Tag Archives: ACT

Introducing “The Happiness Trap”

by Russ Harris

by Dr. Russ Harris

I completed this book in 2014. It was bought at Popular Bookstore at the price of RM34.90 (before 10% off for members). Just thought it’s really a good basic and entry book to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) that I’ve been mentioning everywhere in my blog, also an easy read, and the chapters are really short. It definitely gives a grasp and basic concepts of ACT, using metaphors (so it can be a bit like reading stories!).

I’ve introduced and lent it to non-psychology backgrounds readers. What I realized is that they can usually get the ideas and benefit from them, but they don’t really know how to practice these concepts in real life (how to accept? how to defuse from my thought? etc). So if you get the ideas and are liking ACT after reading this book (just like me), you shall take a look at “Getting out of your mind and into your life: The new ACT.”

Introducing “Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance & Commitment Therapy”

Got this book from Kinokuniya, Kuala Lumpur in September 2015 (RM101.84).

By Steven C. Hayes

By Steven C. Hayes

I’ve been mentioning a lot about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT, see here for all the related posts), now finally, it’s an ACT workbook.

It’s written for the general public (especially those with pain and suffering), hence considerably readable though a lot of times it may go against your common sense. It talks about human suffering (why do we suffer? If we don’t struggle with the pain, is it still pain?), why and how language leads to suffering (do the birds or dogs think that they’re suffering? Or do they just feel it?), “experiential avoidance”, acceptance and willingness (how?!!), being the observing self (I really like getting in touch with my observing self, this is something that I tried to explain to my sister when we were much younger, it was a struggle because we didn’t have a term for it back then, but she got me), values (life direction) and committed action etc.

This is a workbook so there are plenty of exercises (meditation, mindfulness, getting detached from your thoughts/feelings, letting go, metaphors etc) in it, you will almost definitely find some that you like and some that you don’t quite like.

I’d recommend it to anyone, and especially to stick to and really hands on the exercises and practices (otherwise there’s no point to just “read” a workbook). If you have some suffering/pain that you’ve really been struggling with in your life (or in your mind, in a sense), it seems easier for you to practice the workbook. Nevertheless, if you’re like me – thinking you’re fine in general – it’d still be beneficial to go through and work on it.

Watch Your Thought Come and Go

Meditation Exercise: Leaves on the stream (by far my favourite and what I practice most)

This is an eye-closed exercise. First read the instructions and then when you are sure you understand them, close your eyes and do the exercise. (Or you can use the recordings at the end of this post)

Imagine a beautiful slow-moving stream. The water flows over rocks, around trees, descends down-hill, and travels through a valley. Once in a while, a big leaf drops into the stream and floats away down the river. Imagine you are sitting beside that stream on a warm, sunny day, watching the leaves float by.

Now become conscious of your thoughts. Each time a thought pops into your head, imagine that it is written on one of those leaves. If you think in words, put them on the leaf as words. If you think in images, put them on the leaf as an image. The goal is to stay beside the stream and allow the leaves on the stream to keep flowing by. Don’t try to make the stream go faster or slower; don’t try to change what shows up on the leaves in any way. If the leaves disappear, or if you mentally go somewhere else, or if you find that you are in the stream or on a leaf, just stop and notice that this happened. File that knowledge away and then once again return to the stream, watch a thought come into your mind, write it on a leaf, and let the leaf float away down the stream.

(It doesn’t matter how vivid or clear the imagery is, as long as the concept is there, that you notice your thoughts, and let go of your thoughts once you notice them)

Continue doing this for at least 5 minutes. If the instructions are clear to you now, go ahead and close your eyes and do the exercise.

(Continuing reading AFTER the exercise)

You can think of the moments when the stream wouldn’t flow as moments of cognitive fusion, while the moments when the stream does flow are moments of cognitive defusion. Many times we become fused to a thought without even being aware of it. Thoughts about this exercise can be especially “sticky”. If you thought “I’m not doing this right” or “this exercise doesn’t work for me,” these too are thoughts that you may become fused to quite easily. In many cases, you may not even notice them as thoughts. Other particularly sticky thoughts are emotional thoughts, comparative ones, and temporal or causal ones.

A recording of the exercise in English (starts after 5 seconds):

Leaves on the stream - 12 minutes

Leaves on the stream – 11 minutes (starts quicker, less guidance towards the end)

A recording of the exercise in Mandarin: 

“河流上的飘叶”录音I

“河流上的飘叶”录音II

(类似的内容,只是前面的指示稍微不同;5-6秒后指示才开始)

Is being positive that good?

Not related to the topic, you may skip this: This is the 100th post! And my site is now over 2 years old!  :)

I came across this website few months back, and I’d really been too busy to write any quality post. It’s in Chinese, but don’t worry if you can’t read Chinese, because I’m going to briefly talk about what it’s about…

I remember a Buddhist friend once told me that Buddhism is nothing about being positive and all good, but accepting who you really are and how things really are. In the website, the Japanese psychiatrist consultant has found that people who get depressed are mainly those who had been overly optimistic and positive.

So telling people to be positive, to stop thinking negatively, to do things that make them happy and feel positive. This is what we all have been doing.

“Don’t be sad!” “Don’t be disappointed!”

“Let’s do some exercise! You’d feel better”

“Come on! Be positive! It’s going to be fine!”

“Just ignore the bad feelings. Let’s get a drink!”

“You need to learn to be more optimistic and see the good side of things” etc etc

I’m sure it helps some times. Some clients did report to me that they felt better after sports games or exercise.

I always say that I’m really not one who would support Positive Psychology or anything like that. I don’t really know what it’s about (sorry!), but from what it’s called, it’s not something that seems likely to work to me (more like repression or denial?).

If you have been reading my blog, you’d know that I learnt and practiced ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), where we see positives and negatives are almost equally likely to happen in our lives, and so we accept them, live with them, in accordance to our values.

Related ACT posts on huibee.com:

Thought Challenging or Thought Accepting?

Can you control your thoughts and feelings?

Little Activities on Mindfulness & Acceptance

More on ACT coming soon. 

Can you control your thoughts and feelings?

Many of the self-help books out there teach people how to change their thoughts, physical sensations, feelings etc in order to feel better (including traditional CBT which targets automatic negative thoughts), if you’re one of those who have tried many of these techniques, how workable do you think they are? Do you think you really have so much control over your thoughts and feelings?

Try these:

(1) Try to recall something happened in the past week, anything — a dinner you had, a movie you went, a talk etc. [continue when you've got one] Now try to remove it completely from your memory, get rid of it so you will never think about it again in your life… Can you do it?

(2) Now, do not think about chocolate. As you read this, do not think about how a chocolate tastes, smells; do not think about its colour and texture; do not imagine how it feels when it melts in your mouth and how it feels when your tongue and teeth contact with it. Is it possible? Try again with honey maybe?

(3) Think about past experiences, whether when you have to give a public talks and feel very nervous; when a loved ones passes away and you feel really depressed; when your results doesn’t come out as good as expected and you feel disappointed etc etc. You hope you aren’t that nervous, depressed, disappointed, you try to get rid of these negative emotions as how they’re labelled, was the attempt successful? Did trying to control your emotions make it even stronger, ironically? So you’re more nervous trying not to be nervous?

So why ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)? Because in ACT, we understand in life negative emotions, thoughts, experience, sensations are all just as likely to happen as the positive ones, they are all part of our life, they are what make our lives meaningful, educational and contented. So in ACT, people learn to accept them, to live with them, instead of struggling with them, challenging them, changing them, getting rid of them.

What do you really want?

Deep down inside, what do you really want?

Happy? Rich? Healthy? Successful? A perfect husband/wife? A great job?

It’s the first day of 2015. Usually people are setting goals around this period of time. New year, new resolutions!

But this year I’m going to ask for some changes, how about not setting goals, how about asking yourself, what do you really value in your life? What’s most important to your life?

So what are values?

  • Our heart’s deepest desires: how we want to be, what we want to stand for and how we want to relate to the world around us.
  • Leading principles that can guide us and motivate us as we move through life.
  • Values are not to be evaluated, but serve as the chosen standard by which other things can be evaluated.

Why values and not goals?

  • A value is a direction we desire to keep moving in; an ongoing process that never reaches an end
  • A goal is a desired outcome that can be achieved or completed. Once achieved, it can be crossed off the list.
  • So if you want to get married, that’s a goal; But if you want to be a caring and supportive person, those are values. Values such as these are way of acting within your control, rather than consequences that are in part, down to external factors or up to chance.
  • Connecting with our values gives us a sense that our hard work is worth the effort. Values provide a powerful antidote: a way to give your life purpose, meaning and passion. Unlike goals, you may one day achieve a goal you desperately working hard for all your life and feel so lost not knowing what to do next.
  • Once you have had your values set, you can then work out your goals based on your values.

So now, sit down with a pen and paper (or your tablet/smartphone), take some time to really think what you really want and value in your different aspects of your life, imagine when you’re 80 years old and reflecting back on your life…

You’ll realize that values are like compass of your life giving you sense of direction! :)