Achieve Family Therapy Mindfulness

Mindfulness the Best part of ACT

Mindfulness is a core component of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes psychological flexibility, acceptance of one’s experiences and commitment to values-based action. In ACT, mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment, intentionally, and not judging what is happening as either good or bad. It’s about being fully engaged in the present, regardless of whether it’s pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Most people rather distract, avoid, or distance themselves from unpleasant feelings. This leads to prolonged levels of distress. These reactive responses are more intuitive and fully engaging in all of our experiences requires some practice and intentionality. While working in an intensive outpatient clinic, I would ask my clients which tool they learned that was the most helpful. Inevitably, the response was Mindfulness.

In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), acceptance is equally as important. This is a separate process that also requires practice and intention. This process requires a mindful observance of one’s thoughts, feelings and experiences and then additionally embracing one’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, or memories. The primary instinct for most humans is to attempt to change or control their thoughts or feelings. Again, it involves acknowledging and allowing these internal experiences to exist, regardless of whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. When using ACT, acceptance is not a resignation to your circumstances and you don’t have to like your situation. It is actively choosing to create space in your mind and heart for all of your experiences, including the difficult circumstances and all the negative emotions associated with them. When we learn to stop battling with our inner thoughts, feelings and experiences and how to decrease judgement and resistance, we free up time and space for new alternatives and options.

These two concepts work together in a way that allows the individual to develop a new relationship with their internal world. There are many ways to engage in mindfulness practices some of which involve mindful breathing, mindful walking, meditation, observing ones thoughts as if you are a scientist objectively observing without judgements or a need to control the outcome. Rather, the individual has an open heart and curious mind. Over time and practice less and less time is spent in trying to eliminate or change one’s inner experience and more and more time is spent in achieving meaningful goals, using values as a guide all the while increasing resilience and acceptance of difficult thoughts and emotions.

Ultimately, many people struggling with anxiety or depression are seeking hope and tools for becoming more psychologically flexible and resilient. A therapist at Achieve Family Therapy can help you learn how to  accept your internal experiences, which then leads you to more adaptive responses in the face of life’s challenges. Additionally exploring choices and living more consistently in accordance with your values leads to a decrease in anxiety and depression symptoms. In order to get to the place where you can achieve this, you will need to learn the value of mindfulness and practice it regularly in your personal life. Here are some examples of why mindfulness has great value:

  1. Acceptance: Mindfulness practice allows the individual to become conscious of where they are holding on too tight, distracting or avoiding unpleasant experiences. While practicing an open, curious stance individuals learn to view themselves with an increased compassion and grow confidence in their ability to tolerate discomfort. Mindfulness practice leads towards an attitude of accepting one’s internal world without the need to change or control it.

  2. Present Moment Awareness: Mindfulness focuses on bringing your awareness to the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Depression will pull people into dwelling on the past while anxiety leads them to spin in a wave of “what ifs” about their future. Mindfulness is grounding and allows your focus to be in the present which is the only place where change can occur in the moment. This present focus allows people to achieve their goals while positively effecting their futures. The positive outcomes of mindfulness practice reduce stress and increase resilience in the face of adversity.

  3. Values Clarification: Mindfulness practice also supports the exploration of one’s values and priorities in life. When cultivating present moment awareness, individuals create time and space for what truly matters to them and can make better choices that align their actions with their values. The third most important process in ACT is values clarification which informs the individual where they will commit to take action in their life.  Individuals are encouraged to take steps toward living their values which leads to a more meaningful and purposeful life.

  4. Cognitive Defusion: Mindfulness practice assists individuals in the practice of observing their thoughts without being fused to them. Think of this as the statement “I am not my thoughts.” versus “I am my thoughts.” For example, “I am stupid,” is a thought that may have passed through millions of people’s minds. It is in actuality, most of the time, nothing more than a thought. People who are entangled with their thoughts see them as solely reality without checking these thoughts with the facts. Learning to defuse from your thoughts creates a healthy distance from them where they can be viewed as passing mental events rather than absolute truths. This process is extremely helpful in helping individuals with anxiety or depression break free from unhelpful thoughts or destructive shame- based ruminations. 

At Achieve Family Therapy, your therapist can help coach you through mindfulness practices and assist you in cultivating these skills. While these practices will be part of your therapy sessions, it is imperative that these practices also become part of your daily lives. Mindfulness is not a destination but a life long practice. This practice will provide you with tools for managing difficult emotions, reducing stress, and enhancing overall well-being. By developing a mindful approach to your life, you will achieve  greater psychological flexibility, increased resilience, and increased consistency with your values and life choices. This leads away from depression or anxiety and towards a more meaningful, purposeful life.

If you are ready to take the next steps towards a more meaningful, less stressed life and want support in learning more about mindfulness, please click the button below and we will be in touch with you soon!

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