What I am trying to do with this website

I set the homepage of this website to the “About” page. It gives you a quick sense of who I am and what I am trying to achieve.

I wanted to expand on the second part of that – what I am trying to achieve – in this post.

To fully understand what I am trying to achieve, you need to head back in time to my PhD. In my PhD I created a workbook for people who had recently had a heart attack that explored the psychological aspect of their recovery. This was based on a literature showing that people were at additional risk of conditions like anxiety or depression, following an acute coronary event like a heart attack.

I built the workbook out of standard recovery information, supplemented with motivational interviewing, cognitive-behavioural and interpersonal psychotherapy exercises designed to increase motivation for lifestyle change, challenge fear thoughts and reconsider life priorities.

When evaluated in an RCT, the workbook group didn’t do any better than the control group (recovery information alone). By then however, I think I was already hooked by the idea of the power of the written word.

Post-PhD completion, I was broke and as such took the first job that came along. It was outside my area but I really liked the people in that space and ended up working in that area for 10 years. I don’t regret that time, but I didn’t continue to pursue my interest in the power of the written word.

Cue 2017 and a change of job. In the new job (eMental Health Project Officer at Flinders University), I got to return to thinking about writing and wellbeing. I started blogging and developing handouts for the Student Health Service. Students started reading them. Staff started asking me to come and speak to students on the topics of productivity and wellbeing.

I quickly realised that I needed an underlying framework or model to both guide my writing, but also on which to build evidence-based suggestions for increasing productivity and wellbeing. There were too many potential topics to write/talk about and without an underlying framework, I found it hard to prioritise what to talk about with students.

So I started building that framework.

At the core of the framework is the idea that any movements towards improved wellbeing or productivity involve some kind of cognitive or behavioral change. To get better at study, develop better study habits. To tackle anxiety, develop alternative ways of thinking. I started talking about the framework in terms of “Mental Fitness”, namely the idea that you could train your mind to be better at change.

But I didn’t just want to write about what changes to make, I wanted to write about how to make those changes. Over the course of an individual life, you might make thousands of lifestyle changes. I didn’t want to have to outline each possible change. I wanted to instead give people an understanding of the psychological principles underlying those changes. How does a person identify what changes to make in their life and then successfully make them? That is the question I wanted to answer.

The goal of this website therefore is to present the framework that I came up with. It is a framework built on top of the psychological processes and techniques that psychologists harness or use to help people make changes in their life. I want to give people this framework. I want to see if doing so is helpful to people. I am applying this framework in my own life. I am applying a version of this framework to helping students.

In terms of pragmatics, this site will have two writing streams running in parallel. First, there is the framework itself, released as chapters as I write them. At the time of this post, there is only the outline, but rest assured that I am writing the chapters in the background and will start sharing as they get to a point of reasonable quality. Although I’ve used the word ‘chapters’, they won’t be particularly long or in-depth in their first iteration.

Second is this blog. This is where I will share thoughts and observations along the way. I might talk about specific ideas within the framework, discuss the main sources of influence for the framework or just talk about other cool work in this space that I think you should know about.

The idea is to be constantly writing and improving as I go. The goal is that one day this website is the home of my completed framework and the associated story of how it happened.

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