It is what it is: now follow your values
Image courtesy of dreamstime.com, welcome-to-acceptance-sign-29027897
I recently attended a course about Acceptance Commitment Therapy or ACT. In the short time since I have been practicing the precepts that I learnt, my life has been improving exponentially. The main ideas of this technique are:
1.Identify your values. What is important to you? Is it your
It is very important that you take time to identify what your values are. Often, we have adopted the values we think are important to us, because they may have been defined for us, say by teachers. Sometimes, we follow values we think should be important to us, because they are a priority for somebody else, or it is valued by society.
The reason why values have to be meaningful for you on a personal level is because they are the anchor for success in Acceptance Commitment Therapy.
Identify perhaps five of your top values, rather than too many. It is important that the value can be acted upon, or described if you ask yourself “what would this value look like?” For example “being caring” is a bit too abstract – whereas health is something you can envision in terms of goals.
2.Write down your goals surrounding each value for example:
“Health” – exercise half an hour each day, five days per week
“Family” – visit my brother’s family once a month, ring mum every day.
It’s okay to have more than one goal surrounding each value. It is to be expected, as there will be many components toward fulfilling the areas defined by each value. Make the goals specific, as they will be easier to follow.
3.Learn to see your thoughts and feelings as separate from you. This encompasses the “A” part of Acceptance Commitment Therapy. You have thoughts and feelings, but this does not mean you have to act on them, or let them control you. Neither are thoughts and feelings good or bad – they just are. Become an observer of them, rather than an analyser.
With your thoughts, practice setting aside time each day for this activity. Close your eyes. Watch each thought go by – practice visualising each thought come and go. For example see them in clouds, which pass by. Don’t follow them up with analysis. When you catch yourself doing so, detach yourself and see them as passing by once more. Another technique is called cognitive defusion which involves telling yourself “I am having the thought that…..”. Or, “I notice that I am having the thought that….”. This allows you to have some separation or distance from the thought.
Feelings can be difficult. We can become entangled with them and see them as something which we need to act upon. The solution is not to try to get rid of them, or suppress them. Simply, allow them to be without seeing them as being a part of yourself. When we do this, we allow ourselves the necessary detachment to become aware of our feelings without becoming slaves to them. The same techniques that we use to separate ourselves from our thoughts can be used with feelings.
4. Choosing a valued action. This is the “C” in Acceptance Commitment Therapy What do the goals that support our values look like in action?
5 .Take a value-based action. This is the “T”. No matter what our thoughts or feelings, now that we have achieved distance from them, we can live a value – based life, rather than a reactive, impulsive existence where we are that the whimsy of our thoughts and emotions, rather than what is important to us.
The steps in Acceptance Commitment Therapy, like any technique take practice. It is not always easy to separate ourselves from what’s going on in our head, and to do what’s important – to us. However, this technique does allow us to live a meaningful, self-chosen life defined by the goal-driven parameters of our own consciously chosen values.