A few years ago I first heard about Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (“act”). The act approach to life matches my own beliefs.
I do think being able observe thoughts without buying into them, using meditation techniques, is a really helpful and necessary practice that only gets more effective the more it is done.
I also think the practice of setting future goals based upon what values are important to you is particularly helpful for cancer patients to move forward after treatment.
Here is a good, brief article about act.
This time I have been reading The Happiness Trap by Dr Russ Harris, which I’m finding to be an easy, fast read.
Steven Hayes’s book was the first one I read. It contains references to all the scientific research behind this theory.
I wanted to capture here the key concepts for easy reference:
“Cognitive Fusion” = Thoughts can seem real, correct, important, wise, threatening, and like they must be obeyed.
Accept your internal experience
DEFUSION. Accept thoughts are just words that appear in your mind. Just acknowledge it as a thought – “I am having the thought that…”
EXPANSION / ACCEPTANCE. Allow feelings to exist. Don’t try to deny or change or get rid of or suppress thoughts.
- Treat the thought or emotion as someone you’ve heard rumours about but you aren’t sure they are true. Get to know the person.
- Accept that negative feelings may be a by-product of doing anything.
THE OBSERVING SELF. Observe thoughts. Ask “Is this thought helpful?” “What would I get from believing this thought?” “Is this an old thought? What would I gain from listening to it again?”
- If the thinking self is broadcasting unhelpful thoughts, the observing self need not pay attention and can focus on the here and now
- If the thinking self is broadcasting helpful thoughts, the observing self can pay attention.
CONNECTION. Bring full awareness to the here and now.
The aim is to engage in meaningful activities which are inherently rewarding. If an action is meaningful to you, it is easier to accept any negative consequences.
He who has a why to life can bear almost any how.Frederich Nietzsche
VALUES. Clarify what is significant and meaningful to you, and what you want to stand for in this life.
COMMITTED ACTION. Set goals, guided by your values, and take effective actions to achieve them.
If your goal is long term (“get rich”) consider what the values are behind the goal (“use money to travel”) and see if you can set short term goals consistent with the value (“try restaurants locally which offer cuisines from other countries”).