TECH & SCIENCE
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.