How Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Can Help You Achieve Psychological Flexibility.
Hello internet! It’s me again!
I’m here to introduce you to an approach that can help you live a meaningful and fulfilling life, starting today.
I'm Dr. Paula Freedman, a licensed clinical psychologist, and the owner of Humankind Psychological Services. Over the years, I've witnessed countless individuals struggle with mental health issues that can impact their well-being. The good news is that even if mental health struggles are part of your reality, there are ways to cope so that they don’t control your whole life.
In this blog post, we’ll continue to talk about ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and how it can help you build psychological flexibility, so you can live a more fulfilling life in alignment with your values. But to actually do this, we must focus on what matters most by clarifying our values.
What principles do we want to guide our lives?
Values are directions that move us toward the life we want to live. In order to feel like you’re living with purpose, it's essential to align your behavior with your values. Even if we're not constantly feeling happy, we can still build habits and patterns of behavior that align with our values and who we want to be. For example, if I value kindness, I might strive to behave with kindness regardless of what type of mood I’m in, because I know looking back on my interactions with others throughout the day I will feel prouder of myself for behaving with kindness than coldness.
One of the reasons I love ACT is that when I first learned about it in graduate school, it was the first theory that REALLY clicked for me, that I felt like I actually could use to help MYSELF, not just my clients. I realized how much I made my anxiety worse, by trying to avoid and control it in different ways, and I saw how the ACT processes could change my whole relationship with my anxiety. Now, instead of trying to get rid of or outsmart my anxiety, I have learned to accept it when it arises and “ride the wave” of the discomfort until it passes on its own. And guess what? It always passes on its own!
A lot of other approaches to therapy try to tell you to change your thoughts, think more positively, or argue with yourself to convince yourself that the thing you’re worrying about is irrational or unrealistic.
That might work for some people, but it never worked for me. I KNOW the stuff I worry about is illogical most of the time, but it still BOTHERS me!
I like that ACT doesn’t try to convince me that my worries are unreasonable or irrational. Instead, it tells me that my worries are just words in my brain. They may be true, or they may not be true, but either way, they’re just thoughts and I don’t need to try to get rid of them. I can just let them be there, keep living my life, and if they’re trying to tell me something important I’ll figure it out eventually.
I also love that ACT is not about changing your feelings, it’s about changing your RELATIONSHIP to your feelings. It’s not like we can pick and choose our emotions off a menu. If that worked, everyone would just be happy all of the time. Who would pick and choose feelings like shame, fear or grief?
Those feelings just arise- and it’s not helpful to get upset when they arise or try to push them away or prevent them from happening. It’s also not helpful to label them as “good” or “bad,” even though of COURSE some feelings are more fun than others! When you stop calling feelings good or bad, and you start just letting them exist and run their course, they become a little less intense and overwhelming, which is pretty cool.
ACT can be life-changing. It helps me every day, it helps so many of my clients and patients live more rewarding lives, and I think it could help you too!
In conclusion, ACT can make a difference for anyone who wants to gain freedom from negative thoughts and lead a more fulfilling life.
If you're interested in learning more about ACT, don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel for insightful and informative videos on various topics related to mental health and personal growth (Like and subscribe if you’d like to also check out my future videos).
Also, remember to follow me on Instagram (@mindfuldrpaula) for updates on the launching of my new Instagram paid subscription service and how to sign up.
This is where I'll share more personal content with you, things that might not be appropriate for everyone to see, but will hopefully help you feel less alone in your own struggles or journey. Plus, you'll have opportunities to ask me any burning mental health questions you may have.
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My goal with all of this is to be able to provide support in whichever way works best for you, whether it's through videos, social media posts, blogs, or newsletters. Leave a comment if you found this information helpful!