If you've been reading lately, you know I've been excited to share more about what I'm learning about ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). A lot of what ACT does is offer you a way to change your relationship with your thoughts.
Now, I'm guessing that phrasing sounds funny to you, "changing your relationship with your thoughts". What exactly is that?
We are not our thoughts.
I am not my thoughts.
You are not your thoughts.
There is more to you and me than what we think.
I've recommended the book, "The Happiness Trap" to you in an earlier post. One way that the author, Russ Harris, helps to make this idea, of changing your relationship to your thoughts, more clear is to look at thoughts as a string of words. So,
words on a page of a book (or on this blog post) are called text.
Words said out loud are called speech.
Words in our minds are called thoughts.
Thinking this way helps you to see that just like words in a book are not the book, thoughts in our minds are not us.
Can you see how this way of looking at thoughts helps create a bit of distance between you and your thoughts?
Well, that distance is a powerful way of helping you feel less controlled by what you think at any given moment. Practicing this helps to cultivate more of your observer self, the constant part of you that is more than what you think or feel.
Being able to see things with some objectivity helps you make decisions more based on all of you, and what you most value, not just what you are feeling or thinking in the moment.
Powerful! Try it, let me know how it works for you. :-)
“A good beginning makes a good end.” –English Proverb
“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” –Thomas Paine
“Something is going to come out of this. Something new. This can end you up in a whole new place—a better place, a much more open place.” -Pema Chodron
“This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.” ― Taylor Swift
"The beginning is the most important part of the work." – Plato
“The secret to a rich life is to have more beginnings than endings.” -Dave Weinbaum
“You will never win if you never begin.” – Robert H. Schuller
“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.”- Alan Cohen
“If you want something you have never had,
you have to do something you have never done.”
~ Mike Murdock
"I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become."
~ Carl Jung
"Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out."
~ Art Linkletter
At first read, I thought these two quotes were dialectics, that is opposing sides of the same idea. But reading them over and over, I think they are saying the same thing. That while we often don't control what life puts in front of us, we do control what we do with it, how we approach what life puts in front of us. Making the choice to focus on what we can control, even if it's only our response or reaction. Effective.
Social psychologist Arthur Aron wondered if having long time married couples act more like newly dating couples would result in an increase in marital satisfaction. He had couples generate a list of exciting activities and a list of pleasant activities that they might do together. Then he assigned some couples to do something from the list of exciting activities and other couples to do something from the list of pleasant activities.
I’ll bet you can guess what he found. :-) The couples who added some new and exciting activities into their life, acting more like newly dating than like long time married couples, had significantly more happiness than the couples that engaged in more pleasant activities or the couples that served as baseline and did nothing different at all.
Acting excited and trying new things results in feeling excited and more energized about your relationship. Keeping things fresh leads to more relationship satisfaction.
Several studies looked at whether the words you say and the way you say them have any effect on your mood. One study by psychologist Emmett Velten asked some people to read cards with increasingly positive statements on them (“I do feel pretty good today”). Another group read cards with neutral statements unrelated to mood on them (“The Orient Express travels between Paris and Istanbul”). Using pre- and post-tests of mood, the group that read the increasingly positive statements had a happier mood afterwards while the neutral statement group showed no change in mood.
Other researchers have expanded this format to include telling jokes, laughing, reading stories about happy events, all with the same result. Acting as if you are happy results in people reporting being happier.
What’s the takeaway here? If you want to feel a certain way, act the way you want to feel. Don’t wait for the feelings. Change your behavior and the feelings will follow.
So, how do you want to feel today? :-)
I love this quote from a truly inspiring person!
"Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation;
it means understanding that something is what it is
that there’s got to be a way through it."
~Michael J. Fox
My parents grew roses when I was growing up.
I remember a few things about this. One, they would throw used coffee grounds and egg shells onto the rose beds. I thought that was weird, to put food that would otherwise go in the trash around the plants. They explained that there were certain nutrients in those foods that made the roses even more beautiful.
The other thing I remember was that the roses, the flowers, were stunningly beautiful. When they bloomed, it seemed that it was a thrill and delight for the entire family.
I also remember how these amazing blooms were surrounded by straggly, not very pretty bushes.
Oh one last thing, it seemed like it was an awful lot of work for a few flowers that lasted for such a short time.
You’re probably wondering by now, why is she telling me this sweet memory about rosebushes?
As I was writing about before, I’ve been reading Henry Cloud’s book called “Necessary Endings”. He uses the metaphor of a rosebush to show how important it is to decide what your vision is for what you want, in this case, the perfectly groomed rosebush, and to engage in an active process to let go of what is not best to get you to your vision.
For a rosebush to be at its’ dazzling best, you have to prune. You have to prune weak branches, you have to prune dead branches, and you have to prune perfectly good branches that are outside the shape of your ideal. You have to let go in order to get closer to what it is that you really want, your ideal rosebush.
Can you see the metaphor here? To get to your best self, your vision of the life that you most want, you have to learn to let go.
People are like rosebushes. We have limited resources–of time, energy, money and attention. In order to be at our best, we have to make decisions about what we really want.
Contrary to the saying “you can have it all”, no, the truth is we can’t. And we have to learn to say no to what isn’t best for us, to what is no longer working for us, to what used to be fine but no longer is, and even to let go of some perfectly good enough things that are no longer necessary as we are moving towards our best life in this moment.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.”
My name is Carol J. Tadeusik. I am a licensed psychologist in Durham, North Carolina. I invite you to read my blog and get to know me and a bit about how I think. And by the way, I love comments!
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