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Update on website traffic: my own favourite top 15 (11-15) - exercise, lifestyle, writing, goal setting & positive psychology

Earlier this year I used Google Analytics to identify the most read pages on this website and I wrote the post "Update on website traffic: the ten most popular blog posts". I then wondered - "What are my own personal favourites?" and I quickly realised that the posts that I've written that have had the most impact on me and my practice as a therapist are nearly always made up of sequences of blog posts rather than just individual items. I said that glancing back over the last year or so, themes that stood out included mindfulness, therapist feedback, self-control, conflict, embodied cognition and positive psychology. Going further back still there are the posts about interpersonal groupwork, relationships, therapeutic writing, walking in nature, compassion, exercise, healthy lifestyle, attachment and goal setting. I went on to write "Update on website traffic: my own favourite top 15 (1-5) - mindfulness, compassion, embodied cognition, attachment, & willpower". This wasn't meant to represent my top five blog sequences - more just five of my top fifteen. I then wrote "Update on website traffic: my own favourite top 15 (6-10) - feedback, relationships, conflict, group work, & walking."   Today, in the last of this sequence, I will write about exercise, healthy lifestyle, therapeutic writing, goal setting, & positive psychology.  So first exercise:

  1. Exercise.  If you click on "exercise" in this website's tag cloud, you bring up a list of over 50 blog posts.  Standouts include the somewhat stark "15 minutes of exercise daily reduces mortality by 14% - and each additional 15 minutes gives 4% additional mortality benefit" with its comment "So for happier mood, less disease risk, a better sex life, improved cognitive function, and a longer life - let's get exercising!".  Physical fitness is quite possibly the single most important lifestyle factor people can focus on to improve the quantity and quality of their lives.  Steven Blair's article "Physical inactivity: the biggest public health problem of the 21st century" demonstrates " ... low cardiorespiratory fitness accounts for about 16% of all deaths in both women and men in this population, and this is substantially more, with the exception of hypertension in men, than the other risk factors (obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, hypertension, & diabetes)". And additionally we know of the "Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and Physical Well-Being".  On this website, it's worth visiting the six part series: "Exercise 1: checking it's safe to start", "Exercise 2: UK Department of Health, resources for assessment & advice", "Exercise 3: US Department of Health & Human Services, resources for assessment & advice", "Exercise 4: pedometers can help us walk more", "Exercise 5: the recommendation to do strengthening exercises" and "Exercise 6: where can I do what?".  Also useful is the handouts page "Exercise & light".

  2. Healthy lifestyle.  As Bandolier, the Oxford evidence-based medicine website, put it so straightforwardly "Healthy living has benefits hugely greater than anything medicine can deliver."  Clicking on "lifestyle" in the tag cloud brings up over 60 posts.  However you can get access to even more information by clicking on components of healthy lifestyle - for example exercise, which I've already covered above, diet (fruit & veg, cereals, cholesterol, vitamin D, folate, dietary supplements, and more!), alcohol and sleep - as well as "psychological technologies" to help with changing habits (implementation intentions, mental contrasting, commitment contracts & will power).  Healthy lifestyle is also very much the subject of the carefully described twelve session course on "Life skills for stress, health & wellbeing".  

  3. Therapeutic writing.  Clicking on "writing" in the tag cloud brings up 30 or so posts.  These include "Writing (& speaking) for resilience & wellbeing 1: introduction", "Writing (& speaking) for resilience & wellbeing 2: traumas & difficulties" & "Writing (& speaking) for resilience & wellbeing 3: personal growth" as well as "Writing - positive pasts & best futures", "Therapeutic writing & speaking: inspiration from values" (and 2 further linked posts), "Manchester BABCP conference: Jamie Pennebaker, expressive writing & emotional suppression" (and 2 further linked posts), "Writing & posttraumatic stress disorder""An intriguing and encouraging development in therapeutic writing" and the "Good knowledge" page "Life review, traumatic memories & therapeutic writing".    

  4. Goal setting.  This links with several of this website's repeating themes.  For example there are the 3 linked posts beginning with "Purpose in life: reduces dementia risk, increases life expectancy, treats depression and builds wellbeing"; there is the old favourite "Bus driver metaphor"; there is a review of Heidi Halvorsen's recent book "Succeed: how we can reach our goals"; there are the many posts on willpower with "Building willpower: the eight pillars" providing particularly good links to other relevant posts including "Goals - ACT WISeST" (a probable improvement on SMART goals), "Mental contrasting: a way to boost our commitment to goals we care about" & a couple on "Implementation intentions"; there is a series of 3 posts beginning with "Goal renewal boosts wellbeing: first post", 4 linked posts starting with "Commitment contracts: another good way of helping us reach our goals" and there is the "Good Knowledge" page with handouts on "Wellbeing, time management, self-control & self-determination" ... plenty to help underline the value of goals and clarify how one might best go about both setting and achieving them. 

  5. Positive psychology.  There is a vast amount of research & accumulated clinical experience on helping people move from distressed states to more "normal" states.  It has only been in the last several years though that there has been a blossoming of interest amongst researchers in how best to help move from "normal" states to "flourishing", to increased happiness, to more deeply fulfilling, rich lives.  Obviously it depends hugely on definitions and measurement methods, but there are strong arguments to suggest that less than 20% of us live lives that can really be described as "flourishing" - see "The spectrum of mental health: moderate & full wellbeing".  Relevant here as well are the posts "Psychotherapy & positive psychology: the assessment 'dashboard'" and "Two new, easily usable scales for assessing wellbeing".  Clicking on "positive psychology" in the tag cloud brings up 40 to 50 posts.  There are half a dozen describing the "European Positive Psychology Conference" I went to in Copenhagen a couple of years ago.  There is "Psychotherapy & positive psychology: why psychotherapists should pay attention" and a seminar I gave myself described in "Psychotherapy & positive psychology: outline of a workshop".  There are posts on therapeutic writing & positive psychology - " ... writing can be used with positive experiences too" and "Writing (& speaking) for resilience & wellbeing: personal growth", there are posts on encouraging enjoyabe activities - "Assessing & encouraging enjoyable activities" and "Targeting behavioural activation better both for decreasing depression and for increasing wellbeing"and much more.  As they say ... "Enjoy"!  

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