Acceptance & ACT

From Mindfulness to Acceptance And Related Exercises

From the mindfulness movement, there have been two parallel developments.

I One is the mindfulness practices and meditations we have gone through in earlier posts.

II The other development is Acceptance that is a part of mindfulness meditations but also has been further developed into its own field and practices.

The practices and exercises within this field remind more of traditional reflection exercises that already have been used for a long time within the field of personal development.

The aim of these exercises is to stop avoiding, denying and struggling with inner emotions and uncomfortable thoughts, but instead accept these as appropriate responses to certain situations.

Another 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.

A common first exercise can be 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: traits, qualities, priorities etc.?
  • What personal strengths or qualities do you want to develop?
  • You can find more inspiration on values under the heading Life goals.

 

More About Acceptance & ACT

As noted above, acceptance has been further developed into its own field and practices called ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

The aim of the 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 to self-critical talk

– Identifying problematic relationships

– Acknowledge physical conditions
with the purpose of deciding whether you can take some action and change the situation

or

if you instead have to work on acceptance of the situation and condition as it is.

Letting go…

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.

There are several steps:

1 We have to identify what our core/root problem is and evaluate if we can take action

2 Or we have to work on accepting the situation as it is

3 Even when letting go, We can try to impact the situation through inspiring behaviors based on values and goals.

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 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. For exercises on identifying core problems, values and goals, see earlier posts or under Life Goals.

 

How Acceptance, ACT, Can Help You With Your Problems

When it comes to problems, ACT mainly 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

ACT according to 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 (see www.actmadesimple.com):

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?

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

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?

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?