We often use elements of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in our work with clients. The basic principle is that we can accept the elements of our lives and circumstances that are not ideal, but can still nevertheless commit to living our best lives by focusing on our values and goals.
First we must focus on mindfulness. We increase awareness the five senses, our thoughts and emotions. We need to understand and focus on those areas of life that we may not be able to change, such as chronic pain, or a traumatic history. We meditate on our current situation without judgment or attachment. We explore our ability to detach from thoughts. Can we reduce the intensity of painful feelings, urges, or situations? Can we come to a place of acceptance no matter the circumstances?
How do we come to a place of acceptance?
We clarify our values. What is important and how do I choose to act in alignment with this?
Acceptance and commitment therapy uses a tool called the Values Compass, where you rank the important elements of your life: Family, Friends, Work, Spirituality, Parenting or Nurturing, Creativity, Health, Intimate Relationships, Recreation, Community, and Service are the most common examples. By focusing on our values, we are able to identify those areas that we want to spend our energy and time enhancing and encouraging in our lives.
For example, despite living with chronic illness that has cause someone to lose their job, one may still be able to prioritize family dinner on Sundays, maintaining a healthy spiritual life full of prayer and meditation, pride themselves in being a supportive partner in their relationship, and enjoy creating art work. Rather than focusing on the negative aspects of their suffering, they learn to view their circumstances as smaller parts of the whole. So rather than focusing on what they are lacking, the focus shifts to those healthy and validating parts of their lives.
If you had to make a pie chart that encompassed how each of these areas of value applied to your life and what you prioritize, how would it look? Does anything prevent you from focusing on certain areas that are meaningful to you? How could you remove those barriers or obstacles to focus on the things that fulfill you? Are you focusing too much on the things you cannot do or things you have lost, that you have lost sight of all the possibilities still in front of you?
Our lives are always changing and evolving, when we get stuck and resist change, we develop anxiety, depression, and fear based responses. How can you be mindful, present and accept changes in your life? How would that change your outlook?