When it comes to being kind to ourselves, most of us struggle with it. We’re our own worst critics. Self-compassion is usually associated with indulgence or weakness and most of us squirm at the thought of it. But growing research shows it may just help us improve our health for the better.
Have you ever set the goal of changing your lifestyle for the better only to fail miserably? Maybe you’ve done it more than once? Well, whether you’ve failed to meet your goal once, twice or more, you’re not alone. Most of us don’t look at our slip-ups as minor obstacles in our road to success, instead we choose to define it as “failing”. When we feel like we’ve failed, we become more and more self-critical and let these thoughts manipulate us into believing we’re unable to succeed no matter what we try. We become burnt out by the process. Whether it’s weight loss or improving our blood glucose levels, we start to believe our critical thoughts that lead us to believe we can’t be successful if we’re failed before. But, what if we challenged these thoughts? Would we succeed then? According to a growing body of research, absolutely!
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) just may be the answer for so many of us looking to change our health for the better. I was first introduced to ACT during a workshop held earlier this year at the International Dietetics Congress in Sydney. ACT is a mindfulness-based arm of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). While CBT asks people to challenge their unhelpful thinking, ACT asks them to accept the thoughts and discomfort that comes with them, distance themselves from it and move past it towards a meaningful goal. Along with this, ACT gets us to accept that setbacks are part of being human and working towards our goals. Most of importantly, ACT encourages us to focus on living a life that feels important and vital to us. It gets us to commit to our values.
Where to from here?
With New Year’s resolutions just around the corner, many of us will fall into the trap of self-criticism as we fail at achieving our resolutions. We won’t acknowledge that more than likely our goals were unrealistic in the first place, instead we’ll let the negative thoughts creep into our mind. Before New Years arrives, why not give yourself a Christmas present of identifying your values and then wrap it with self-compassion?
First, identify why you really want to lose weight or lower your blood glucose levels. Why is it important to you? These reasons are going to be the things that motivate you to change and you’re going to have to accept things that are difficult in order to achieve it. Focusing on numbers on a scale just doesn’t cut it – you need to live a life that is well-defined by you. Control the patterns that disrupt your valued living and you’ll start to see the number on the scales drop or your blood glucose levels decrease.
Once you’ve worked out your values, start working on ways to include more of things in your life that mean the most to you. It won’t come easily – you’ll have to dedicate some time each week to ensuring your committing enough time to the things that really matter and not wasting all your energy on the things that don’t. During this process become more aware about your thoughts. Observe your thoughts without believing them and this will help to separate thoughts from reality. Finally, pay attention to the present moment by becoming more mindful in everything you do and you’ll find you move closer to your goal.
If you would like to know more about ACT, visit Weight Escape.
What do you value the most?