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At The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management, our psychologists have years of experience. Unlike many other providers, our clinicians truly specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety and related problems. Our mission is to apply only the most effective short-term psychological treatments supported by extensive scientific research. We are located in Rancho Bernardo, Carlsbad, and Mission Valley.

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Filtering by Tag: intentions

An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Approach to New Year's Resolutions

Jill Stoddard

by Annabelle Parr

As we enter another new year, many of us have set our 2017 resolutions. Maybe you make resolutions, maybe not, but either way this is generally a time of reflection. In what ways do we hope this year will be different from last? What are we hoping to change in our lives? What goals do we have going forward?

 The new year always seems to be a good time to think about making some changes because it gives us the chance to start fresh in some ways. But in other ways it is simply just another day. Nothing changed automatically on January first. What can change is our perspective, and it is our job to ensure that our actions follow. This is the tough part. Do you find yourself already struggling to maintain your resolution? Do you wonder why we have such a hard time keeping our resolutions for more than a few weeks? How do we make our resolutions stick?

The truth is, change is often slow. Occasionally we are able to make huge changes immediately, but more often than not change takes time. New year's resolutions often fail to take into account that it may actually take you all year to create the change you were hoping to see on January second. When we fail to recognize all the small steps on the road toward change, we set ourselves up for disappointment and failure. A new year's resolution sounds like an easy solution: set a major goal for the new year ahead. But our resolutions are empty unless they are backed by action, and creating a resolution doesn't necessarily help us to make an action plan.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) offers some ideas and tools that can be very helpful in guiding us along the process of change. Whether you come in to see a therapist for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or whether you apply the wisdom it can offer to your life on your own, this model can help us to keep our resolutions all year long.

ACT aims to increase psychological flexibility, which means that you are able to connect to the present moment consciously and choose to behave in a manner as consistent with your values as the situation allows. Part of the purpose behind ACT is to get in touch with your personal values (not those determined for you by society, family, friends, or any other external source), and then use these values to guide your actions and formulate specific goals. This is usually what we are aiming for with our new year's resolutions.

For example, if my resolution is that I want to eat healthier, a good place to start is to examine my values. Do I feel like I "should" eat healthier because I feel pressured by our health conscious culture or by my friends, family or partner? Or do I want to eat healthier because I value my physical health, deep in my heart? Or perhaps I value my role as a model to my children, and want to eat healthier for this reason. Once I determine my values and make sure that my resolution is driven by my own intrinsic motivation, then I can create a concrete plan of action to move forward.

The Choice Point Model, another helpful ACT tool, offers us a framework to use when we face a decision. A choice point is a moment in time where we can choose to act in a manner that is either consistent or inconsistent with our values. The Choice Point is about identifying the hundreds of moments in a day where we can be on autopilot and be driven by thoughts and feelings, or we can make a conscious, deliberate choice that is in the service of our values. When in this moment, we can use the acronym STOP:

S: Slow down. Take 3 mindful breaths.

T: Take notice. What are you thinking and feeling?

O: Open up. Make room for those thoughts and feelings instead of trying to avoid the discomfort.

P: Pursue values. Do what matters to you.

Sometimes, in a Choice Point, we will choose to avoid or procrastinate acting in a values consistent manner, and that is okay. Give yourself grace when this happens. But remember that though avoidance may provide relief for the moment, in the long run it will make us feel worse. So if we can STOP and choose to act in accordance with our values as frequently as possible, it will serve us.

As you approach this new year and begin thinking about your potential resolutions, remember that big change happens slowly, choice point by choice point. Remember to consider your values, and to STOP when you hit a choice point. If you feel you need some extra support along the road to change or healing...

CSAM IS HERE TO HELP

If you or someone you love might benefit from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or biofeedback for anxiety, depression, stress, or PTSD, or if you would like more information about our therapy services, please contact us at (858) 354-4077 or at csamsandiego@gmail.com.

Setting Intentions for the New Year & Using ACT to Guide the Way

Jill Stoddard

Written by Lauren Helm, M.A.

 

Setting Intentions for the New Year & Using ACT to Guide the Way

 

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As you set out into the new year, you may have already identified and begun practicing taking steps towards your New Year’s resolutions. The road towards various forms of transformation or self-betterment can often be long and arduous, and you may face challenging moments as well as rewarding ones. In order to set yourself up for success, consider learning about and applying some of these tips based on an interpretation of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) principles. Hopefully, this will help you to continue to evolve in the direction of your choosing this year!

Set intentions that are rooted in your values

Make sure to give yourself enough time to adequately reflect on what is truly important to you. Too often, we may choose to “better” ourselves in ways that may be important to others, but not ourselves. This is a great time to discover your authentic, deeply held desires for yourself, if you have not already done so. What we value speaks to who we want to be in this life, and what gives our lives the greatest sense of richness and meaning. Our values can range various domains, including health, family, friendships, career, spirituality, etc. Clarify for yourself WHY you have selected a certain New Year’s resolution, and determine if it is truly aligned with your authentic values. When we set an intention to fulfill a values-driven goal, we are more likely to be intrinsically motivated to achieve it than if the goal we have set is solely reliant upon the approval of others (or any other reason we think that we “should” be doing something).

Create a SMART values-guided plan of action

Once you’ve selected your New Year’s resolutions or intentions, set yourself up for success by creating an action plan. Dr. Russ Harris created a worksheet that is geared towards helping individuals create a specific plan that is based in their values. You can find the SMART goal worksheet here. SMART stands for specific, meaningful, adaptive, realistic, and time-bound. In other words, you may select a New Year’s resolution that is specific (define exactly what it is that you hope to achieve, and the specific steps that you believe may need to be carried out in order to get there), meaningful (make sure that the resolution is based on something you genuinely care about), adaptive (is setting this goal truly supportive for you and will it improve your life?), and time-bound (be specific and identify the times and dates that you plan to complete certain steps that move you closer to your goal). These are guidelines (not rules) that may support you in successfully working towards your resolutions throughout the year.

Make contact with the present moment

Practice mindfulness of both pleasant and unpleasant aspects of what you are working towards (the FULL experience of the moment), instead of struggling or resisting the discomfort that you may encounter (say, if you were working towards living healthfully by exercising, you may practice mindfulness of the sensations experienced during exercise). Our experience of working towards our desired goal may be dramatically shifted by whether we adopt a mindful, open attitude, or a judgmental, resistant attitude. Excessively trying to “omit” the uncomfortable aspects of your journey will be unlikely to work, can waste your time and energy, and possibly sour your chances to stretch yourself or rise beyond what you may have previously believed you could not do.

Check in with yourself as the year progresses. Adopt a nonjudgmental, objective viewpoint as you observe whether your current actions are in alignment with your original resolutions or intentions. Allow this information to inform any modifications that may be made to the SMART plan that you created. Have you learned that certain strategies help you keep on track, and others don’t? Does just the action-plan need to be revised, or have your priorities shifted over time, and thus your original intentions need to be re-committed to or revised?

Be flexible

We are ever-evolving human beings in an ever-changing world. We cannot always predict or control what will happen in the future. Even if you have created a plan using the SMART guidelines, planning for your future can either work for you or against you, depending on how you relate to your plan. When we hold too tightly or rigidly to an idea of how “things are supposed to go,” the plan begins to unravel us, instead of supporting us. Be honest with yourself when this happens (without judging yourself), and practice flexibility.

Practice acceptance AND commitment

When we feel blocked or unable to achieve the outcome we desire, there may be suffering. Given that unexpected life events may happen that interfere with the plan you have in place to reach your goals, loosening our fixation or attachment to only one way of achieving your values-based resolutions may be helpful. ACT suggests that we can have lives full of meaning, even when we are thrown off course or encounter pain or difficulty. The key is committing to your values, and letting them guide you as you reset your course as needed. Just because you do not achieve a specific outcome (or goal) in a specific way does not mean that you aren’t able to live a valued, meaningful life. We can live in alignment with our values in so many different ways in different situations. Though it can be tough to not obtain a specific outcome that we hoped for, with a flexible, accepting attitude, we can discover another way to embody our values. We may often find that it can be equally as satisfying, even if it doesn’t look like we originally had imagined it.



From the team at CSAM, we hope you have a Happy New Year!



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Resources

SMART goal worksheet: http://www.thehappinesstrap.com/upimages/Goal_Setting_Worksheet.pdf

Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., & Wilson, K. G. (2011). Acceptance and commitment therapy: The process and practice of mindful change. Guilford Press.