Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

How does exercise fit with your values? The first step to committing to fitness.

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HOW DOES EXERCISE FIT WITH YOUR VALUES?

If you are striving to make exercise and fitness a part of your lifestyle, you will certainly want to read this post about values and exercise! Connecting to your values and how they are intertwined with your fitness routine or goals will make it much easier to stick with fitness and all that fitness means in your life.  

WHAT ARE VALUES?

Values are directions that you want to go in life. They are unique to the person, so your values are likely a bit or maybe a lot different from my values or from your loved ones' values. As humans, we can easily get on autopilot and fail to take the time to ask ourselves "am I living a valued life?" And by that I mean a life consistent with your values! We often feel the most at peace with ourselves and with our lives when we are living according to our values. 

Values - both identification of your values and living out your values - guide the type of psychotherapy I do which is called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It's all about helping you get on the path that you want to be on and working with you to perhaps learn new skills and ways of approaching the "stuff" that gets in the way of being or staying on that path. That "stuff" could be unwanted and distressing thoughts, uncomfortable emotions, and/or destructive behaviors. Staying connected to your values helps you to feel empowered and motivated. And that includes feeling empowered and motivated for fitness!

WHAT ARE YOUR VALUES?

It's not always easy, though, to determine what your values are. And they likely change a bit over time as you also evolve and grow. It can be difficult to identify your personal values from the values that you have been told over time that you "should" have. A note on that: it's also important to separate values from morals. Values are chosen life directions and morals are more like codes or principles that come from outside of you (think other people, society, religion).

So, what are some of your values that connect with exercise and fitness? If you would like specific worksheets to use that can facilitate your values discovery, you can visit my previous blog post on values.

Let me give you some examples about how exercise might fit with values. Perhaps you engage in a regular exercise routine because you value self-care. You know that your relationship with yourself is important and when you don’t attend to it, your relationships with others suffer. Perhaps you exercise as a way to be healthier longer in your body and live longer. This could be motivated by a value around family (perhaps you want to be able to be present and active with grandchildren). Or perhaps you value exercise as a way to facilitate a healthy sex life with your partner whom you care a lot about. There are no “right” or “wrong” values that motivate exercise; the key is that you are connected to what brings you fulfillment!

Grief: An experience more common than you may think.

Usually when we think of grief, we think of death. And we tend to think narrowly and consider grief only in cases when a human that we love dies. But grief can be an experience, a process, that happens in a broad range of circumstances. For example, death or loss of a pet, an identity, a job, an idea or a vision are all experiences where grief may surface. When coming into our own identity and following our values, we may experience grief around how our needs were not met in the past. We may even feel the most grief when life is good and we feel loved - grief over what we missed out on before in our lives. 

Values: Why they are important and how to identify them.

Life can feel confusing when you are unsure of what's important to you. Perhaps you've taken on values of your family, society, or religion without realizing it and are feeling stuck. Values are directions that you want to go in life. They are unique to the person, so your values are likely a bit or maybe a lot different from my values or from your loved ones' values. As humans, we can easily get on autopilot and fail to take the time to ask ourselves "am I living a valued life?" And by that I mean a life consistent with your values! We often feel the most at peace with ourselves and with our lives when we are living according to our values. 

Are you concerned about your anger? Learn how ACT can help.

Anger is a commonly experienced human emotion that can cause significant suffering and requires compassion on the healing journey. Sometimes anger presents differently for women - it may be internalized more and taken out on oneself. In my work as a psychologist, I’ve found that “ACT on life not on anger: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Guide to Problem Anger” provides a fantastic framework for understanding and healing anger. The book is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which, in a nutshell, guides healing through 1) acceptance of thoughts and feelings, 2) valued life directions, and 3) taking actions based on values. 

Women's fertility. It's not just about biology.

Trying to get pregnant can be quite a stressful endeavor. Perhaps just thinking about the "ticking biological clock" raises your anxiety. Or maybe you've actively been taking steps to conceive and finding that the harder you try, the more distressed you feel and the more difficult it is to conceive. Due to advances in society, medicine, and culture, women are waiting longer to start growing their families. In many ways, waiting to start a family can be empowering and beneficial for a woman. However, society has also evolved faster than biology. There are real limitations on women's reproductive capacity that occur over time. But it may not be as black and white as you think... 

Quitting smoking when you've had a trauma or suffer from PTSD: New research!

My colleagues and I just published a new pilot study on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for Smoking Cessation in Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you've been trying to quit smoking and you experience some symptoms related to trauma, you may be having a more difficult time quitting. In the Veteran population, Veterans with PTSD are 2-3 times more likely to smoke cigarettes or tobacco products than the general population. This tends to be true, as well, for the non-Veteran population among those who have PTSD or some trauma symptoms.

Mind, Body, Spirit. Yes, it's all connected.

Have you ever experienced pain or an illness that just wasn't going away with physical medical care? There are many scenarios I can think of here. Perhaps you have chronic migraines and your prescription medication just isn't working. Maybe you live a busy life and tend to get colds or the flu easily and are unsure why.  

The willingness to crave. TED talk by Jonathan Bricker.

I have followed and modeled some of my own work on Jonathan Bricker's research on tobacco cessation. Dr. Bricker recently did a TED talk on "The willingness to crave" which illustrates how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is an effective intervention for quitting smoking and tobacco use. This also applies to food cravings! I wanted to share this here, as I think he does an excellent job demonstrating what Acceptance and Commitment Therapy looks like in the context of addictions and cravings. 

Authenticity. What does it mean to live authentically?

Living authentically is my top priority as a human being and as a psychologist. It's also one of the most difficult things to do. When I think about living authentically, I consider the importance of being honest and truthful with ourselves and extending that to others. I think about standing up for oneself and one's needs. I think about connecting with others in a balanced way that complements instead of mutes our uniqueness. Authentic living is also guided by one's values - and living authentically is a chosen life direction or path. We always have a choice whether to take steps toward authentic living. So let's take a moment to look at what goes into living authentically.

What gets you stuck? And what you can do about it.

We all get stuck sometimes, feeling as though we are not being the person we would like to be. Or maybe we're not making the changes we would like to make. Sometimes we get hung up on "sticky" thoughts such as "I'll never be good enough" or "I'm a terrible partner." Thoughts can have a velcro quality - once they are introduced they get stuck and it's difficult to separate from them. Then, the more we try to get rid of them or make them go away, the more they seem to return, causing us increased distress. Emotions can be the same way - if it's completely unacceptable for you to feel anxiety or nervousness, guess what, I bet you feel quite anxious! But, we don't need to overthink this : ). Here are some ideas to help you get unstuck: