they don’t always happen immediately following the gratitude activity.
  • Effects on the brain from gratitude activity appear to be lasting, and may train the brain to become more sensitive to gratitude experiences later, thus helping to improve mental health.

Gratitude Fosters Well-Being at End of Life

Everyone dies, although not all of them die a quick and painless death. For many people suffering terminal illness, specifically cancer, the end may be a long time coming. During that slow, inexorable approach to dying, the patient generally interfaces with a number of caregivers: family, friends, hospice and other medical and mental health professionals. Not much has been studied about what is termed positive emotional communication in caring for those at the end of their lives. However, a 2018 study published in Patient Education and Counseling found that positive emotions serve as a protective function and are “associated with enhanced coping, meaning-making, and building resilience to stressful events,” which researchers determined was especially relevant to cancer patients and their hospice caregivers. The shared positive emotions, which included expressions of gratitude, created “mutual enjoyment and social bonds.”

Appreciation or gratitude was one of the category codes for positive emotional communication between the hospice nurses, caregivers, and their cancer patients. Included in the category are counting blessings, appreciation of life circumstances, gratitude toward others, and thinking of someone. An example exchange between patient and nurse might be: “I’m so grateful for everything you do for us.”

Researchers said that the results of their study show that a focus on positive emotional communication brings a strengths-based approach to communication with patients during end-of-life care. Other category codes for positive emotional communication include humor, praise or support, positive focus, savoring or experiencing joy, connection, and perfunctory (social etiquette, etc.). Authors said that such communication can “build a sense of strength, connection, and joy despite facing loss and life-limiting illness.”

Conscious Decision to Increase Gratitude Pays Off

Making the choice to increase gratitude isn’t difficult, yet the decision to do so can and will pay off in ways not immediately seen. Think of the immense power of positive thinking, maintaining a positive attitude, and seeing life in all its richness and variety of opportunities. There’s much to be grateful for each day, from waking up to going to sleep. Being mindful of blessings, thankful for all the gifts we’ve been given, and expressing our gratitude to others costs nothing, and is an ongoing benefit.


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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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