Acceptance and commitment therapy is a powerful approach to our mental health and wellbeing. It may not seem like it sometimes, but each and every one of us has the power within us to create what in positive psychology is known as a life worth living. A life worth living simply means the life that we, individually, find valuable–a quality life that we want to fully and completely live. A life worth living is never out of reach. There is an incredibly useful therapeutic approach that can guide us all along the long and winding path. Referred to as acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT, this approach empowers us all to live well and thrive in spite of problems, hardships, and challenges.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: A Tool for Wellbeing
It’s true. Acceptance and commitment therapy does allow us to create a good life, a life worth living, and it does so no matter what obstacles we face. With ACT, we don’t wait until our problems are solved in order to start living the life we want. This approach to wellbeing isn’t at all about getting rid of problems, at least not directly.
Unfortunately, life can be difficult. Problems and challenges arise all too frequently, and sometimes they stick around long after they’ve outworn the welcome they didn’t even have in the first place. Sometimes we face external stressors like work, finance, or relationship problems. Many people fight physical health battles; likewise, many people face mental health challenges including diagnoses of mental illness. Some of these are temporary or are at least easily managed. Others, not so much.
Acceptance and commitment therapy is an approach to mental health and wellbeing that boldly says that we don’t have to wait for perfect conditions in order to live. We can thrive despite the obstacles we face.
6 Principles of ACT Help Create Wellbeing Despite Problems
ACT allows us to break free, not from specific problems, but from the idea that problems are preventing us from living fully and well. I’ve used the principles of ACT in my own life and with others, and I’m happy to report that they work. I’ve shared them in my book Break free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 Steps – A Workbook for Overcoming Self-Doubt and Embracing Life.
ACT involves six principles for embracing your life. It also involves their opposites, six primary pathologies. The workbook allows you to explore the pathologies and principles. The following six ideas are the principles of ACT.
- Defusion: ACT allows us to get unstuck from problems, thoughts, and emotions to live freely despite them.
- Acceptance: ACT helps us accept what we can’t change and shape a meaningful, positive life anyway.
- Mindfulness: ACT teaches us to connect with our present moment and live fully and freely in it rather than getting lost in our negative thoughts.
- Observing Self: With ACT, we stop judging and criticizing ourselves and shift to being neutral observers.
- Clear Values: ACT has us define what it is we want (rather than focusing on what we don’t want).
- Committed Action: With ACT, we create goals and actions to actively live according to what we value most.
I embraced ACT long before it officially existed as a helping approach. Captain Kangaroo (a character on the children’s show in the 1970s by the same name) taught me to, when something bad happens, pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. That, in essence, is the power and the beauty of ACT.