ACT and Psychological Flexibility

These days people are much more aware of what mindfulness is, or at least what they believe mindfulness to be.

If we look at secular mindfulness, then I feel that the definition becomes about ‘open awareness, curiosity and staying in the present moment, without judgement, as much as we can. This combines the definitions of Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn and Dr Russ Harris. It is this combination of mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) that, I believe, has the power to change how we approach life.

Life is full of wonderful moments but also about difficulties and challenges. To be honest, if it wasn’t about some of the negatives, I’m not sure it would be as meaningful! Am I saying we should court stressful moments – no, of course not! I’m saying that we should be learning strategies to deal with these tough times and drop the struggle with them. Learning to accept all our emotions – positive or negative – is the key to mindful acceptance and prevents us from the constant struggle that some of us are embroiled in.

That’s a nice idea, you say…. but, how do you do this? Learning how to connect with your values – to who you want to be in relation to yourself, to the people around you and the world helps us understand what actions and behaviors we need to have in order to live our lives to the best of our ability.

In ACT, this is known as psychological flexibility. This is defined by

‘….the ability to contact the present moment more fully as a conscious human being, and to change or persist in behavior when doing so serves valued ends. Psychological flexibility is established through six core ACT processes. Each of these areas are conceptualized as a positive psychological skill…’*

So what are these 6 core processes and what does that mean?

The 6 core processes in ACT are :

  • Contacting the Present moment
    What you would essentially called mindfulness but not just in a formal way, but an informal one too
  • Acceptance
    Understanding that experiences happen – both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and that we need to learn strategies to accept them rather than avoid them
  • Values
    Who do you want to be? Who do you want to stand for? Clarifying these is key in understanding how to deal with life and its challenges.
  • Commitment
    Making realistic goals for living the life you want once you clarify your values
  • Self-as-Context
    The noticing self or the observing self. Being able to step back a little and notice what’s going on
  • Defusion
    Unhooking from the thoughts and feelings that grab you.

Understanding and applying these processes in our lives can be transformative. A real game changer in the way we live.

For more information, please do get in touch so I can discuss these with you personally.

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