“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it”
– Maya Angelou
How often have you found yourself thinking: ‘This is too hard…’ ‘If only this or that would happen…’ ‘Why can’t they see it my way…’ ‘Why do these things keep happening to me…’ etc.?
Here’s the thing. Life is constantly throwing us curve balls. Some are wonderful and enriching, others are challenging and daunting. Adversity in life is inevitable. Every day we are faced with problems, both big and small. Every day we have to make decisions, some as seemingly simple as what to have for breakfast, and some as difficult as dealing with our own challenging thoughts and emotions. One thing is for certain, we have very little control over which curve ball comes our way on any given day, but we do have control over how we respond to it.
We always have choices in the face of adversity. One option is to deny that our difficult thoughts and feelings exist and try really hard not to think about them. (Now, if I told you not to think about pink elephants sprinkling love heart confetti as they fly past your window, what will you think about?)
No one likes to have difficult thoughts and feelings and we tend to go to great lengths to avoid them. We can do whatever it takes to cope with them. We can drink too much, eat too much, sleep too much, avoid people and places… We can do so many things to avoid our pain. We often prefer not to think too much about our choice of coping mechanisms or their long term consequences – all we want is immediate comfort and respite no matter what!
The alternative is this: we could accept that although thoughts and feelings can be difficult and uncomfortable, they are all part of the human experience. And although we’d all love to have a magic wand to wave away all discomfort and unhappiness, that’s an unrealistic wish. Instead, we can strive to live our lives to their full potential and learn to grow and thrive through the good and bad.
So, how do we do that?
Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a third wave Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approach. It emphasizes that we don’t have to wait for all the stars to align and all our worries and concerns to disappear before we can start to live our best lives.
By identifying our values, that is, what is most important to us and what we stand for in life, and by using these values as a guide to our behaviour, we can face difficult situations with resilience and strength. We can learn to be present in the moment and appreciate all that life has to offer.
In our Everyday Wellbeing Group, we work on the skills and tools to help us identify and live by our values. We also focus on our existing strengths, abilities and knowledge to help us navigate our way through life.
The next 6 week Everyday Wellbeing Program at Skylight starts on Tuesday, May 3rd. If you are interested in participating or would like to know more, please call our Customer Relations Team.
This article was written by Joumana, who runs the Everyday Wellbeing group at Skylight and also provides individual counselling. Learn more about Joumana by reading her bio.