Redefining Success: Ditch Resolutions, Embrace Your Values

By Ms Ali V Flint

Learn more about Ali

The January air seems thick with a kind of angsty, overwhelmed, tension, laced with melancholy of the holidays end and a brave hope for a more joyful, abundant, promising New Year.

We are almost through January now, and the excitement of a fresh start might be mingling with a tinge of self-reflection and uncomfortable review, as we avoid noticing the healthy cookbooks and running shoes we received as Christmas gifts and the image looking back at us in the mirror. The vision board, meticulously crafted, the carefully outlined goals, and the resolutions regretfully declared aloud with enthusiasm may already be haunting us.

If you’re feeling like you’re falling short of the aspirations set out a couple of weeks ago, take a moment to b r e a t h e. The truth is the pressure to adhere to a rigid set of resolutions often sets us up for a cheek-blushing tender fall right about now. It’s not uncommon to feel a sense of broken promises and disillusionment as the initial enthusiasm dwindles and we are left feeling defeated, lost, or questioning our ability to truly change.

What if we redirected our focus away from the unhelpful ‘must and should’ self-talk, the checklist of lofty goals, and toward something more sustainable and nourishing? Please join me as we safely enter the sanity-saving realm of values – offering a more compassionate, resilient, and sustainable approach to personal growth, and which doesn’t get left behind like that unopened journal in the top drawer or the dusty exercise bike in the shed.

I don’t know about you, but one of my brain cells spontaneously combusts in an electrified protesting puff of annoyance each time I hear the ‘New Year, New Me’ mantra. Rest assured; it really is OK to decline the invitation to feel pressured to completely reinvent yourself every year. Life is a continuous journey, not a series of annual reboots that launch on 1st January and conclude on 31st December in a measurable and predictable timeline.

Instead of discarding the old versions of ourselves like last year’s calendar, let’s acknowledge and appreciate the courage and resilience it took to chart a course through the various twists and turns that brought us to this point. Whether you’re facing ongoing health challenges, family complexities, work stress, or wrestling with mental health issues, your journey is uniquely yours, and there’s no need to erase the chapters or lessons that shaped the incredible person you are today. You would not be reading this blog if you were not motivated to better yourself and keep on trying. Call me crazy, but I think we owe a lot to all the endless versions of ourselves that continue to reside within. Why would we want to discard these precious witnesses to a life lived thus far? I see you, and I salute you – every single version of you.

Like many things, you were probably not taught about values within the school curriculum. Most of our parents probably didn’t sit us down and talk to us about their values, let alone provoke us to think about our own. Understandably, values are a concept learned about in the biggest classroom there is – L I F E.

In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), values refer to: the deeply held qualities and principles that individuals find meaningful and important in their lives. These values can be thought of as a guiding compass, helping us navigate our actions and choices.

In ACT, the emphasis is on identifying and living in accordance with one’s values, fostering a sense of purpose and fulfillment, rather than focusing solely on specific short-lived goals or external outcomes. Values provide a flexible and enduring framework for making choices that align with the kind of person you want to be and the type of life you want to lead. In an age of seemingly infinite ideas, information, a simple question you can ask yourself when facing tricky decision points is as follows: “Is this an away move or a toward move” in relation to my core values and what I stand for?”

Having similar or dissimilar ‘values’ can also be the reason we seem to click with certain people or feel at home in particular settings while others rub us up the wrong way and make us feel as out of place as a penguin in the desert. This is not to say we must have the same values to be friends or get along with loved ones and colleagues (boring!), but if you do happen to notice your buttons being pushed, a deeper understanding of your core values, where they came from and why they’re important to you might just help shine a light on some of the repetitive patterns and conflicts playing out underneath the surface.

Consider taking the short, free quiz below to discover what your core values are. Optional challenge: compare and converse with a loved one about how each of your values are the same or different, how you rated priority values over other equally appealing ones, and why you think that might be true for you.

Living in alignment with your core values often brings about a sense of contentment and “rightness,” even in the face of life’s challenges. And let me just clarify, I do not mean ‘right’ as in better than, but rather the type of ‘just right’ which Goldilocks was seeking when she sampled all those bears’ porridges – a good fit for that individual, person, at that time in their life, under the circumstances they are facing. When our actions deviate from these same values, we may experience a subtle sense of discomfort or disconnection. What a helpful ‘clue’ to remind us that we may have strayed, that it could be helpful to pay attention to what is going on in that moment, and why certain feelings or responses might be arising.

Should you wish to dive deeper into the world of values, the team at Brisbane ACT Centre are committed to supporting you in this exploration and can support you to tug on those threads, and craft a colourful life that resonates with what truly matters to you. Get in touch if this blog article resonates with you and you are open to embracing the power of values. Values-based living is about embarking on a journey of self-discovery, seeking increased self-awareness, and improved self-confidence that comes with knowing who you are at that authentic, embodied level.

May knowing you have a compass hidden in your pocket, and always ready to assist you, bring some peace of mind and an extra dose of courage for the year ahead and beyond.

Ms Ali V Flint

General Psychologist, ACT Therapist & Buddhist Psychotherapist

Ali is a compassionate, highly intuitive psychologist with over 15 years of clinical experience. Friendly, down-to-earth and practical in her approach, Ali seeks to truly connect with her clients and support them to tap into their own inner wisdom and strength.

How to improve mental health in 2020 - What’s the difference between a top down and a bottom up approach to wellbeing?

By Richard Fryer

Top down performance psychology

If you’re feeling stressed, anxious or depressed at the moment – you aren’t alone. It’s a difficult time for many of us, but fortunately there are practices we can integrate into our lives to enhance our sense of wellbeing. By learning to use bottom up and top down approaches, and to find the ones that work the best for you, you can maintain and perhaps even improve your mental health into the future.The World Health Organisation describes mental health as a state of well-being that enables a person to realise their full potential. Mental health is a fundamental building block of human performance – not something separate or somehow less important. Yet how many organisations have their wellbeing programs separate from their performance initiatives? In my experience, the answer is ‘most’.

We sometimes neglect the importance of wellbeing while focussing on the day-to-day of “living our lives”. So, how do we nurture more mental health and well-being? There are many different ways proven to help people increase their levels of wellbeing which can be broadly grouped into two types of activity.

The first set are ‘top down’ approaches – thinking and talking techniques. These might include talking with a psychologist, socialising with friends, learning new skills and some types of mindfulness meditation. Talk about your experiences with the people you’re close with, immerse yourself in learning new skills, spend time non-judgementally noticing what thoughts and feelings arise for you. You could spend a moment writing down all the feelings that arise for you. Often our inner thoughts are very tumultuous, and it can be surprising how much we’re feeling at any given moment. By taking a moment to name those thoughts and feelings we can make some space for them. Naming difficult thoughts and feelings won’t make them go away, but it can help us to carry them lightly.

The second set can be called ‘bottom up’ approaches as they work through the body to improve the mind. The body and the mind work together to shape our experiences, by using a bottom up approach we can improve our sense of wellbeing through physical experiences. Bottom up approaches to wellbeing include exercise, yoga, diaphragmatic breathing, music and other forms of play. Schedule some time to do things that make your body feel at peace.

You may notice that some activities are a combination of top down and bottom up – for example mindfulness practise that uses breathing as a way to connect with the present moment non-judgmentally.So which mix of approaches is best for me? The answer is likely to be ‘the one that you enjoy doing the most’ – which you’ll discover with expert psychologist help and encouragement! The most important point is that investing time in our mental health is an essential foundation for flourishing in our lives – not something that we should put off because of seemingly more “urgent” work or life priorities.

This is why expert ACT therapist help in building your psychological flexibility can really enhance your life performance outcomes – they have the skills and training to integrate mental health and wellbeing work with valued living improvement work, recognising that everyone needs a bit of everything from time to time.

Richard Fryer is a general and sport and performance psychologist at Brisbane ACT Centre. He works with a broad range of clients, whatever their struggle to help people realise their life performance potential – and live more rich, full and meaningful lives – during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond!

Turning Shame into Sunsets: How ACT can Help you Commit to your OCD Treatment

By Richard Bunker

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a highly debilitating psychological disorder which affects approximately 3% of the population. Yet despite its prevalence, many people with OCD will often delay seeking treatment because of shame, embarrassment or fear of being judged. So powerful is this shame that sadly the delay can be months, years or even decades. Unfortunately, OCD does not get better on its own and requires evidence-based treatment delivered by a therapist trained in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). However, ERP can be a tough treatment and some people discontinue treatment prematurely before they experience an improvement of their OCD symptoms. This is where Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can help.

At the heart of ACT is a real connection between two human beings. This relationship is built from a place of warmth, respect, compassion and from an understanding that you are not broken, damaged, nor a bad person. An ACT therapist will sit with you during your deepest moments of shame, doubt and embarrassment without judgment or evaluation. It is from within this context of a healing relationship where we turn shame into sunsets and create meaningful life change.

You are not a bad person and you are not alone. Having unwanted and intrusive thoughts even about the most distressing content, for example molesting children, incest, rape, bestiality or harming others does not mean you are a bad person. You are a perfectly normal human being. Most of us; roughly 85% experience having unwanted intrusive thoughts. It’s normal and so are you.

ACT will help you open up to living and to see a bigger perspective than just what the OCD says. You will learn powerful tools to create distance from the painful intrusive experiences, connect more with the world around you and discover the important things in life that matter to you. ACT is a powerful approach that will help you commit to your OCD treatment journey.

You are so much more than the content of your OCD. You are so much more than the horrific and painful intrusive thoughts that repeatedly bombard you. You are so much more than your compulsions and rituals that consume large portions of your day. You are so much more than your OCD suffering. Your OCD does not define who you are, and you no longer need to sit alone in silence with shame.

With ACT you turn crippling fear into courage, transform self-doubt into self-compassion, and turn embarrassment into connection. Together with your therapist, you will be taking small steps toward your OCD treatment goals and turning shame into sunsets as you build a life that is directed by you and not your OCD.

About the Author

Richard Bunker is a clinical psychologist and ACT therapist interested in helping folks suffering with OCD. He has extensive experience in delivering Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (ERP) and has helped many people overcome their OCD using ERP and ACT.

If you would like to know more about Richard, please view his profile here:

If you would like to make an appointment with Richard, please phone the Brisbane ACT Centre on 07 3193 1072.


FACE COVID – how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy skills can help you to respond effectively to the Covid 19 crisis – with thanks to Dr Russ Harris for the text, and the worldwide ACT community for the wonderful animation and infographic!

‘FACE COVID’ is a set of practical steps you can take to respond to the Corona crisis, using the principles of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Here’s a quick summary of the key steps, and in the linked animation, infographic and e-book you can explore them all in more depth:
F = Focus on what’s in your control

A = Acknowledge your thoughts & feelings

C = Come back into your body

E = Engage in what you’re doing

C = Committed action

O = Opening up

V = Values

I = Identify resources

D = Disinfect & distance
= FACE COVID! Let’s now explore these, one by one...

Focus on what's in your control
Fear, anxiety & worry are normal reactions. You can’t magically control them. Nor can you control the Corona virus or the world economy. But you can control what you do – here & now. So focus on that!

Acknowledge thoughts & feelings
Silently and kindly acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, With curiosity, notice what’s going on in your inner world. You might say to yourself, 'I’m noticing feelings of anxiety' or 'There's my mind worrying' or 'I’m having feelings of loneliness'.

Come back into your body
Find your own way to connect with your physical body, For example: Slowly press your feet hard into the floor, or slowly press your fingertips together, or slowly stretch your arms or neck, or shrug your shoulders, or take some slow breaths.

Engage in what you’re doing
Notice where you are, and refocus your attention on the activity at hand. Notice what you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell. Notice what you are doing, and give your full attention to that activity.

Committed action
Take effective action. Follow official guidelines to protect yourself & others. Ask yourself often ‘What can I do right now - no matter how small it may be - that improves life for myself or others?’

Open up
Make room for all those painful feelings - and be kind to yourself. What kind things would you say to and do for a loved one in this situation? Apply those same kind words and deeds to yourself.

What sort of person do you want to be? How do you want to treat yourself and others? Your values might include love, patience, courage, kindness … or numerous others. Look for ways to live them.

Identify resources
Identify resources for help, assistance, support, and advice. This includes friends, family, neighbours, health professionals, emergency services. Make sure you know the contact phone numbers.

Disinfect & Distance
Disinfect often & physically distance - to care for yourself, your loved ones, and your community.

Please share all these resources – the animation, infographic and more detailed e-book as widely as you may choose. This is a global time of crisis and need for effective action – let us do all we can to FACE COVID – and care for yourself, your loved ones, and your community.

Check out Russ' full ebook on FACE COVID here.

ACT at the time of COVID-19

By Marcela Costanzo

I woke up this morning with the unsettling feeling of finding a new and scary world out there, this is how much change has happened in so little time. It brought home to me what has been emphasized to us ACT practitioners at every training we have ever done: the value of applying skills on ourselves, not only to develop mastery, but also to truly experience the benefits of what we as therapists suggest to our clients.
This morning I had to make a conscious effort to follow that advice closely. The last few weeks have seen a rise in anxiety levels for everyone I know, and I am not an exception to that. Like many people, my mind alternated between disbelief and bleak scenarios; getting caught up in assumptions, rules and judgments that quickly became unhelpful.

Of course, being an ACT therapist, I understood that my anxious mind was trying to be my friend, save me from potential danger and alert me to treacherous situations. After all, that is the duty of the human mind!

And then I grounded myself, putting both feet on the floor and asked myself: ‘What is important for me right now?’ I noticed how my mind tried really hard to pull me out of this exercise. However, I realized I still have some choices and focused on those things I still some control over, like writing a blog for our clients at the Brisbane ACT centre.

I noticed the uncomfortable emotions that showed up: frustration, impatience, fear and anger just to name a few. Readers may be experiencing those emotions as well. It is totally understandable! After all, I would have preferred to be writing about something else right now, and things may get worse before they improve. How can we not feel anxious at this unprecedented time? And yet, remember that you still have some control over your actions.

You can still choose to act kindly and compassionately towards family and friends, colleagues, and fellow shoppers at the supermarket.

You can still spare a compassionate thought for the countless people who have lost their jobs and are struggling to pay their rent, and for all of us who have to spend more time at home. In these circumstances, some may be more lonely and others may be experiencing the stress of spending long periods with an abusive family member.

Personally, a commitment I made early this morning is to catch myself every time I say ‘Now I can’t ….’ And replace it by ‘How can I ..? So I would love to invite you to join me in being creative in asking this question. When you face the reality that you can’t socialise with your friends, I would love you to ask yourself: ‘How can I keep in touch with my friends in this time of physical distancing?’ ‘How can I look after an elderly family member in the time of physical distancing?’

I realized this morning how much we all need the psychological flexibility that is the ultimate aim in ACT. Remember that when you feel overwhelmed or close to despair, your ACT practitioner will be there for you and do not hesitate to reach out. We are in the process of starting to deliver psychological services remotely, using the great technology at our disposal. We are confident that ACT will help you in the challenging times of COVID-19!

About the Author

Marcela is a clinical psychologist and ACT clinician who is passionate about using modern cognitive behaviour therapies, in particular Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (i.e. ACT!), to help ease many common human struggles. She has expertise in helping clients with a range of presentations including but not limited to anxiety, depression, life transitions, acute stress, relationship issues, change of careers, adjustment disorders, grief and loss, sleep difficulties, self-esteem, chronic pain, body image (all ages) and substance abuse.

Largest Mindfulness Lesson – new World Record at UQ, Brisbane 23.07.19

By Tunteeya Yamaoka

On Tuesday 23.07.19 at the University of Queensland 1417 people participated in the world’s largest ever mindfulness lesson, setting a new Guinness World Record! Renowned mindfulness expert Dr Russ Harris, author of “The Happiness Trap” and many other ACT books led the mindfulness lesson for 30 minutes, and took the audience on a thoroughly interesting journey towards living a more present and engaged life. Brisbane ACT Centre was proud to participate in this exciting event, with director Dr Rob Purssey and practitioner Tunteeya Yamaoka serving as official Witnesses for the Guinness team!

Mindfulness skills not only actively increase your focus and concentration but also help you to set clear life intentions so that you can live more fully, according to your personally chosen values, and being far less caught up in your daily struggles with thoughts and feelings.

At the end of the day what we are all looking for is peace, purpose and fulfilment in our lives. During the lesson Russ Harris helped the audience connect with how living a more “Mindful, purposeful and fulfilled Life” can be undermined by our efforts to avoid or escape from difficult life experiences or “getting rid of” unpleasant thoughts and emotions. On the other hand, living more fully can be enhanced by becoming more present in the moment, engaged with our values, mindfully aware of our inner and outer experiences, and letting go of control.

One simple and effective strategy that Russ taught the audience during the lesson was his  “ACE Process” to build purposeful awareness.

  1. Awareness: Intentionally building gentle, willing awareness of your inner experiences. Noticing and naming our thoughts and feelings and becoming more skilful at describing our emotions.
  1. Centering:  Focussing attention on the breath, as you inhale and exhale, just feeling the air entering and leaving your body, grounding yourself by simply focusing on the physical sensations you experience, gently and mindfully just noticing the breath.
  1. Expanding: Expanding your awareness from your body to what is going on around you. Look around, what can you see? Focussing your attention by using sight, sound, taste, touch and smell to become more mindfully aware of your surroundings.

Life makes a lot of demands on us, and it is easy to be swept away with the tide of busy thoughts and tricky feelings. Practicing mindfulness skills can allow us to stay grounded during challenging life experiences so that we can focus and ACT on what really matters.

Call Brisbane ACT Centre’s experienced team on 07 3193 1072 to explore how mindfulness skills training can help YOU get present in the moment, connect with purpose, and LIVE more fully!

The User’s Guide to Mindfulness, Meditation & Noticing

The User’s Guide to Mindfulness, Meditation & Noticing

Mindfulness, an intentional focusing practice, can have many benefits, amongst them easing up feelings around struggle with anxiety. The psychophysiological exercise practice of intentional focusing activates the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain which is related to thinking and emotion, and this entire process, including such physiological activation appears to help us to deal much more effectively with anxiety.

Mindfulness, also referred to as purposeful focusing practice can also lower blood pressure, improves our sleep partly by a common and pleasant side effect of deep relaxation and undoubtedly lengthens your attention span, as mindfulness IS purposeful attentional focus!

However, practising mindfulness skills can be tricky, for instance by bringing us into contact with unpleasant thoughts and feelings that we may otherwise “push to the back of our minds”, seeking to avoid. Many people think they simply can’t meditate. People often believe that gurus who meditate every day have more willpower, less anxiety or a bottomless depth of tranquility.

These beliefs are often due to common misunderstandings: that mindfulness practice is intended to relax (quite the opposite, it is to allow feelings to simply come, and go, and come again), that meditation CLEARS the mind, in fact we usually notice our mental busyness even more. Intentional focusing is a skill that takes practice like anything else.

Guided vs silent Mindfulness practice

There are many types of mindfulness practice, two of the most popular types are guided and silent. Guided mindfulness involves a guide in person or nowadays often via an app, walking you through the practice of intentional focusing step by step. This can be helpful as it brings us back to the purposeful focus practice, as most of us are often hooked off by our minds in all kinds of directions.

Silent meditation practice however is often done completely solitarily, it is likely what you imagine when thinking of the Dalai Lama or Buddhists meditating. This requires great intention of practice and determination aided in all likelihood by historical and cultural reinforcement! Guided mindfulness practice is therefore often your best bet when beginning your own practice.

Brain dump

Often our minds are busy and full of thoughts. It is simply impossible to “empty the mind”. A practice some find helpful is “dumping” all your thoughts on a page – helping you feel like your mind has at least partially processed these thoughts, possibly allowing a little more mental space. If it’s written down you won’t forget it – it can be dealt with after you’ve finished your practice. A brain dump is an exercise where you write everything that’s running through your brain down, handwriting can often be most helpful. Everything that’s bothering you and needs dealing with, whatever pops up in five or ten minutes of writing. It’s a bit like writing a journal, but more flowing and less constrained. It doesn’t have to make sense, just write. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can give you space to experience mindfulness.

Following Thoughts

An ongoing challenge everyone has with mindfulness practice is maintaining focus and not being swept away in our rivers of thoughts that naturally, continuously flow. No one is really able to focus very easily, it’s normal for many thoughts to wander around in your mind and all of us have great trouble unhooking from them.

A helpful exercise (if you are good at visualizing) is the ACT classic leaves on a stream: Visualize a gently flowing stream with leaves on the surface of the water, and you place your thoughts onto the leaves and allow them to float on by. Let these thoughts come, and stay, and go – and come again. While most thoughts me come and go pretty quickly, sometimes, thoughts hang around for quite a while. Let your thoughts come and stay and go, in their own good time, as they please. The aim of the exercise is to learn how to step back and watch the flow of your thoughts, not to make them go away. It’s okay if the leaves hang around and pile up, or the river stops flowing; just keep watching. The skill we’re learning is how to observe the stream of our thoughts without getting pulled into it, how to watch them come and go without holding onto them. So if a positive or happy thought shows up and you go, ‘Oh, I’m not going to put that one on a leaf; I don’t want it to float away,’ then you’re not truly learning the skill of simply watching your thoughts.

A little goes a long way

Making time for regular mindfulness practice is tricky but even five to ten minutes of meditation has been shown to have demonstrable benefits. Sometimes people may expect to focus perfectly first try, but this is really never the case. Mindfulness practice, while helpful, naturally allows the presence of various difficult thoughts and feelings. If you find yourself noticing a very busy mind, don’t beat yourself up, this is a totally normal experience. When a thought arises, thank it for its presence and let it come, go, and come again. Good on you for giving it a go – doing any amount of any new health practice is an achievement!

Apps to Guide your Journey

ACT Companion – the Happiness Trap app – full features US $10 guided mindfulness, written and experiential exercises – from none other than Russ Harris, author of the best-selling book The Happiness Trap. Simple defusion and acceptance techniques, easy values-clarification and goal-setting tools, powerful ‘observing self’ and self-compassion exercises – you’ll find it all here.

buddhify – “the most convenient, best value and most beautiful meditation app available today. Helping people around the world reduce stress, sleep better & be present in the midst of it all.” Certainly the best looking and easy to use mindfulness app!

Insight Timer

Insight Timer has 19000 free meditations by different guides available. Easy to use and has a wide variety of meditations to choose from. Insight Timer is free & community driven with a rating system to help you find the meditations that best suit your needs.


Headspace is a very popular guided meditation app that tracks how often you meditate and rewards continued use. It has more structure than Insight Timer, and requires a subscription past the free courses. The graphic design is also excellent!  If you prefer a structured, consistent course, this is the app for you.

The Sleep School App helps you practice The Sleep School sleep tools & techniques until you have mastered them for life. The app delivers The Sleep School approach across its 5 core areas in a highly interactive audio-visual format.

Mindfulness is like any skill, it takes practice. It’s normal to find it difficult at the start so don’t beat yourself up. There’s a wealth of research demonstrating benefits for performance, wellbeing and sleep – even a small amount of focusing practice can go a long way. Try the brain dump exercise, letting your thoughts flow freely without judgement and go easy on yourself for your first experiences of mindfulness. There are some great apps available to aid you on your journey.

Our Brisbane ACT Centre psychologists are trained in the latest cognitive behavioural therapies, and are all keen mindfulness skills coaches. If you’d like further coaching or input, get in touch with our friendly staff today.  Remember to be gentle with yourself, mindfulness practice is tricky and you should be proud that you’re trying. Be persistent and it will get easier, but forever challenging – in a good way!

If you are feeling depressed – ACT can help

By Peter Gillogley

In this article you will find answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Depression based on some recent research. Questions address by this article include:

How common is depression?

What evidence-based treatments are there for depression?

Will my depression ever get better?

How does rumination cause depression?

Treatment for rumination

Where can I get help for depression?

How can I get help for depression?

How common is depression? 

You are not alone, actually depression is pretty common. According to the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, around half of Australians experience a psychological problem in their lifetime, with about one-in-five people  experiencing a common psychological problem in the last 12 months. More than one-in-twenty Australians experienced a clinically significant disturbance in emotions or feelings, such as depression in the previous 12 months. That’s a lot of people, some of which may be experiencing trouble sleeping, appetite changes, libido changes, or difficult feelings such as despair, melancholy, misery, sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, unmotivated, and low energy.

What evidence-based treatments are there for depression?

Fortunately, recent research is telling us that Acceptance and Commitment Therapy might help. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a modern form of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), that teaches specific, structured evidence-based skills to help you better manage difficult thoughts and feelings, so they are less an obstacle to you living a life that is guided by who and what is important to you.

ACT is an evidence-based approach for psychological problems, with an impressive research base of over 200 Randomised Control Trials supporting the effectiveness of ACT. ACT helps depressed people, as effectively or better than other established psychological treatments.

Will my depression ever get better?

It is common for people experiencing depression to feel like things will never change, or that any gains made during therapy in managing difficult thoughts and feelings will “wear off”.  Recent research is much more optimistic. In one Finnish study, over two-thirds of depressed participants who received ACT treatment, no longer met diagnostic criteria for depression. And the gains made during ACT therapy are still detectible 3 years later. A similar study found gains made during ACT treatment were still detectible 5 years later.

How does rumination increase depression?

Sometimes, reflecting on past experiences can be a useful way of learning and becoming wiser. However, if there is a gap between what we have and what we want, our problem-solving minds can try to be helpful by trying to figure out what went wrong, or what we need to do next. This might work more often, if figuring out what to do with difficult thoughts and feelings was as easy as every-day challenges in the physical world, like finding your missing socks. When our problem-solving minds don’t achieve immediate success, they often turn the intensity dial even higher, screen out distracting experiences from the outside world (that might hold useful information), so your mind can focus on what is happening inside your head. So, despite your mind trying to be helpful, this pattern of thinking can turn into unhelpful brooding. A consistent finding of resent research is that repetitive negative thinking (rumination) prolongs and deepens sad and depressed mood. 

Treatment for rumination

ACT is sensitive to the rumination behaviour and provides a vantage point to notice what is happening and provide more flexible ways of responding when difficult thoughts and feelings arise and you find yourself brooding or ruminating over and over again. Notice that ACT is not trying to change your negative thoughts (although your thoughts might change) or make them go away. When you notice yourself hooked by a particular thought, ACT teaches you how to unhook from that thought and focus more of your energy on living a meaningful life, rather than struggling with your thoughts. One recent study showed that even a brief two-session ACT intervention can help unhook from difficult thoughts and increase valued living.

In summary, depression is common, and ACT can help you live a more vital life.

Where can I get help for depression?

Therapists at the Brisbane ACT Centre are trained in evidence-based treatments for depression, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for depression.

How can I get help for depression?

You are welcome to make an appointment with me today (Book an Appointment with Peter Gillogley) or one of my fellow ACT therapists at the Brisbane ACT Centre.

Work Stress and Burnout – Finding a better Work-Life Balance

By Peter Gillogley

I enjoy my work as a psychologist, using ACT psychotherapy skills to help clients struggling with anxiety, depression, PTSD along with other common and often highly distressing psychological problems. Yet, some days at the workplace seem full of vitality and purpose, and other days leave me feeling emotionally and physically drained. I know I am not alone.

The other day, I showed up at the workplace with plans to be super productive in helping my clients, by using mindfulness and other ACT psychological flexibility skills, to better handle their thoughts and feelings, and live their lives more fully. I had a manageable number of appointments and a few letters and administrative tasks that needed finishing. However, I spent much of the day struggling with what seemed at the time, unexpected detours and distractions. My mind kept saying that it shouldn’t be like this and there must be something wrong with me if I can’t get organised. Instead of productively focusing on the next most important thing, I found my mind wandering off topic, ruminating and worrying that I couldn’t get everything done.

When things don’t happen in the workplace how I expected, I can find myself investing lots of energy into playing the same events over and over in my mind, but not really making any progress. Worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, can rob me of being really present and tuned into the people around me. It’s all too easy to take my work issues home in my head, and so miss out on precious moments with my family and friends. Unchecked, this pattern of struggling with my thoughts and feelings about work, can leave me feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, detached and questioning my career, and less effective in my professional and personal life. What was work-life balance can turn into the feeling of pressure and being overwhelmed. Being human, the path of burnout can easily take a heavy toll on my physical and mental health.

Fortunately, ACT skills can help. When I notice myself struggling at work, I can use mindfulness to take time to take a step back to cultivate a sense of kind, compassionate curiosity, simply observing my thoughts and feelings. In doing so, I find that I am a little less consumed with my thoughts, and have more energy to focus on what is actually going on around me and focus more effectively on what needs doing next. Increased work productivity leads to less workplace pressure, enabling me to spend more time at home and reclaim a sense of work-life balance. By gently making space for stress, frustrations and irritations, I find I might even get a buzz about getting things done. By being more present in each moment, I can become more connected with those around me. And by connecting with my values and purpose in each moment – in this context “why I became a psychologist” – I am more willing to do what’s needed even in the presence of difficult emotions.

Many of us spend a third or more of our waking hours at the workplace for much of our lives. ACT gives us effective psychological tools and the ability to flexibly shift perspective, enabling us to feel engaged while at work and connected with friends and family when the work day is over. ACT can help you live a more vital working life. You are welcome to make an appointment with me today (Book an Appointment with Peter Gillogley) or one of my fellow ACT therapists at the Brisbane ACT Centre.   

3 More of Our Favourite Self Help Psychology Books

How to Learn to Accept Tough Thoughts and Feelings, and be the Person you Want to be

Our last post on 3 of our favourite self help books focused on books that explored popular myths, how those myths can hold us back and where to go from there. This week we’re recommending three books about managing difficult thoughts and feelings.

An important part of the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or Psychological Flexibility model is learning to recognize that no amount of positive thinking makes difficult thoughts go away, and that often the harder we push against those thoughts the more troublesome they can become. You might notice that ACT therapists rarely even refer to thoughts as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and instead, we talk about ‘difficult’ thoughts. That kind of language attempts to loosen us up from the unhelpful idea that we shouldn’t have “bad thoughts”.

These three books are about learning to get better at skillfully handling difficult thoughts and feelings so that we can get on with being our most authentic selves, living in line with our values, noticing when we’re hooked away, forgiving ourselves and gently returning.

1. Anxiety Happens, John P. Forsyth PhDGeorg H. Eifert PhD

A portable small guide to “cultivate calm and radically transform your life”, from the book’s description. Anxiety Happens presents 52 simple strategies to enhance calm and soothe feelings of anxiety. Anxiety Happens explores the underlying causes of anxiety, why pushing anxiety away and avoiding things that make you anxious just doesn’t work, and how to move past anxious thoughts and feelings to live a full, meaningful life.

If you read only one of these three books, Anxiety Happens would be our pick. It’s practical, engaging and results focused. The authors are well known in the ACT community for their clinical and academic work, workshops and trainings. Anxiety Happens can help you to develop willingness, self-compassion, and wisdom.

Available on Amazon, Book Depository and others.

2. Users Guide to the Human Mind, Shawn T. Smith, PsyD.

Users Guide to the Human Mind is a charming and super helpful look into the challenging thoughts and feelings that we all feel, quite a lot of the time!  Shawn’s book is funny, sweet and thought provoking. Coming from an ACT perspective, Users Guide to the Human Mind teaches us simple strategies to consciously observe our thoughts, and learn also to notice by gentle practice that we don’t need to be so governed by them.

From the synopsis:

“The inner workings of the human brain may be a great mystery, but the mind’s true purpose has been verified time and time again: your brain is secretly conspiring against you to make you crazy. How else can we account for the needless fears, dramas, tizzies, and rages that affect us on a minute-by-minute basis?”

The Users Guide to the Human Mind explores these questions with stories, exercises and relevant academic studies to teach cognitive strategies to help us unlearn some of the bad habits our mind has picked up over time.

Available for purchase from Amazon, Book depository and also on Audible!. Also available digitally from Brisbane City Council Library via Borrow box or Overdrive smartphone apps.

3. Stuff That Sucks: Accepting what You Can’t Change and Committing to what You Can, Ben Sedley.

Book Trailer:

Written with young people in mind, Stuff That Sucks is a validating, normalising and compassionate book that encourages readers to accept difficult emotions rather than struggling against them.  Ben has written a terrific book that superbly adapts the ACT model for young people, or those working & living with young people. This is a very special book that helps young people move past difficult thoughts and hone in on their values, and be more of the kind of person that they choose to be, discovering themselves along the way.

An important part of Stuff That Sucks is its strong focus on validating feelings. No one wants to have their feelings minimised, be told that they’ll grow out of them or that it’s just a phase. The author, Ben, has a wealth of background working with children, adolescents and families, and has adapted that experience into this beautiful book.

Stuff That Sucks is fast paced, practical and fun, drawing upon solid scientific evidence to help us all deal more effectively with the kind of thoughts and feelings that often simply suck!

Amazon, Kindle version, FB page

So those are three more of our favourite self books that we regularly recommend to clients. We love good, actionable and evidence based psychology books and all of our therapists read tons of them to stay sharp. Working with a trained professional can be a terrific complement to a good self help book to get the best possible results for you. Get in touch with our friendly team and we can match you up with the therapist that is best suited to help you be your best self. Get in touch Today!