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.

The Inevitability of Change - Learning to be in the Moment

By Ms Ali V Flint

They say “the only things certain in life are death and taxes”, but there’s another - the inevitability of change. The fact that nothing stays the same is something that bears thinking about as a human being in a temporary body, with to-do-lists that are never completely done, existing on a planet that we have a complicated relationship with.

One of the reasons I cherish the Buddhist teachings is their timeless relevance and universal applicability to all. A deep dive in to the topic of impermanence during a recent study module left me processing long after the weekend Zoom lessons concluded. The need to absorb these teachings via my laptop in my lounge room rather than taking a flight to Sydney and being with my Sangha was another lesson in itself – acceptance of unwanted changes, of yet another frustration associated with Covid-19, of finding peace with what is, and appreciating that technology can let us connect in alternative ways.

Some people might find impermanence and change confronting or saddening - and there definitely is that element within the teachings. The fragility of life, and the search for meaning while we live it, are not easy issues to meditate on. Considering impermanence and change however powerfully promotes the preciousness of each experience we have, honours each connection we make, and reminds us that the memories we collect may be all we have at the very end.

It’s understandable to fear change, protect the perimeter of our comfort zones, and grasp at the familiar. We cling to everything from our youth, identity, beloved pets, friendships, jobs, health, societal expectations and rapidly-growing children who will at some point look down from the mountains they too have climbed.

A lot of my work involves supporting teenagers with mental health issues – which simultaneously keeps me connected to my younger self and shines a light on every day (and the lines on my face) on the planet so far. There is nothing like a teenager to give you brutally honest feedback or remind you of how ancient you seem. In other words, everything is relative, depending on where we personally sit on the spectrum of what is being considered.

Consider for a moment a golden sunrise gliding its way across the backdrop of a pink dawn sky. As the flaming globe keeps ascending, the sky dances through a colour wheel of pinks, purples and blues. Now imagine that you are a teenager late home for curfew again and every star that disappears is replaced by a cloud that spells out the trouble which you will face when you get home to your angry, worried parents. Take this moment instead to daydream that you are feeling weary at the end of your long life, but also grateful to be surrounded by your loved ones. Someone opens the curtains for you so you can enjoy nature’s lightshow. This sunrise may very well be the last one you experience. The opening scene on your final act. Perspective-taking can be reality-making

We rely on the beauty and awe of the natural world to comprehend and describe lofty concepts that occupy our busy minds and fill bookshelves, theatres and song lyrics. Poetry tugs at our heart strings in the same way – so I appreciated the threads of Zen poetry that were woven through the recent weekend module. For the keenly observant, layers of deep complexity are seemingly hidden within most simple reflections, in the same way that a moment can hold incredibly varied meanings depending on the context and attitude of the perceiver.

Below is a classic Japanese poem that can be seen at Sarusawa Pond – by a beautiful Buddhist temple in Nara Park, Japan (ironically translated as ‘monkey swamp’). What an insightful way of highlighting how the same event can affect each of us in different ways:

At the clapping of hands
The carp come swimming for food
The birds fly away in fright, and
A maid comes carrying tea.

It sometimes takes a startling wake-up call in the form of the death of a loved one, a health scare, being made redundant, a soul mate asking to separate, or the loss of possessions in a house fire or natural disaster to remind us we are on borrowed time and nothing really lasts forever. Don’t wait for such a day. If you are reading this, part of you already knows that it is within your power to stop sleep-walking through your life.

The present moment is all we have. Wishing away our struggles and chasing the next goal is literally erasing the precious time we do have. Being mindful of the moment you are currently experiencing is a mindset and a habit that can be practiced. We are all weavers. Humankind and the rich ecosystems we are part of are undeniably interconnected. Our lives are a myriad of unique tapestries. Truly noticing and appreciating the various threads within the tapestry - that is the way to truly see all the colours and textures of your life.

I extend an invitation to you - to meditate on the following:

Death is certain.
The time is uncertain.
What will you do with this one precious life

About the Author

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.

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!

My GP recommended yoga…Now what?!

By Davina Tapper

ACT Aligned Yoga: Committed Action 6 Week Workshop
Saturdays, 9:15am – 10-:30am, 25 August – 29 September 2018
At the Brisbane ACT Centre

When we have been through something that causes us discomfort or pain, whether it’s a stressful work environment, or a serious life change or loss, it’s healthy to find support to get through it. Recovery is an active process and it’s supported both from seeking help from others, and also engaging your own skills and self-care. Everyday more research is showing the multi-faceted benefits of yoga, leading to more GPs and health professionals recommending it. Incorporating a deliberate yoga practice into your weekly routine, can help you practice the tools to increased awareness at other times when life throws “reality” at you. Before you can start gaining the common benefits of yoga like better posture, improved focus, a more relaxed parasympathetic nervous system, reduced muscle tension and increased self-awareness, you need to find out where to start.

As a seasoned yoga student, I’ve moved across countries and then across an ocean and between states, and know all too well the difficulty in finding the right class. I’ve also had the experience of coming to yoga young and supple, and returning stiff and disheartened post traumatic-injury. I often felt yoga was inaccessible, too hard, or even competitive. That starting point with a new class, like any new skill or recovery process, can feel awkward and full of anxiety and questions for many reasons. Why not just do something different? If it feels so hard to get started, is it even worth trying? Will it really add much to my life?

Ideally yoga helps you work on connecting your body and mind to increase both physical and psychological flexibility. When you find the right class, yoga can be a safe place to explore how nutritious movement (and often breath work) can help fuel your brain as well as your body. Before we even start something new, we are already going into it with our beliefs and experiences from the past and expectations for the future. Thinking about what you want and your expectations can be a helpful start to dealing with the anxiety and take action to find a good class.

Once you have an idea of what you are after, ask questions and talk to the teachers. Some great questions include asking about the level of the class and experience required, what type of yoga the class works with (and what that means), and sometimes the class size can be something to consider, especially if you are newer to yoga. Giving yourself the time to understand and explain what you want will usually help you be more confident in finding the right class. If you still have questions, it might be time to ask yourself what’s holding you back or if you are letting your mind give you an excuse. Otherwise, it might just be time to give it a go and see for yourself!

ACT-inspired yoga allows you to provide a deliberate practice in self-compassion, mindfulness, letting go of pain and be OK with uncomfortable feelings through using movement and breath. We have one body, one mind, and countless thoughts. Awaken your body and senses while increasing compassion and vitality through ACT-inspired yoga.

Three of Our Favourite Science-Based Self-Help Books

Live a More Meaningful Life – Right Here, Right Now

The right book at the right time can completely change your life. A science based self-help book can be a fantastic aide to therapy with a skilled professional psychologist, and can help grow the skills learned in sessions of ACT therapy. Research shows specific ACT self-help actually helps, and even more so with the aid of a skilled coach.

Our psychologists, being passionate about helping others, have examined dozens of psychology and self-help books so as to give the best possible care to their clients. We present three of the best which explore popular myths, and examine these myths can constrain and limit us. Here’s three of our favourite ACT oriented self-help books.

Top self help and psychology book recommendations Brisbane1. The Happiness Trap by Russ Harriss

The simplest, bestselling and most practical ACT self-help book from Australia’s foremost ACT trainer Dr Russ Harris. A famous book in the ACT community, the Happiness Trap debunks popular myths around happiness and coaches you in useful skills based on sound scientific evidence. If you read only one book on this list, it should be this one!

Russ has created an 8 week online program based on the Happiness Trap.

From the book’s website “The Happiness Trap is a unique and empowering self-help book – now published in 30 countries and 22 languages – that will enrich your life and fundamentally transform the way you handle difficult thoughts and painful feelings. The title reflects a key theme in the book: popular ideas about happiness are misleading or inaccurate, and will make you miserable in the long term, if you believe them.”

As the founder of ACT Steve Hayes says: “The Happiness Trap carefully and creatively presents techniques that anyone can use to undermine struggle, avoidance, and loss of the moment. Russ systematically explores how we get into the ‘Happiness Trap’ and then shines a powerful beacon showing us another way forward.”

2Self Help Psychology Book Recommendation Brisbane Things Might go Terribly, Horribly Wrong, by Kelly G. Wilson & Troy DuFrene

A superb, touching book exploring anxiety. Using ACT theory and practical exercises, Things Might go Terribly, Horribly Wrong approaches anxiety very differently to traditional self-help. Instead of pushing away our difficult thoughts and feelings, Things Might go Terribly, Horribly Wrong suggests we learn to gently, kindly touch (and learn from) our difficult thoughts and feelings, to make space for them and maybe even in doing so find ourselves within them!

Awarded the “Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies Self-Help Seal of Merit”, this book is one of our favourites to share with our friends, clients & colleagues.

3. Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown

Daring Greatly - Self Help psychology book recommendation BrisbaneA charming, inspiring book by research professor, Brene Brown, Daring Greatly is an exceptionally well-reviewed book on the importance and power of vulnerability. There’s a common myth that showing vulnerability is a weakness, while in contrast should project a perfect exterior at all times. Taking normal risks in life naturally make us feel vulnerable, and we equally naturally push back those feelings. In this book Brene challenges this tendency and shows us that being able to embrace and show our vulnerability can prove to be a great strength.

Brene Brown’s 2010 TEDx talk “The Power of Vulnerability” is a charming and funny introduction to her work.

Please check out these 3 wonderful books, the links above and let us know what you think! In comments, on FB, or with your Brisbane ACT Centre skills coach.

Fear of Heights – Taking the Leap

By Jeremy Villanueva

Having a fear of heights (or anything!) can be terrifying. Regardless of your particular fear or anxiety, we all have similar experiences to some extent. In my life it has been heights in particular.

For example, if I were standing on a tall and narrow walk-bridge, or even just standing inside a tall building, my heart would start to pound, I would breathe faster, my stomach would sink into itself, my fingers would tingle, my body would freeze, and my mind would race and tell me to get the heck out of here. Do any of these experiences sound familiar?

At first I thought my experience was typical, but I realised that not everyone shared the same responses as me! I was told that my feelings would eventually disappear, but they simply didn’t go away. While I still froze with a pounding heart, other people seemed to be just fine standing on balconies, leaning over edges, or just being anywhere on high ground.

To be honest, I didn’t worry about it too much because I was happy to keep clear from heights if it meant that I wouldn’t experience those unwanted feelings in my body.

However, by avoiding heights, I started to miss out on things that I thought would be fun. For example, I enjoy being active and outdoors, but I avoided things like hiking, rock climbing or other high-exposed activities. Even more so, it meant that I missed out on spending fun times with friends or family.

I don’t remember the exact moment, but one day I decided to try to expose myself to heights, if it meant that my feelings would go away. It was a slow process, but eventually I started to go on a few hikes and climbs, but I still had those unwanted feelings. Good grief!

After 10 years of actively trying to get rid of my fear of heights, I realised that perhaps I can’t necessarily get rid of my fear, but just maybe I could learn to be at ease with it. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) skills to help us do just that.

What I started to do is learn to make more room for these unwanted feelings (even though they’re still there), and still do the things that are important to me. ACT skills have taught me how to manage my fear more effectively, so I’m nowhere near as restricted as I once was a short few years ago.

In fact, just last year, I was able to do something on my bucket list that’s caused me anxiety for a while – bungee jumping!

Remember those feelings that I mentioned earlier?

They were still there from the day I booked my bungee jump to the moment I was standing on the edge of that bridge. My heart pounded, I breathed faster, my stomach sunk into itself, my fingers tingled, my body would freeze, and my mind raced and tried to convince me not to jump…

But I still took the leap, and it was amazing! I’ve always wanted to tick bungee jumping off my list, and I didn’t let my fear take that away.

If you have a fear of heights (or anything!) or you want to learn more about ACT, and quickly learn effective ACT skills please feel free to call us on 07 3193 1072.

If you want to take the leap, I’ll be more than happy to help you on your journey.

Jeremy Villanueva

Can you do Great Things, Even When you Don't Feel Great?

By Tomas Tapper

Have you ever seen a toddler throw a tantrum? I have. Just last night in fact. And again this morning. Our home is entering “the terrific twos” (a phrase my wife uses).In these last two tantrums, I noticed something pretty awesome.

Imagine an exhausted almost-2-year-old, clearly needing to go to sleep, but not wanting to miss out on more play time. As the emotions get stronger and the tiredness (and stubbornness) overtakes, the stomping feet, the rubbing eyes, it all gets louder, and then the tears start. I’ve worked extensively with parents and children, and I’ll readily admit it’s quite a bit harder when it’s happening in your own home!

Here’s where ACT comes in. A bit of grounding work for myself, and then a gentle touch of compassion and an explanation “You need to get your pjs on so you can give yourself some rest” brings an interesting realisation. No, the crying doesn’t stop, the screaming doesn’t subside – but the arms go in the sleeves and the feet miraculously walk towards the bed. It’s an amazing thing to witness. Despite everything likely going on in my toddler’s mind, the anger, the sadness, the raw emotions, there’s still the ability to physically do what’s needed to complete the bedtime routine. Even at just 2 years old we can already practice taking action towards what we want, even though our emotions are seemingly getting the better of us.

Somewhere along the way in our “growing up”, we start to see our emotions as things we shouldn’t express as much, and in turn, often things we should control. We have “adult tantrums”, usually within ourselves and sometimes towards others. We express our anger, frustration, and disappointment through self-criticism, arguments with loved ones, disengaging from work, etc. The result:

We start to tell ourselves, and even believe, we need to feel better to do better. 

Then we take it a step further, and we stop doing the things that help us get what we want from life like self-care, engaging with others and performing our best. I see it everyday, and I’m guilty of it sometimes myself, after all, we are only human. Luckily, our emotions don’t actually decide our actions, even if we sometimes let them. On the contrary – if emotions always dictated our actions, imagine the road rage we would see!

So what makes us sometimes take action, and sometimes be dictated by our emotional state of mind and body? Well, just like a 2-year-old’s temper tantrum, it may be circumstances we don’t like, or things happening that feel too hard to cope with. Either way, when we do work in ACT, we build stronger skills and increase our psychological flexibility so we don’t get caught up in our own inner tantrums. Working on getting untangled from the mess of emotions, and regaining control of our actions so we can be free to engage with a life that we want to live. So even though we might feel like throwing our arms in the air and crying because life is pretty cruel to us sometimes, we can put one foot in front of the other and walk towards something that will help make things better.

You don’t need to feel good to run good. You don’t need to feel great to do great parenting. And guess what, you don’t need to feel happy to engage in something that can bring happiness or meaning to your day.

You can still do great things, even when you don’t feel great.

My extensive work with parents is actually not too far off from my work with elite athletes. It comes down to doing what matters most and performing at your best. The tough part is – You need to perform on a given day, whether you want to or not. 

Can learning to mindfully notice our thoughts and feelings help us to live our lives with clearer purpose?

By Georgia Watkins-Allen

I’m an experienced clinical psychologist, but I’m also someone who is naturally impulsive… I’ve spent too much time over the years pulling my foot out of my mouth, or regretting my actions after reacting hastily, rather than responding in a way more true to my personal values. Like many of my clients, I have often felt frustrated and tangled in my inner turmoil instead of being fully present with the people and things around me that I care about. Bogged in my anxieties, my frustrations.

Luckily, a benefit of my clinical work with clients struggling with their anxiety and depression is that I can directly experience and learn a lot from paying close attention to the ways they also get stuck. In doing so I also become a better psychologist – helping my clients flourish, teaching skills to connect more with their values, and more effectively handle their difficult situations.

My children and my friends are quite naturally among the most important things in my life. Spending time with them is truly a treasure. One beautiful Saturday morning I was down by the bay with my kids and a couple of girlfriends from work. It was a rare opportunity for us to be together. I really wanted it to be a special day. But my mind had other ideas! Being with workmates triggered angst about a mutual colleague who had been making our lives at work very difficult. How I fought with my mind! It seemed this person’s name was rising on the wind trying to chase me down. After a bit I began to notice how my worries were ruining my time with these beautiful women and our children.

I grew more and more annoyed with myself, with my mind. I struggled to be present with my girlfriends and kids and enjoy this precious time. Becoming aware, with mindfulness, on purpose more fully in the moment, I spotted the battle. I named the fight with my thoughts, observed the tension in my jaw and muscles. I noticed my frustration as sensations in my body. In doing so I became able to “step back” from the battle. I gently smiled at myself for getting hooked, like a fish struggling on a line. Being with my workmates had simply cued my mind to  “fix the problem” of our difficult colleague.

But this was not the best time to fix a work problem! All of us need a break from such problems at times, to simply BE in our relationships and nurture ourselves. So I thanked my mind for trying to help, gave myself permission to let go of this concern until back at work on Monday. I spoke up, and shared the battle I had been in with my girlfriends. I gently suggested we take a few moments to ground ourselves.  To focus on our senses. To connect with each other on this beautiful day. As mothers and as friends.

So I really noticed the cool sand on my feet. The dappled warmth of the sun as it shone through the leaves on my back. The laughter of our children playing. The fragrance of the pine needles and the salty air. The bickering of seagulls. The soft breeze as it stroked my skin. Once I had compassionately named my struggle and focused on my senses I was more able to gently step aside from the battle and move towards those around me that I value so dearly.

It’s not about trying to change our anxieties, our frustrations, our negative thoughts about what’s happening in our lives. It’s about not fighting it. Not using the harsh strategies of struggle, those of war. The more we fight our thoughts, the more they tend to fight back! By self-compassionately stepping back from the battle to simply notice difficult thoughts drifting in and out of our minds we can return to being here and now. To be with what really matters.

It sure can be tricky, this mindfulness stuff! Training yourself to simply notice challenging thoughts and feelings can take some practice. Like any skill, finding an expert coach can make a huge difference. I’ve certainly noticed that in my own life.

And you really can learn to simply notice what’s happening in your mind and your body and use mindfulness to more skillfully come back to the present. You CAN use these skills to notice what’s happening inside you – and make much better choices. To live a more fulfilled life – more like the person you want to be, instead of being hooked by unhelpful habits.

Can you identify with some of what I’ve experienced? Would you like to spend more time moving towards the people and things you care about, and less time battling with your inner struggles? Take a step toward that life! Call Brisbane ACT Centre on 3193 1072. Find out how I can help you with effective skills to more easily choose to move toward the people and things YOU care about in life, even in the presence of your inner obstacles.