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Acceptance and Commitment: A Path to Personal Growth

Updated: Jun 22

Inspired by the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), this blog post explores practical ways to enhance your mental well-being and align your actions with your values. ACT encourages us to accept our thoughts and feelings rather than fighting them, and commit to actions that reflect our values. Here’s how you can apply these principles in your daily life:

1. Defusion & Acceptance: Separate Yourself from Your Thoughts

Our thoughts are immensely powerful, but we need not identify with or believe every single one of them. We can learn to see ourselves and our reality as separate from the thoughts we are having about them. With practice, our thoughts control us less and we are able to handle them with more ease. And we can choose whether to engage with them or not.

One effective technique is to defuse from your thoughts. This means recognizing that a thought is just a thought, not an absolute truth. For example, if a thought arises like, "I will never find a job," practice saying, "I am having the thought that I will never find a job." This small shift helps you see the thought as just an idea, rather than a fact.

Next, practice observing your thoughts without judgment. Try to see yourself as a neutral, third party. Do not judge yourself for having the thought. Don't label the thought as good or bad. To make it easy, write down your thoughts on paper like a brain dump, and then read it out loud to yourself. At every sentence, try not to engage emotionally or reason logically with what you have written. Simply read, accept, and move on.

2. The Present & The Self: Savour the Moment

More often than not, when we think of setting New Year resolutions, we think about defining some means to an end, such as working out daily to lose weight or waking up early to be more productive. What if, instead, we add one activity or set aside a chunk of our time to just savour and observe? Something to not help us get anywhere or achieve a goal, but simply to enjoy.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to set aside some time daily when you are not multitasking. Simply slow down and focus on any one activity—cooking, cleaning, folding laundry. Use all your senses to absorb the experience. Eat mindfully, without any distractions—no phone, no Netflix, not even conversation. Try eating with your non-dominant hand to force yourself to slow down and focus.

If thoughts still come up, practice this visualization with your eyes closed or draw/write down on a paper in real-time: See your thoughts and feelings like clouds in the sky, coming in and passing through. Practice this for at least 20 minutes or until your mind is empty and no recurring ideas arise. Then, ask yourself—if my thoughts and feelings are transient like the clouds, what/who is the sky, the constant backdrop? If I am the one thinking and feeling, what/who is observing me as I think and feel?

3. Values & Action: Step by Step

It is good to aim high and make huge leaps of progress. It is also equally good to focus on moving step by step, letting your values guide you. If you are aiming to wake up at 5 AM every day, great! If you value using time effectively, shift your focus from completing a task to a continuously lived experience. So, even if you don't wake up at 5 AM, find various other ways to use time effectively throughout your day and feel fulfilled.

The first step is to know yourself—what do you like? What do you value? What is non-negotiable for you? Look around yourself, think about your daily life, your habits, and write down the underlying philosophy of your life. It could be simple rules or beliefs that you hold, for example, about money, time, or relationships. It can be sentences, quotes, or lyrics. You are not setting goals that can be ticked off a list; you are creating guidelines to live by each day.

Instead of having a goal that says, "Spend 1 hour or less on the phone," you could have, "Explore your creativity." When you see this, take a small step, whatever is immediately possible. For example, add more color and formatting to that dull work document, or make something handmade for your friend's birthday. Instead of a strict Yes/No to-do list, you now have a myriad of ways to fulfill one value/rule/guideline that you have chosen.

By embracing these principles of defusion, savoring the present, and aligning actions with values, you can cultivate a more fulfilling and mindful life. Accept your thoughts and feelings, commit to values-driven actions, and remember that growth is a journey, not a destination.

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