TECH & SCIENCE

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - WITH CHRIS

I LIKE to think. Some­times I think that I’m an over-thinker, but then I think I might be over­think­ing my over­think­ing and stop think­ing it over. It’s com­pli­cated. Re­cently I thought of the fact that, when one is asked to list hob­bies in some for­mal fash­ion, we usu­ally opt for list­ing the sport that we play, or the type of art that we cre­ate, or the places we like to travel to, but it’s very rare that some­one will out­right say that they sim­ply like to think.

Maybe we’re con­cerned that peo­ple will think we’re strange, or con­ceited, or bor­ing, or a com­bi­na­tion of those things, but of course that’s not true.

Ev­ery­body en­joys think­ing most of the time.

And any­one who has ever in­vented or dis­cov­ered some­thing marve- lous was only able to do so be­cause they en­gaged their thoughts and let their mind take them where they needed to go.

But some­times our thoughts can be a neg­a­tive or de­struc­tive el­e­ment to our lives, if we al­low them to be.

Our so­ci­ety is full of ex­pres­sions like, ‘Stop think­ing about it’, ‘Don’t think, just do it’ and ‘Stop think­ing, start liv­ing’.

Most of these ex­pres­sions are in­tended as en­cour­age­ment or mo­ti­va­tion to take ac­tion or dis­suade some­one from neg­a­tive thoughts, but if you ac­tu­ally think about it, most of them are use­less or even dele­te­ri­ous.

For in­stance, if you’ve ever been told to stop think­ing about some­thing, par­tic­u­larly if it’s caus­ing you grief or worry, you al­ready know that it just makes you think about it even more.

And for the oth­ers, liv­ing your life thought­lessly is a sure­fire way to get your­self into some form or trou­ble or per­haps alien­ate your­self from oth­ers.

Which is why, in the field of psy­chol­ogy, Ac­cep­tance and Com­mit­ment Ther­apy (ACT) has be­come very use­ful strat­egy for the treat­ment of a va­ri­ety of psy­cho­log­i­cal is­sues.

Far from teach­ing some­one to con­trol or dis­tract them­selves from their thoughts or emo­tions, ACT in­stead en­cour­ages the pa­tient to ac­cept their thoughts for what they are - the of­ten in­vol­un­tary ac­tion of our mind that is al­most as fre­quent as the breaths we take each day.

The aim of ACT is to max­imise hu­man po­ten­tial for a rich, full and mean­ing­ful life. ACT (which is pro­nounced as the word ‘act’, not as the ini­tials) does this by:

a) teach­ing you psy­cho­log­i­cal skills to deal with your painful thoughts and feel­ings ef­fec­tively - in such a way that they have much less im­pact and in­flu­ence over you (these are known as mind­ful­ness skills).

b) help­ing you to clar­ify what is truly im­por­tant and mean­ing­ful to you - i.e your val­ues - then use that knowl­edge to guide, in­spire and mo­ti­vate you to change your life for the bet­ter.

Mind­ful­ness is a “hot topic” in Western psy­chol­ogy right now - in­creas­ingly recog­nised as a pow­er­ful ther­a­peu­tic in­ter­ven­tion for ev­ery­thing from work stress to de­pres­sion - and also as an ef­fec­tive tool for in­creas­ing emo­tional in­tel­li­gence. Ac­cep­tance and Com­mit­ment Ther­apy is a pow­er­ful mind­ful­ness-based ther­apy (and coach­ing model) which cur­rently leads the field in terms of re­search, ap­pli­ca­tion and re­sults.

Mind­ful­ness is a men­tal state of aware­ness, fo­cus and open­ness - which al­lows you to en­gage fully in what you are do­ing at any mo­ment. In a state of mind­ful­ness, dif­fi­cult thoughts and feel­ings have much less im­pact and in­flu­ence over you - so it is hugely use­ful for ev­ery­thing from full-blown psy­chi­atric ill­ness to en­hanc­ing ath­letic or busi­ness per­for­mance. In many mod­els of coach­ing and ther­apy, mind­ful­ness is taught pri­mar­ily via med­i­ta­tion. How­ever, in ACT, med­i­ta­tion is seen as only one way amongst hun­dreds of learn­ing these skills - and this is a good thing, be­cause most peo­ple do not like med­i­tat­ing! ACT gives you a vast range of tools to learn mind­ful­ness skills - many of which re­quire only a few min­utes to mas­ter.

IT’S ALL ABOUT PER­SPEC­TIVE: Mind­ful­ness has be­come a pow­er­ful tool in the arse­nal of psy­chol­o­gists in the treat­ment of pa­tients who are strug­gling with anx­i­ety or de­pres­sion.

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