Understanding Mental Health as Psychological Flexibility
Mental health is defined as “Psychological Flexibility” by Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Promoting Adaptive Thoughts and Behaviours
Life will present with difficult challenges, however when you are psychologically flexible, you are able to adapt and react to those negative events in ways that are appropriate to the forces and stresses of the outside world.
Importance of Psychological Flexibility
When you have low psychological flexibility, you are more likely to react to negative events with negative thoughts (e.g., “Why does this always happen to me?!” or “This relationship is killing me!” or “I am a failure!”).
This in turn may generate intense negative feelings (e.g., fear, despair or hopelessness) that can then lead to unhelpful action tendencies (e.g. I feel like: “cancelling that meeting,” or “staying home,” or “getting high, ” or “drinking until I fall asleep.”).
When you are psychologically flexible, however, and when you have developed the six core processes described below, you will be much better-able to recognize the VALUES that are threatened by the negative event, quicker to DE-FUSE from your thoughts, notice and understand those thoughts as normal human reactions that are unhelpful as they do not serve your VALUES. You will be willing and able to ACCEPT and make room for your feelings, and as you do that, shift your attention to the VALUE that is threatened, and COMMIT to a value-guided action, i.e., an action that moves you in the direction of your values.
This is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. ACT does not try to take away your challenges, your problems, or your pain. It does, however, aim to make you more flexible, and more able to keep moving in the direction of your values as you experience life’s challenges.
Six Core Processes of ACT
What follows is the six core processes of ACT. After describing each, behaviors are provided that will help you to develop these processes in yourself.
- PRESENT-MOMENT AWARENESS
- AWARENESS OF VALUES
- COMMITMENT TO ACTION
Vancouver and Port Moody Psychotherapy
Dr. Christopher Jones is a Registered Psychologist at Lifespan Development in Vancouver and Port Moody BC.
Contact our offices at 604 259 1236 to learn more about our psychotherapy services or book an appointment.