3 effective steps in Acceptance – ACT to improve well-being today
In 3 effective steps in Acceptance – ACT to improve well-being today I explain in detail how you can reduce worrisome and ruminating thoughts already now.
ACT is an abbreviation for Acceptance and commitment therapy. It is a therapy with exercises that has grown increasingly popular during the last years.
The aim of ACT exercises is to stop avoiding, denying and struggling with unpleasant feelings and uncomfortable thoughts, but instead accept these as appropriate responses to certain situations.
Below are 3 effective steps in Acceptance – ACT to improve well-being as well as manage disturbing thoughts and feelings. They have all greatly helped my clients achieve better mental and physical health.
The content of this article 3 effective steps in Acceptance – ACT to improve well-being today
In 3 effective steps in Acceptance – ACT to improve well-being today you will learn about:
- What is ACT
- What is the difference between Mindfulness and ACT
- What is ACT used for
- 3 effective steps in ACT
- Step 1: Identify your core problem
- Step 2: Focus on the dimensions within your control
- Step 3: Stay active based on your values and goals
What is ACT
ACT stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It consists of specific exercises used in CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy that helps us managing difficult situations, thoughts and feelings.
The theory behind ACT is that it can be ineffective, and possibly even counterproductive to try to control painful emotions or experiences. This can partly be due to the fact that suppressing feelings can lead to more distress.
ACT is a specific form of mindfulness based therapy that also includes what you value in life and to remain active and take responsibility for your life also when facing hardships.
The practices and exercises within this field are similar to traditional reflection exercises that already have been used for a long time within the fields of therapy and personal development.
An important dimension is not letting disturbing thoughts or emotions prevent us from moving towards what is important in our lives.
Furthermore, there is a focus on developing an understanding that we all have painful experiences, issues and hardships – that this is a part of being human and should be expected.
That we regardless of these still have to commit to making necessary changes in our lives.
Hence, it is important to keep moving regardless of what is going on in our lives and how we feel about it.
ACT focuses on 3 main areas:
Accept your reactions and be present in the current moment
Choose a valued direction
Take action and focus on what you still can control in your life
What is ACT used for
ACT has shown to be effective for treating stress, anxiety, depression, complicated grief, trauma and psychosis as well as medical conditions such as pain, substance abuse, for more detailed information, see for example Psychology Today
What is the difference between Mindfulness and ACT
Mindfulness and ACT stems from meditation practices within religion, most notably Buddhism that has mindfulness as one of its main dimensions.
During the end of last century, the guiding thought principles and adapted meditations were introduced in cognitive behavioral therapy by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
From the mindfulness movement, there have been two parallel developments.
1. One is the mindfulness practices and meditations, see separate page.
2. The other development is Acceptance that is a part of mindfulness meditations, but also has been further developed into its own field and practices called ACT.
3 steps in ACT
There are several steps:
Step1: Identify what the core/root problem is and evaluate if you can take action
Step 2: Work on accept the dimensions of the situation that you cannot control – let go
Step 3: Try to stay active to impact the situation by using inspiring behaviors based on your values and goals
Step 1: Identify your core problem
Identify what the core/root problem is and evaluate if you can take action
When it comes to problems, it boils down to identifying:
1 Your main problem
2 How the problem is affecting your life – how it stops you from doing what you want to do or being who you are
Russ Harris details the process of problem identification even further to include identifying in more detail what contributes to or worsen the challenge, problem or issue in four dimensions, see https://www.actmindfully.com.au/
I. Entanglement with thoughts:
What memories, worries, fears, self-criticisms, or other unhelpful thoughts do you dwell on, or get “caught up” in, related to this issue?
What thoughts do you allow to hold you back or push you around or bring you down?
II. Life-draining actions:
What are you currently doing that makes your life worse in the long term:
- that keeps you stuck
- wastes your time or money
- drains your energy
- restricts your life, impacts negatively on your health, work or relationships
- maintains or worsens the problems you are dealing with
III. Struggle with feelings:
What emotions, feelings, urges, impulses, or sensations (associated with this issue) do you fight with, avoid, suppress, try to get rid of, or otherwise struggle with?
IV. Avoiding challenging situations:
What situations, activities, people or places are you avoiding or staying away from?
What have you quit, withdrawn from, dropped out of?
What do you keep “putting off” until later?
Step 2: Focus on the dimensions within your control
This step is about 2 sub-steps:
- working on managing difficult situations and on accepting the dimensions of the the situation that you cannot control – let go by changing your focus. In this step mindfulness exercises can be very helpful, see separate page.
- Focusing on what you can control: your behaviors, what you choose to spend your time on. Here, the techniques for managing anxiety, feelings, stress and worry can be helpful, see the corresponding pages.
Manage difficult situations
The aim of the ACT exercises is to stop avoiding, denying and struggling with inner emotions and uncomfortable thoughts, but instead accept these as appropriate responses to certain situations.
There is a focus on developing an understanding that we all have painful experiences, issues and hardships – that this is a part of being human and should be expected.
It is therefore important not letting disturbing thoughts or emotions prevent us from moving towards what is important in our lives regardless of the obstacles or losses in our life. We still have to commit to making necessary changes in our lives and keep moving.
Important techniques include:
- Listen and respond to self-critical talk
- Identify problematic relationships
- Acknowledge physical conditions
with the purpose of deciding whether you can take some action and change the situation
if you instead have to work on acceptance of the situation and condition as it is.
Even when letting go, it can be possible to impact the situation, possibly by accepting your past, thoughts and emotions – not fight them, and instead practice more confident and optimistic behaviors based on your personal values and goals.
Step 3: Stay active based on your values and goals
In this last step the focus is to stay active to impact the situation by using inspiring behaviors based on your values and goals.
ACT focuses on mindful behavior and attention to personal values as well as commitment to action – try to do something different to feel different.
By step-wise changing behavior and at the same time accepting the psychological experience, we can develop changed attitudes and experiences.
Our values and goals should preferably be based on what really matters to us and who we would like to become.
Identify your values
An important exercise is to reflect on your values, more specifically:
- What really matters to you, what is important in your life?
- What do you want to do with your time on earth?
- What sort of person do you want to be?
- List which traits, qualities, behaviors, priorities etc. you as that person will live by
- Also list the behaviors that you have today that do not support the person you would like to be
- What personal strengths or qualities do you want to develop? How?
For more exercises on identifying core problems, values and goals, see posts under life goals ot the page Life Goals.