Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is part of the “third wave” of behavior therapies that revolve around understanding and accepting your thoughts while still improving your mental health. The emphasis placed on changing your way of thinking in cognitive therapy, the current popular method in the Western world, is being rejected by some who say it makes certain problems worse. Instead, they offer a new model based on, “letting go of the struggle to control unwanted thoughts and feelings, being mindfully aware of the present moment, and committing to a course of action that is consistent with what you value most in life.“

The Four Concepts

Control Paradox: Human beings love control. But when it comes to feelings, trying hard to take control isn’t so easy. In fact, concentrating on getting rid of anxiety is a great way to make an episode worse. The same goes for thoughts. For example: don’t think about a balloon.

(What color was yours?)

Acceptance: So what should you do with those anxious feelings and thoughts? Acknowledge and accept them for what they are! Remind yourself that they’re just thoughts. During a panic attack, your body has engaged in its fight-or-flight response and it’s your job to remind it that it’s all in your head and everything is still ok.

Mindfulness: How do you do that? Practice experiencing the present. Most things that cause anxiety occurred in the past or an imagined future. But through mindfulness training, it’s possible to learn to direct more attention to what’s happening right now. You know that moment when you’re playing a sport and you’re in “the zone”? Or when you’re performing and completely forget about the crowd? That’s what you’re aiming for. Once you realize that things are actually going pretty well at the time, you’ll find there’s no reason to be anxious.

Commitment: This seems simple but it could be the most difficult part. You have to commit to resisting the urge to fight your negative thoughts. “ACT emphasizes the importance of clarifying your values to strengthen your commitment to acting in ways that are consistent with those values,” as explained by Dr. Chad LeJeune at You and your thoughts are two separate things no matter if it’s the past, present, or future. Remember it!

Check out the links below to learn more about what ACT is and what it could mean for the future of mental health. But before you go, let us know what you do when you’re anxious in the comment section below!



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