ACT in Real Life: One Useful Strategy
Part of the attraction of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for me is its application to my daily life. As a personal rule, I do not use or recommend interventions with clients unless I've tried them myself. This being the case, I've tried using ACT strategies myself and have found some (not all) to be helpful. I added the (not all) into the prior sentence because of a firm belief, based on personal experience, that not everything works for everyone in every circumstance. Thus, I like having several interventions at the ready.
What Has Been Helpful for Me?
A piece of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that is helpful for me is the emphasis on accepting what I am feeling without judging or trying to change it. A strategy that helps with this is simply naming what I am feeling. "I am feeling a little sad today." "I am feeling quite frustrated right now." Research has demonstrated that naming feelings and emotions takes some of the power from that emotion so we can dictate what we want to do next rather than allowing the emotion to dictate our behavior.
Recognizing and naming our emotions then allows space for us to determine what we need.
An important part of being able to mindfully allow emotions to exist without struggling with them is self-compassion. Think of how you might respond to a friend who was having a difficult time. Now compare that response to how you typically respond to yourself when you're having a difficult time. How do they compare? In many cases, we are much harder on ourselves than we are on our friends. Self-compassion refers to the ability to turn the compassion usually reserved for others on ourselves.
Science tells us that emotions are actually physiological responses that occur in the body. These responses do not last forever. They tend to peak and subside without any intervention from us. What would be different for you if, the next time you experience and name a difficult emotion, you were able to provide yourself a bit of kindness? It just might make it easier to allow for the difficult emotion to be there with you while you either tend to you needs, or go about your life. You may even notice after awhile the emotion has subsided.
Will the above solve all the problems of the world?
No. But with regular use of the strategy, your day to day can feel a little easier.
Further Reading & References
Hayes, S., 2005. Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life.New Harbinger Publications, Inc, Oakland, Ca.
Neff, K., 2011. Self-Compassion. Harper Collins, New York, NY.