Acceptance and Commitment Therapy believes that suppression of feelings leads to more distress and suffering, and​ has three major components:

A = Accept your thoughts and feelings, and be present.

C = Choose a valued direction.
T = Take action.

The premise behind ACT is that it is ineffective and counterproductive to try to control painful emotions or psychological experiences. ACT adopts the view that there are valid alternatives to trying to change the way you think, and these include mindful behavior, attention to personal values, and commitment to action. By taking steps to change our behavior while, at the same time, learning to accept our psychological experiences, we can eventually change their attitude and emotional state.

We often cause of our suffering by focusing on how things "should" be. Practice radical acceptance by using the below coping statements.

  • This is the way it has to be.
  • All the events have led up to now.
  • I can’t change what’s already happened.
  • It’s no use fighting the past.
  • Fighting the past only blinds me to my present.
  • The present is the only moment I have control over.
  • It’s a waste of time to fight what’s already occurred.
  • This present moment is perfect, even if I don’t like what’s happening.
  • This moment is exactly as it should be, given what’s happened before it.
  • This moment is the result of over a million other decisions.

What are some exercises or practices that you can use to practice accepting difficult situations and reducing anxiety?

1.) Bring to mind a situation or person that makes you feel a strong emotion or urge. Pay attention to what happens in your mind and body. Practice leaning into whatever shows up, good, bad, or indifferent.

2.) A tipping point is a moment where it hurts more to avoid and not do something, than to do it. What is your tipping point? Pick one meaningful action to do today that your mind tells you to avoid.

3.) The thoughts, feelings, sensations, and memories that you most want to rid yourself of, the ones that make you want to hide, are the ones that need your attention and compassion. Focus on those for ten breaths and notice how you feel afterward.

4.) Notice your tendencies to push harder, self-criticize, and be harsh. More effort doesn’t always equal better outcomes. Take one difficult situation you’re working through and practice accepting yourself.

5.) Place an ice cube in the palm of your hand, gripping it tightly. Your most difficult thoughts and sensations are like the ice cube: the harder you try to control them, the messier it gets. Hold them lightly.

6.) Imagine you can place your most painful thought or judgment about yourself on this card. Really picture it. Just as you are not this card, you are not that thought. It is separate from you.

7.) When we stop noticing, we can get stuck in painful patterns of reacting, shutting down, and worse. Notice what is present: thoughts, feelings, sights, sounds; and say to yourself, “right now, it’s like this” describing your experience.

8.) Think of a problem or difficult situation in your life. Imagine it is an opportunity to be worked through. How might you show up to it differently? If it were a mountain to be climbed how would you prepare to take advantage of this opportunity?

9.) Move around while balancing a pillow on your head. Imagine this pillow is your most difficult experience. Notice how hard it is to engage in your life while focusing on balance. What else could you do instead?

10.) Pain and values go together. In order to not feel sadness, loss, anger, or fear you would also have to not care about people and things in your life that matter. Who or what would you have to walk away from to never experience pain again? Would it last?

Resources and Adaptations:

The ACT Deck: 55 Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Practices to Build Connection, Find Focus and Reduce Stress by Timothy Gordon

The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance

ACT Made Simple by Dr. Russ Harris

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